SC Marvels

Plan your next outdoor adventure around a natural phenomenon

By Marie McAden

Jones Gap State Park

What a rush

Plunging 100 feet over a jagged wall of granite glittering with mica schist, Rainbow Falls ranks among the most spectacular waterfalls at Jones Gap State Park in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The strenuous 2.5-mile hike to the falls takes you through lush and unspoiled forestlands traversed by the scenic Middle Saluda River.

Huntington Beach State Park

Flying high

Huntington Beach State Park offers exceptional year-round birding with sightings of more than 300 species, including the ravishing Roseate Spoonbill and flashy Painted Bunting. Observe osprey during their May–June nesting season at Santee State Park. During Caesars Head State Park’s September Hawk Watch, see birds of prey winging it along the Appalachian Flyway.

Devils Fork State Park

In bloom

For only a few weeks from mid-March to early April, the rare Oconee Bell bursts into bloom in just a few remote locations near wooded mountain streams in the Southern Appalachians. Colonies of the delicate, bell-shaped wildflower can be seen along the one-mile Oconee Bell Trail in Devils Fork State Park.

Edisto Beach State Park

Do not disturb

Each year from May to October, South Carolina’s coastline becomes a nursery for loggerhead sea turtles. Join a guided nighttime walk at Edisto Beach State Park for the chance to witness the meticulous labor of a nesting loggerhead. Hatchlings emerge about two months later to make the difficult crawl to the sea.

Congaree National Park

Light it up

One of only a few places in North America where you’ll find synchronous fireflies, Congaree National Park hosts the magical luminous beetles for the two to three weeks between May and June when the fireflies perform their rhythmic symphony of light as part of an annual mating ritual.

Highway 11

Leaf peep

Mother Nature’s dazzling display of fall color peaks in November in any of the dozen state parks along scenic Highway 11. Whether you climb to the top of Table Rock’s famed granite dome or stroll around Lake Placid in Paris Mountain, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of fall foliage.

Landsford Canal State Park

Flower power

Experience a breathtaking botanical spectacle when the world’s largest population of rare Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies blanket the Catawba River in a showy display of beautiful white blooms. The only place to catch the aquatic plant show each May and June is at Landsford Canal State Park.

Aiken State Park and Lee State Park

Bubbling up

More than 80 years after the Civilian Conservation Corps drilled artesian wells in two South Carolina state parks, the cold, clear water from the aquifer continues to flow year-round. Visitors are welcome to drink from three wells in Aiken State Park and four in Lee State Park.

Uncover more unique finds in South Carolina.