This loop provides the perfect day hike to sample what makes this National Park part of the Congaree Biosphere Reserve, a designation made by the UN to highlight areas with exceptional biodiversity, cultural heritage, and natural resources.
Park is open 24 hours a day throughout the year. The Visitor Center is open from 9 AM - 5 PM, all week. No entrance fee. This area is prone to flooding, especially in winter, so check current conditions
for Congaree River and Cedar Creek or call the information desk (803) 776 4396. Long sleeves and/or insect repellant can be helpful.
Grab your binoculars and dive into this densely-wooded loop through Congaree National Park along sections of elevated boardwalk and dirt paths. At around seven miles in length, this hike links a handful of trails to access a few pockets of the park that each represents different ecological zones, each providing opportunities to spot a variety of birds and other wildlife.
From the Harry Hampton Visitor Center, find the Loop Trail
boardwalk and head south. Visitors should note that this area is prone to flooding and the routing here may not be open so either check ahead with the Park or be prepared to alter your course. Continue south to find the Weston Lake Loop
. This loop will also be accessed on the return journey and the stretch not used on this hike along Cedar Creek is a great spot to see wading birds and even otters.
After a mile from the Visitor Center, continue south onto the Oakridge Trail
where massive oak trees provide shade and shelter for deer and wild turkeys. Crossing a couple trail bridges, this trail bends to the left (east) and loops back to the north to meet up with the Weston Lake Loop
Continue north onto the Weston Lake Loop
until you arrive at the lake. As of December 2019, the eastern half of the Loop Trail
boardwalk is closed for repair so this hike route heads west above the lake to the Bluff Trail
, which heads through longleaf and loblolly pines with some areas showing signs of prescribed burns. Finally, head left (west) back along the Loop Trail
boardwalk to the Visitor Center.
Upland pines, bald cypress, water tupelo, loblolly pine, longleaf pine, oak, holly, maple.