Home to 47 state parks, South Carolina has no shortage of options when it comes to camping across the state. There’s a place for every type of outdoor lover, whether you prefer relaxing in a live oak forest surrounded by pristine beaches or kayaking in a crystal-clear mountain lake full of hidden waterfalls. Also, camping in South Carolina is not just limited to those with tents and campers—many of the campgrounds have cabins available as well. Make sure to grab your Ultimate Outsider stamp for each South Carolina state park as you cross them off your list.
Huntington Beach State Park (Murrells Inlet)
Not to be confused with the next spot on the list (Hunting Island State Park), Huntington Beach State Park is known for its wildlife, salt marshes and breathtaking beaches. The campground is the largest in this roundup with 173 options between the North Campground and South Campground (all of which are within walking distance from the beach). The North Campground is older and has larger sites with more shade. These campgrounds are pricier than many of the alternatives on this list, but they’re incredibly well-maintained and rank highly for cleanliness. Make your reservations here.
It can be difficult to find a campsite in this park during the warmer months due to its popularity, so make sure to plan accordingly if you want to visit in the spring, summer or fall. Visiting from November to March is ideal if you’re planning a last-minute trip or want to enjoy the park during the off-season when there’s a bit less hustle and bustle and rates are discounted.
In terms of things to do, Atalaya Castle and Brookgreen Gardens are within walking distance of the state park, and both are worth visiting when you’re in the area. Other activities include fishing, boating, swimming, bird-watching and biking. You can ride your bike down to Pawleys Island, where you’ll find a variety of dining options.
Hunting Island State Park (Saint Helena Island)
Located on a quiet barrier island, the scenic campground at Hunting Island State Park is perfect for those seeking a beach oasis surrounded by nature. Hunting Island is one of the most popular spots on the South Carolina coast—for good reason. The well-maintained park has 102 standard campsites, 25 rustic tent sites and a cabin. Both the standard sites and tent sites have restrooms with showers. Make your reservations here.
The island feels secluded but is just a 20- to 30-minute drive from Beaufort. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure (or a little bit of both), the 5,000-acre island has you covered. You’ll find miles of undeveloped shoreline just minutes from your campsite. Walking on the beach at sunrise or sunset is a must. Other things to do in the area include exploring the marsh boardwalk, visiting Hunting Island Lighthouse, watching wildlife and going on a hike. Look out for loggerhead sea turtles during the summer months, when they nest on the island.
The park has a well-stocked camp store, but you’ll need to travel to Beaufort or Lady’s Island for laundry and groceries. Another thing to note: The mosquitos can be quite brutal in the warmer months, so make sure to pack your insect repellent.
Edisto Beach State Park (Edisto Island)
Edisto Beach State Park is ideal for campers looking to escape the crowds and enjoy a refreshing noncommercial coastal getaway. Although this spot is only about an hour south of Charleston, its diverse ecosystems, wildlife and lack of busyness make it feel like a real hidden gem.
There are two campground options in the area and several fully furnished cabins. While the campgrounds are only about a mile apart, they’re quite different. The Live Oak Campground is immersed in a lush forest of live oak trees with more shaded and private sites, whereas the Beach Campground is by the beach and provides views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s worth noting that beach sites are harder to come by, so take that into consideration when planning your trip. If you go during the off-season, the park will be especially quiet. Make your online reservations here.
The island is home to the state’s longest system of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)–accessible trails. Hiking and biking are two popular activities for visitors. Bikes are an excellent way to get around the campgrounds and to restaurants and shops in the area.
While on Edisto Island, make sure to visit Botany Bay, a 4,600-acre wildlife and nature preserve full of history with miles of undisturbed coastline. Also, stop by King’s Farm Market (open February to December) for fresh produce, homemade pies, breads and more. Like on Hunting Island, the bugs can be relentless. Don’t forget bug spray!
Poinsett State Park (Wedgefield)
The South Carolina Midlands are yet another excellent location for camping in the Palmetto State. An hour outside of Columbia, you’ll find Poinsett State Park—a great spot for hiking, biking, boating and wildlife viewing.
The campground at Poinsett State Park is nicely shaded and has 24 standard sites plus 26 tent sites. There are a few furnished cabins available for rent as well. Some sites have more privacy than others, so pay close attention when booking if that’s important to you (site 36 offers privacy while still being close to amenities like the bathrooms). The roads leading to the park and campground are narrow and can get rough, which is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re traveling with a rig. Make your reservations here.
The park is adjacent to the 28,000-acre Manchester State Forest, which offers a variety of outdoor activities. Congaree National Park is also nearby. Camping in Congaree National Park is another great option, but its campgrounds (Longleaf and Bluff) are limited to tent-only campers.
Calhoun Falls State Park (Calhoun Falls)
For a quiet and secluded campground by a beautiful lake, check out Calhoun Falls State Park. This park is a camping favorite because of its large, level sites that are shaded and spaced out. Even the tent sites are spacious. Between campgrounds 1 and 2, there are 86 standard sites and 14 walk-in tent sites. Both campgrounds offer campsites with lakeside views of Lake Russell, which is the park’s main attraction. Campground 1 will be closed for renovations beginning December 1, 2022, so be sure to check availability before you go. Make your reservations here.
Calhoun Falls State Park is highly underrated, and adventure enthusiasts will feel right at home. Rent a kayak and go for an early morning paddle, or go for a scenic walk on the Cedar Bluff Nature Trail. If you’re there during the warmer months, take advantage of the public access beach area.
There aren’t many stores in close proximity to the park, so be extra attentive when packing to ensure you have everything you need!
Cheraw State Park (Cheraw)
The campground at Cheraw State Park may be small, but that’s part of its charm. Open year-round (and perfect for off-season travel), the campground has 17 campsites in a wooded area. The sites are split between the Main Campground and a Hike-In Campground by Lake Juniper (there are several waterfront sites). Additionally, there are nine furnished cabins. Make online reservations here.
Some popular activities at Cheraw State Park include biking, bird-watching (keep an eye out for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker), fishing, kayaking and swimming. Depending on what time of year you visit, you might be able to participate in a moonlight paddle trip offered by the state park. Check the park’s events page to see what’s going on during your stay. The boardwalk provides the dreamiest views of Lake Juniper—try to catch a sunrise or sunset here if you can. Hike the boardwalk to the spillway for more incredible views.
Devils Fork State Park (Salem)
Devils Fork State Park is one of the most unique places to camp in South Carolina because it offers the only public access point to Lake Jocassee. It’s a remarkably clear lake in the Southeast that’s a popular destination for various activities such as kayaking, boating, swimming, paddleboarding and hiking. There are two campgrounds by the lake, one of which has 59 standard campsites and 25 tent sites. The other campground has 25 boat-in sites. In addition to the campgrounds, Devils Fork State Park also has 20 fully furnished villas. Make your reservations here.
If you visit Lake Jocassee without getting out on the water, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. Rent a boat or kayak to explore parts of the lake you can’t see from the shoreline. There are multiple waterfalls scattered around the lake that are only accessible by boat.
The closest grocery stores are a ways away, so it’s a good idea to pack what you will need. Because Devils Fork State Park is the only public access for Lake Jocassee, it’s worth noting that this place can get busy, especially on weekends and holidays.
Oconee State Park (Mountain Rest)
If hiking and chasing waterfalls sound like your idea of a perfect getaway, you’ll love camping at Oconee State Park. This area’s hike accessibility is one of its best features—six hiking trails originate in the park. You’ll also find the town of Walhalla and countless waterfalls nearby. Ask for a waterfall map when you check in. There are 139 standard campsites, 15 rustic tent sites and 19 cabins. Make reservations here.
The campground is open year-round, but fall is a great time to visit for cooler temperatures and stunning foliage. If you happen to go during the third week of October, try to catch Walhalla’s Oktoberfest celebration. During the winter months, Oconee is the perfect destination for fishing and cozying up by the campfire. Summertime brings more crowds but is ideal for swimming and boating. North Carolina and Georgia are easily accessible from Oconee, meaning you won’t be limited in terms of things to do. Check out areas just across the North Carolina border, such as Gorges State Park in Cashiers, and Nantahala National Forest. Or head over to Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park to see one of the most impressive canyons in the Southeast.
Table Rock State Park (Pickens)
Table Rock State Park is a mountain lover’s paradise, with ample opportunities for hiking and exploring charming mountain towns like Travelers Rest as well as bigger cities like Greenville. Between the Mountain Laurel and White Oak campgrounds, there are 94 standard campsites (for both tents and RVs) and 14 furnished cabins. The Mountain Laurel Campground tends to be busier, so opt for White Oak Campground for a more laid-back experience (specifically site 83 if it’s available because it backs up to a small creek). Make your reservations here.
If you’re up for a challenge while you’re at Table Rock State Park, tackle the Table Rock Trail. It’s steep and long, but well worth the effort for the sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the summit. Other state parks to visit when you’re in the area include Jones Gap State Park (recommended hike: Rainbow Falls) and Paris Mountain State Park (recommended hike: Lake Placid Loop). Hiking isn’t the only thing to do in the area: Visitors can also go fishing, bird-watching, kayaking and swimming.
If none of the state park campgrounds on this list fit what you’re looking for, check out the South Carolina state parks website for more options. Alternatively, you can check out privately owned spots such as those listed on Hipcamp, which tend to be pricier but may offer unique experiences or more seclusion.