Do you live in an apartment in Beaufort, SC? If so, don’t miss these beautiful, budget-friendly escapes in our own backyard. These are some of the best State Parks in the South according to Southern Living Magazine.
Huntington Island State Park
Huntington Island, SC
If you’ve been searching for a perfectly picturesque beach—5 miles of it—Hunting Island State Park won’t disappoint. It has even been immortalized in movies like Forrest Gump and G.I. Jane. Take in the full view of the ocean, beach, and marshland by climbing to the top of the Hunting Island Lighthouse; lucky visitors might even snag a reservation at the lighthouse cabin. The island is named for the hunting done here in years past, and today you can still see deer and waterfowl regularly. The endangered loggerhead turtle nests here as well. If you’d like to catch some fresh seafood for dinner, try crabbing or fishing off the pier on Fripp Inlet. Enjoy a cool Atlantic breeze as you swim, boat, or kayak. Bonus: pirate stories. Hunting Island and nearby Beaufort were supposedly layovers for Blackbeard and his “associates.”
Amicalola Falls State Park
Many a grand adventure has begun under the stone archway at Amicalola Falls State Park as hikers set off onto the legendary 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. Watching those backpackers begin their treks is one of the highlights of visiting the park. If you’re feeling more inspired by a bit of weekend adventure, Amicalola has plenty to offer. Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures at Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge features the Zip Line Canopy Tour and suspension bridges for a day of sightseeing and fun, and the GPS Scavenger Hunt allows families to hike while searching for secret spots designed to help kids learn about nature (there’s even a prize at the end). The park’s 3-D Archery course, designed for both amateurs and professionals, teaches basic bow-and-arrow skills and allows students to “hunt” for bears, deer, and more in a virtual course. Don’t miss the view at Amicalola Falls itself. With a 729-foot drop, it’s the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River and can be reached by trail, stairway, or car.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Rising Fawn, GA
On the edge of Lookout Mountain sits Cloudland Canyon State Park, home to waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, caves, and creeks just waiting to be explored. This gorgeous spot on the Cumberland Plateau has miles of wonderful trails. Take a short stroll on Overlook Trail, or try the more challenging Waterfalls Trail. Hiking isn’t the only adventure Cloudland Canyon has to offer. Over 30 miles of mountain biking trails and 16 miles of horseback riding trails plus an 18-hole disc golf course and a fishing pond draw hobbyists of all types. Or share a special group experience by booking a cave tour through G3 Adventures. Their family-friendly excursions here and at nearby Pigeon Mountain might get you a little wet and muddy, but they’re experiences you won’t forget. Pick an unusual lodging option (and skip the DIY tent setup) by staying in one of the park’s 10 yurts, circular domed tents that are kept pitched and ready for up to six people.
Hanging Rock State Park
Visit the beautiful Sauratown Mountains, called “the mountains away from the mountains” because they’re so close to the Blue Ridge Range but aren’t part of it. This park, created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Hiking trails overlook mountains, waterfalls, and a cave. Admire the serenely cascading streams, and take a dip in the pools below. Rent a rowboat or canoe on the 12-acre lake to angle for catfish and bass, or spend the day in a kayak on the Dan River. Rock climbers can take advantage of almost 2 miles of 400-foot-tall cliffs at Moore’s Wall and Cook’s Wall, while mountain bikers will love riding along the rock ledges and streams.