Within a half hour drive of Columbia there’s state forests, a national park and lakes and rivers to check out for the aspiring or seasoned outdoor goer. It’s true that it can be intensely hot in the summer here, but that also means other seasons of the year are perfect for experiencing the area’s offerings. Here’s a breakdown of some highlights.

Parks & Trails

Three Rivers Greenway

riveralliance.org. A partnership between local governments, the River Alliance has spent years building segments of the Three Rivers Greenway, a linear park along the Saluda, Broad and Congaree rivers. Popular for walking, biking and jogging. Below are specific sections of the greenway.

Cayce Riverwalk

Cayce: Axtell Drive and Naples Ave., 803-550-9520, cityofcayce-sc.gov/riverwalk.asp. Of all the local governments that have built sections of the Three Rivers Greenway, Cayce has gone above and beyond, extending miles of trail south along the Congaree River, including the 12,000 Year History Park, a National Park Service partnership that highlights the area’s history from the Ice Age to the Civil War; and the Timmerman Trail, a wooded 3.5-mile stretch of pathway that connects to Dominion Energy’s Cayce facility.

Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park

Downtown: 312 Laurel St., 803-545-3100, columbiasc.net. Part of the Three Rivers Greenway, the City of Columbia’s Riverfront Park is a popular trail and park encompassing 167 acres just west of Huger Street and stretching north of Broad River Road. A paved trail runs north along the historic Columbia Canal levee.

Saluda Riverwalk

Candi Lane: columbiac.net. Runs along the Lower Saluda River near Riverbanks Zoo. There are hopes for a bridge to be added to the riverwalk that would connect it to Columbia’s greenways.

West Columbia Riverwalk Park and Amphitheater

West Columbia: Meeting Street and Alexander Road, 803-791-1880, westcolumbiasc.gov. This section of the Three Rivers Greenway — running along the west side of Congaree River and under the Gervais Street and Blossom Street bridges — offers some fantastic views and is a popular place for people to jog and walk dogs. Amenities include an inclusive playground, picnic tables, a riverside amphitheater and a canoe launch bay.

Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve

Cayce: 634 Old State Road (south of Newman boat landing), www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands. Part of the state Department of Natural Resources Managed Lands program, this 627-acre preserve features the 2.7-mile Guignard Clay Quarry Loop Trail. Alligators have been spotted here, too.

Congaree National Park

Hopkins: 100 National Park Rd., nps.gov/cong. This 26,000-acre park boasts the largest old-growth floodplain forest on the continent — and you can view it from the park’s 2.4 miles of elevated boardwalk, among other trails. It’s also an International Biosphere Reserve, a Globally Important Bird Area and a National Natural Landmark. Activities include hiking, boating, camping, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, nature walks and more. And, yes, this is where you can see the rare synchronous fireflies in May and June. Located near Hopkins, 20 miles southeast of Columbia (S.C. 48/ Bluff Road, which is exit 5 off I-77).

Harbison State Forest

Harbison/Irmo: Broad River Rd. (off I-26 ext 101), 803-896-8897, state.sc.us/forest/refharb.htm. A short drive out of Columbia proper is 2,177 acres of forest off of Broad River Road that has oodles of easygoing roads and trails and a canoe landing. Terrific for mountain biking, a casual stroll or a run, Harbison is a surprising gem in close proximity to the metro area.

Palmetto Trail

palmettoconservation.org/palmetto-trail. Conceived in 1994 as a statewide series of linked trails — one of only 16 in the country — the Palmetto Trail, run by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, features 500 miles of completed paths thus far. Key local sections include a sandy trail at Fort Jackson and a converted railway bed between the towns of Peak and Prosperity.

Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve

dnr.sc.gov/managedlands. Sadly, the geological wonder known as Peachtree Rock — a triangular-shaped top-heavy sandstone formation that had stood on its pointed base for millions of years — fell in December 2013, likely due to rain and years of vandalism. The good news? You can see the formation lying on its side, as well as hike through Little Peachtree Rock and the rest of this beautiful 460-acre preserve, which has the only waterfall in the coastal plain. Located off S.C. 6 in southern Lexington County near Swansea.

Saluda Shoals Park

Harbison/Irmo: 5605 Bush River Rd., 803-772-1228, icrc.net. Situated on 270 acres downstream from the Lake Murray Dam, Saluda Shoals features a popular water park, a 5,000-square-foot river center, an environmental education center, canoe trips, nature hikes, biking trails, walking trails, fishing spots, picnic shelters, summer camps, health and wellness programs and meeting facilities. It also has a popular holiday lights display in December. Seriously, Saluda Shoals offers a little bit of everything.

Sesquicentennial State Park

Northeast: 9564 Two Notch Rd., southcarolinaparks.com/sesqui. This 1,419-acre park — which locals refer to as “Sesqui” — features a 30-acre lake surrounded by trails, picnic areas and campsites. Also offers boating, fishing, swimming, meeting facilities and trails. The park hosts walks, talks, children’s programs and more.

Goodale State Park

Camden: 650 Park Rd. 803-432-2772, southcarolinaparks.com. Cypress trees, a pond, fishing, picnic spots, kayaking and canoeing all make this a popular spot to visit.

Hunting & Fishing

S.C. Department of Natural Resources

dnr.sc.gov. Check agency website for essential information on hunting and fishing in South Carolina and purchasing licenses online. Offers educational workshops on hunting and fishing, some specifically for young people. Organizes the annual Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic, which was cancelled this year. 

Frank’s Fly Arts

franksflyarts.com. Michael Frank offers a world-class fly-fishing guide service for Columbia’s three rivers — one of the only places in the world where you can fish for rainbow trout, striped bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass within a five-mile stretch of river. Pros and newbies alike are welcome.

Saluda Valley Guides, LLC

803-312-2435. saludavalleyguidesllc.weebly.com. Teaches fly fishing skills and leads both fly and conventional fishing trips on the Saluda and Congaree.

River Outfitters, Guides & Boat Ramps

Adventure Carolina

Cayce: 1107 State St., 803-447-3327, facebook.com/adventurecarolina. Cayce-based outfitter rents and sells boats and gear and leads paddling trips on Columbia’s rivers.

Carolina Outdoor Adventures

carolinaoutdooradventures.com. Offers guided kayak trips on the Congaree, Lake Murray and other waters. Also does geocaching excursions and a Rocky Shoals Spider Lily paddle during lily season.

Jordan Memorial Boat Ramp

Rosewood: 611 Rosewood Dr., 803-741-7272, richlandcountyrecreation.com/centers/jordan-memorial-boat-ramp. This public boat ramp is located at the west end of Rosewood Drive, offering access to fishing and boating on the Congaree.

Palmetto Outdoor Center

West Columbia: 131 Alexander Rd. palmettooutdoor.com. Guided paddling tours by folks who love their rivers. Offers tube rentals and a shuttle service from the West Columbia Riverwalk parking lot during warmer months.

Phoenix Adventures

West Columbia: 220 Orchard Hill Dr., 803-575-2925, phoenixadventures.com. From day trips down the river to overnight or multi-day wilderness excursions, Phoenix Adventures wants to get you outdoors.

River Runner Outdoor Center

Vista: 905 Gervais St., shopriverrunner.com. Offers canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals and sales, as well as guided river trips.

Thomas Newman Public Boat Landing

Granby Landing Road. This City of Cayce boat ramp features a large parking area, access to the Three Rivers greenway, a floating dock and a broad ramp to the water.

At the Lake

Lake Murray

Irmo/Chapin: lakemurray-sc.com, lakemurraycountry.com. Located about 20 miles northwest of downtown Columbia, Lake Murray is a 50,000-acre lake offering boating, fishing and other recreational activities. Lakemurraycountry.com lists public access points, as well as marinas, boat rental companies, stand-up paddleboard providers, sailing clubs and landing spots — too numerous to list here. Good striped bass fishing during the season, and a big fireworks show on July 4 weekend.

Dreher Island State Recreation Area

Prosperity: 3677 State Park Rd., 803-364-4152, southcarolinaparks.com/dreher-island. Accessed from the north side of Lake Murray, near Chapin, the Dreher Island recreation area consists of three islands encompassing 12 miles of shoreline. Especially popular for fishing and boating (Lake Murray is a top destination for striped and largemouth bass), Dreher Island also offers lakefront camping, cabin and villa rentals, water skiing and picnicking. It’s also a quiet, peaceful place for spring walks.

Community & Recreation Facilities

Adult Activity Centers

Northeast: 7494 Parklane Rd., 803-462-9995, richlandcountyrecreation.com. Southeast: 8620 Garners Ferry Road, 803-647-1324, and 144 Hopkins Park Road, Hopkins, 803-776-2778. Offer classes year-round. Also offer banquet facilities for lease. Open to adults only. Fitness center, too.

Ballentine Community Center

Irmo: 1009 Bickley Rd., 803-781-2031, richlandcountyrecreation.com. Located on a 20.5-acre parcel, the Ballentine Community Center offers a recreation building with meeting rooms, a kitchen, a crafts room, basketball courts, soccer fields, playground and a walking trail.

Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center

Cayce: 1120 Fort Congaree Trail, 803-227-3030, www.facebook.com/caycetennisandfitnesscenter. A massive and well-kept modern tennis complex hosting tournaments and offering year-round lessons. And there’s a gym, too.

Columbia Tennis Center

USC/South Main: 1635 Whaley St. 803-733-8440. Fourteen lighted courts — nine hard courts and five clay courts — form the heart of this facility.

Crooked Creek Park

Chapin: 1098 Old Lexington Hwy., 803-345-6181, icrc.net/parks/crooked-creek-park. This 53,000-square-foot community center features a full gym, racquetball courts, tennis courts, athletics fields, picnic areas and, oh yeah, walking trails.

Drew Wellness Center

Downtown: 2101 Walker Solomon Way, 803-545-3200, columbiasc.gov/drew-wellness. Year-round swim lessons in a competition-sized pool, plus a gym, walking track and basketball court.

Greenview Park

North Columbia: 6700 David St., 803-754-5223. Waterpark (open seasonally) features pools, multiple slides and a splash pad. There’s tennis, too — nine lighted hard surface tennis courts — plus multiple ball fields, indoor fitness facilities, a walking trail and more.


Harbison/Irmo: 1019 Broad Stone Rd., 803-732-1900. Northeast: 741 Fashion Dr., (Village at Sandhill), 803-360-7300, plexhiwire.com. The PLEX features a massive — try 12,000 square feet — trampoline field, plus indoor soccer and sports recreation in a first-class facility with quality programs. Among other sports, the PLEX provides ice skating, hockey and figure skating.

Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission

Lexington: 563 South Lake Dr., 803-359-4048, lcrac.com. Operates roughly 35 sports and recreation centers, including the Lexington County Tennis Complex, the Midlands Sports Complex (baseball, tennis), the West Columbia Soccer Complex, the Gilbert-Summit Sports Complex (football, baseball, softball, soccer and basketball) and many more.

Richland County Recreation Commission

Northeast: 7473 Parklane Rd., 803-741-7272, richlandcountyrecreation.com. Operates several adult activity centers and numerous other county parks, community centers and recreational facilities. Also runs summer camps and afterschool programs.

Richland County Tennis Center

Northeast: 7500 Parklane Road, 803-788-3001, richlandcountyrecreation.com. Twelve lighted courts and a new main building are highlights of this facility.

Seven Oaks Park

St. Andrews: 200 Leisure Ln., 803-772-3336, icrc.net/parks/seven-oaks-park. Built in 1973 and located in the St. Andrews area, Seven Oaks Park is a full-service recreation complex offering fitness, athletics and cultural arts programs. Features a dance studio, art gallery, picnic areas, tennis courts, walking trails and more.

Southeast Park

Garners Ferry/Southeast: 951 Hazelwood Rd., 803-730-8507. Sixteen tennis courts — 12 hard and four clay — plus walking trails, a disc golf course and more.

Summit Adventure Park

Cayce: 2245 Charleston Highway, summitadventureparkcayce.com. The national chain of recreational facilities has plans to open in Cayce soon, building off of its Charleston location. Includes Olympic trampolines and other activities for families.

Sunnyside Park

Cayce: 1411 Sunnyside Dr., 803-359-9961, lcrac.com. Lexington County park hosting baseball, football and soccer games; also has a playground and canteens.

YMCA of Columbia

Downtown: 1447 Hampton St., 803-799-9187, columbiaymca.org. The YMCA of Columbia’s branches serve Richland, Kershaw, Lancaster, Calhoun and Orangeburg counties. From swimming to soccer, kids to older adults, the Y offers a wide range of classes and programs.

Skate Park

Owens Field Skate Park

Rosewood: 1351 Jim Hamilton Blvd., columbiasc.net/parks-recreation. An all-concrete park designed by the legendary Wally Hollyday, Owens Field Skate Park features a street plaza, stairs, metal plated rails, and “pool” bowls ranging in depth from 4-to-12 feet. The skate park is 15,000 square feet.

Disc Golf

Earlewood Park

North Columbia: 1113 Parkside Dr., columbiasc.net/parks-recreation. Located near the train trestle on North Main Street near Eau Claire and stretching up into the Earlewood neighborhood, Earlewood Park offers a dog park and a state-of-the-art disc golf course. Great for walking, hiking.

Owens Field Disc Golf Course

Rosewood: 1351 Jim Hamilton Blvd., columbiasc.net/parks-recreation. Maybe you go to Owens Field for soccer, maybe you head there to skate or play basketball. But surrounding the fields and skate park, though, is also a popular disc golf course, a combination of tightly wooded fairways and grassy, open fairways.

Southeast Park

Garners Ferry/Southeast: 951 Hazelwood Dr., A pro level par 59 course with mostly wooded, semi tight holes.

Columbia Disc Golf Club

columbiadiscgolfclub.com. Local club maintains online guide to other Midlands disc golf parks, both professional and beginner/family-friendly.


Charwood Golf Club

222 Clubhouse Dr., charwood.com. Affordable, low-key course, semi-private but open to the public out toward Pine Ridge.

Cobblestone Park

Blythewood: 1298 University Parkway, cobblestoneparkgolfclub.com. This course offers membership plans and limited daily fee play. Features panoramic views, rolling hills, and beautiful oaks and pines that take it over the top.

Golden Hills Golf & Country Club

Lexington: 100 Scotland Dr., goldenhillsgolf.com. Located in the heart of the Town of Lexington, Golden Hills is an 18-hole championship course designed by golf architect Ron Garl. Considered challenging yet playable for all levels, the course is among the highest-rated in the Midlands.

James E. Clyburn Golf Center

Downtown: 2091 Slighs Ave., 803-255-8920, columbiasc.net/parks-recreation. Golf practice facility and learning center features a lighted driving range, covered hitting area, large practice green and a bunker, putting green and clubhouse with meeting space. Handy to downtown Columbia.

Oak Hills Golf Club

7629 Fairfield Rd., oakhillsgolf.com. Oak trees and rolling hills make for nice views and challenges for golfers of all levels.

Riverside Golf Center

1600 Garner Ln., riversidegolfandreccenter.com. A driving range and nine-hole par 3 course situated on the bank of the Broad River.

The Spur at Northwoods

201 Powell Rd., northwoodsgolfsc.com. Welcoming public course is open daily and offers something for golfers of all levels.

The Windermere Club

Blythewood: 1101 Longtown Road East, windermereclubsc.com. Founded in 1987 at Lake Windermere, the Windermere Club features an 18-hole course designed by Pete Dye, whose philosophy is to make each hole as unique and memorable as possible.

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