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Best South Carolina State Parks to Visit in the Winter

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Hampton Plantation

The Historic Hampton Plantation - courtesy of South Carolina Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Tourism

The Top Choices Include a Great Birding Site, an Extensive Trail System, and a Historic Plantation.

Huntington Beach State Park

(Murrells Inlet, SC) Huntington Beach State Park has been called the best birding site in the state and among the best on the entire east coast by naturalists and avid birders alike. The park features three miles of pristine, undeveloped beaches and diverse wildlife habitat that includes stone jetties, brackish ponds, coastal woods and miles of nature trails and pathways that allow for quality park staff-led or self-guided birding. Huntington Beach is a central site for the annual Tidelands Birding Festival, held in February.

Huntington Beach also features the Atalaya “castle,” the winter home of benefactor Archer Huntington (1870-1955) and his internationally recognized sculptor wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973). Archer used only his intimate knowledge of Moorish architecture along the Spanish Mediterranean coast in lieu of blueprints to build this unique dwelling more than 60 years ago. Huntington Beach State Park has also been named as Southern Living’s Readers’ Choice Award winner on several ocassions.

Huntington Beach State Park (843-237-4440) is open from November through April.

Table Rock State Park

(Pickens, SC) Table Rock State Park provides protection of and controlled access to some of the most scenic and rugged mountain terrain in the state. This alone makes Table Rock ideal for some of the most challenging hiking in the state of South Carolina.

The extensive hiking trail system at Table Rock State Park has been designated a National Historic Trail. The Table Rock Mountain Trail is 3.5 miles one-way, while the Pinnacle Mountain Trail is 3.4 miles one-way. Both of these trails go to the top of their respective mountains. The Pinnacle Ridge Trail (1.9 miles) connects these two trails. The less rugged Carrick Creek Loop Nature Trail is 1.9 miles in length. Table Rock is the eastern terminus of the Foothills Trail that connects to the park’s trail system near the summit of Pinnacle Mountain.

The fourteen rustic cabins located in the park are always in high demand, filled almost every weekend throughout the year, even when the forecast predicts snow or bad weather. The same breathtaking mountain vistas provided by Table Rock also make the park’s cabins very popular with visitors year-round. Table Rock State Park (864-878-9813) is open 7 a.m.- 9 p.m., November through April.

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site

(McClellanville, SC) As a way to gain real perspective on South Carolina history and the events that shaped the state even to the present day, Hampton Plantation has long been recognized for its notable historical associations and architectural merit as a prime example of colonial plantation home. In addition, the French Huguenots who built Hampton Plantation indelibly imprinted their distinct culture on the region due to its early isolation from other settlers.

Hampton Plantation serves as history of South Carolina in microcosm. The adversities and obstacles these first settlers overcame, the roles played in shaping the early economy and politics of the colony and Republic are important sub-themes that provide insight into the story of South Carolina rice plantations and their people.

The names Serre’, Huger, Horry, Pinckney and Rutledge are notable ones on the French Santee River and all are associated to some degree with Hampton Plantation. Some, like Daniel Horry and Daniel Huger were important people in their region while others like Eliza Lucas, Charles, Thomas and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, as well as John Rutledge, were of national importance.

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site (843-546-9361) is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday-Monday, November through April.

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