The most popular trail in Congaree National Park is the Boardwalk Loop Trail. It is 2.4 miles and is completely on boardwalks above the park’s floodplains. It features a self guided tour with twenty-something stops along the way pointing out the park’s many unique nature and history. Connected to the Boardwalk Loop is the Weston Lake Loop, a 4.4 mile loop that takes you off the boardwalk and through the forests.
The Boardwalk trail starts at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. The first number for the self guided tour comes up quickly on the right and talks about the 100 year old American Beech tree growing close to the boardwalk.
Here the boardwalk is elevated 5ish feet above the floodplain floor but soon drops down to maybe a foot high.
There are benches along the way to sit on and enjoy the forest around you in case you need a break.
After passing the second marker of the tour (that discusses muck) it will take a minute before you reach number three. Along the way you start to see small roots poking straight up from the mud, they grow larger some reaching four feet tall and then you will reach number three.
These roots jutting up from the ground are “knees”. Growing from the Bald Cypress Tree that fills this part of the forest the knees fill the forest floor. It isn’t known what the knees are for but is believed to be for extra structural support for the trees.
The boardwalk reaches a fork maybe a quarter mile from the knees with the boardwalk continuing left and the Weston Lake Loop to the right. We went on the Weston Lake Loop which takes you as far as the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail and goes along a small creek before cutting back and finally reaching Weston Lake before meeting back up with the Boardwalk Loop.
Weston Lake is very small and the best view is actually from the boardwalk. The main draws for the Weston Lake Loops are that nobody typically leaves the boardwalk so you will have solitude along the trail as well as some of the parks largest trees can be found here.
If you choose to do the Weston Lake Loop you will skip a good chunk of the boardwalks markers and will pick back up around 18 I think. I recommend doing the entirety of the Boardwalk Loop because it is very interesting and educational! On the Weston Lake Loop, we passed some very interesting markers including an old silo from prohibition days as well as a bit of forest ripped up by a hurricane. The boardwalk finishes back up at the visitor center where you can look through the small museum or watch the video about the park!
I really enjoy the Boardwalk trail and have done it a couple times now. the Weston Lake Loop was a nice addition and I got to see more of the park! Congaree is a very easy day trip for many southeast cities and has a lot more than just hiking if you have a canoe or kayak!