Wake up predawn, take a few steps to your own boat launch, and watch the sunrise while paddling through massive cypress trees. Cozy up in a historic cabin built shortly after the Revolutionary War. Or wind down from a day exploring huge waterfalls on your second-story porch as the sun sinks low into the lake. From the foothills to the Sandhills there’s a lot to explore in South Carolina. Here are cabins in eight state parks providing access to these amazing locations.
1. Devils Fork State Park
Lake Jocassee, close to where the South Carolina, Georgia, and Western North Carolina borders meet, is an absolute gem. Rolling, undeveloped hills surround its deep, clear waters. Several waterfalls, tucked away in green coves, tumble over rough rocks creating secret hideaways. Thirty minutes away, sweeping views from atop Table Rock Mountain are worth the steep hike. And when the day’s adventure is done, kick back on the screened in porch of one of the 20 villas that line the lake at Devils Fork State Park.
There’s only one cabin at Keowee-Toxaway State Park, but oh what a cabin it is. After a chilly afternoon of paddling the crystal-clear waters of Lake Keowee, warm up at the three-bedroom villa by either of the two fireplaces. The nearby trails of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness offer plenty of hiking options—if you can drag yourself away from this beautiful lakeside retreat.
3. Hickory Knob State Park
There’s no such thing as “bored” at Hickory Knob State Park. A 12-mile bike/hike trail system runs the ridges and hugs the shoreline of Strom Thurmond Lake, dipping in and out of dense stands of cedar and pine. The lake, which lies on the border of South Carolina and Georgia, is fed by the Savannah River and offers excellent fishing among its never-ending coves. And with skeet shooting and archery available in the park, there’s little chance of running out of things to do at Hickory Knob. There are several lodging options at the park, but none that compare to the historic Guillebeau House. The restoration of this 2-bedroom cabin, originally built around 1770, added modern conveniences but retained its historic charm.
4. Cheraw State Park
Cheraw State Park is a fantastic destination for beginner kayakers. The secluded, 390-acre lake is surrounded by nearly untouched shoreline. On-site canoe and kayak rentals make it easy to explore the cypress wetlands of Lake Juniper. Floating around the bases of these immense trees—spotting turtles, fox, and the near-famous red-cockaded woodpeckers—will turn a first-time novice into a lifetime paddler. The simple but well-appointed cabins at Cheraw make a convenient launch pad for an early morning exploration of the lake. Look for the moonlight paddle trips offered by the state park.
5. Oconee State Park
Whether you’re hoping to wake up to a peaceful sunrise over the lake or prefer to be nestled in the woods dozing off to the chirp of crickets—the cabins at Oconee State Park have you covered. To help you immerse into your favorite environ, many of the of the cabins in the park have screened-in porches and some come with outdoor fire pits. The extensive trail system throughout the area links waterfalls almost too numerous to visit—even in a full weekend of hiking. And with access to the 76-mile foothills trail, that’s just the beginning.
6. Table Rock State Park
Sitting hundreds of feet above the lake below, the exposed wood beams and giant back porch of the lodge at Table Rock State Park is a feast for the eyes. But one day each month during summer, the sounds of fiddles and banjos fill the lodge, creating a sumptuous treat for the ear as well. The Music on the Mountain jam session brings together a talented group of pickers and singers, and it’s free to attend. Of course the trail system, with its ridiculously gorgeous views and wooded paths, shouldn’t be overlooked. The rustic wood cabins in the park provide a comfortable place to rest and recharge after a long day of exploring.
7. Poinsett State Park
The one-bedroom cabins at Poinsett State Park were part of the work completed by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s. They still stand, offering comfortable lodging to park visitors. Each of these efficient cabins has been updated with modern appliances but remains anchored by a wood-burning fireplace. Sitting near the convergence of the central piedmont and the coastal plane, Poinsett offers hiking and biking in the surrounding Manchester State Forest, which means rambling through hardwood forests and over the unique Sandhills—remnants of an ancient time when this part of the continent was underwater. With connections to the Palmetto Trail, South Carolina’s longest path, there are plenty of miles to explore.
8. Santee State Park
It would be difficult to find lodging closer to the water than the pier cabins at Santee State Park. These 10 yurt-shaped cabins sit directly over the 110,000 acre Lake Marion. Rent a stand-up paddleboard at the park and take off from the attached boat launch for your sunrise float among the cypress.