By Andrea Beam
Being a native Greenvillian, I’ve only lived in four houses in my thirty (give or take ten) years of life. One might assume there would be few area places of interest that would be a surprise to me. The quest to visit all forty-seven state parks has introduced my family to several hidden treasure spots right in our own backyard. We all know and love Paris Mountain, Jones Gap and Table Rock State Parks, but I’m willing to bet most of you aren’t familiar with the following locales.
Our typical reaction to a new state park is, “This is my favorite! We’re definitely coming back here.” The three parks featured in this post fall into that category.
Saddlers Creek, Oconee and Lake Greenwood State Parks are approximately an hour’s drive from Greenville. These parks are on the “honor system”, asking that you put money in a closed box and pick up a car tag. The cost ranges from $2 – $5 per person. If you’re like me, you rarely have cash on hand, so make sure to carry some when you visit these parks. Check the South Carolina State Parks website for individual park pricing information. The best deal, and highly recommended by my tribe, is the Park Passport.
Instead of rangers in booths at the entrance to these parks, resources are spent constructing and maintaining phenomenal features throughout the grounds. Money well spent, if you ask me.
These nearby parks offer all the typical amenities, activities and so much more. All have boat ramps, fishing piers and swimming areas, making them hot spots during the summer. Playgrounds, lake front picnic tables and clean bathrooms are huge pluses for family outings. Each park can accommodate large family reunions or corporate events.
The trails are perfect for hiking and biking. Campers can enjoy sites with water and electricity hook-ups or choose more rustic tent sites. Both Oconee and Lake Greenwood Parks have cabins to rent.
In addition to similarities, each park has features that make it unique.
Saddlers Creek is the most handicap friendly that we’ve found. There is a .5 mile paved path, complete with handrails and benches, winding through the woods from the park office to the fishing pier. Never has hiking been made so easy. People with walkers and wheelchairs can enjoy the total park experience here. A huge covered pavilion on the lake is full of picnic tables and surrounded by playgrounds, a netted sand volleyball court and a horseshoe pit. Side Note: Saddlers Creek has two huge, clean handicap accessible bathrooms that are worth mentioning. Another Side Note: These are in no particular order, but if you’re wondering, this was (and still is) my favorite park to date. Saddlers Creek State Park is located at 940 Saddlers Creek Road in Anderson.
Oconee State Park, 624 State Park Road in Mountain Rest, has a Trading Post that is one of a kind. A large covered porch invites adventurers to relax in rocking and adirondack chairs. You’ll find checker-board tables with giant wooden checkers. Everything, including the porch, is made of wood and gives this spot a peaceful mountain feel. A challenging, well maintained miniature golf course is adjacent to the big porch. Perfect for younger family members to play while less energetic ones watch and relax. The putt-putt course was my favorite feature and the only one we’ve seen in a state park.
History meets adventure at Lake Greenwood State Park . The Drummond Environmental Education and Conference Center, a popular venue for meetings, receptions and weddings, houses the Civilian Conservation Corp Museum. The museum is an interactive exhibit chronicling the CCC and its contributions to all South Carolina State Parks. An abundance of South Carolina history comes to life as you walk through the exhibits. This park is located at 302 State Park Road in Ninety Six.
There are forty-seven state parks in South Carolina and over a dozen are just a short drive from Greenville. (WOW). We think you should begin your adventure with these three.