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Sesquicentennial State Park. The 1,419 acre Sesquicentennial State Park is not far from downtown but feels like you're in the country. A 30-acre lake sits at the heart of the park, allowing for fishing and nonmotorized boating. Enjoy picnicking areas, playgrounds, and miles of nature, hiking, and mountain-biking trails. 9564 Two Notch Rd., Northeast, Columbia, SC, 29061. 803/788-2706. www.southcarolinaparks.com. $2. Daily 8-6.
Congaree National Park. Congaree National Park has 22 mi of trails and a 2.5-mi boardwalk for people with disabilities. The alluvial floodplain, bordered by high bluffs, in the 22,200-acre park contains many old-growth bottomland hardwoods (the oldest and largest trees east of the Mississippi River). The water and trees are beautifully eerie. Hiking and canoe trails line the park, which is full of wildlife, including otters, deer, and woodpeckers, as well as the occasional wild boar. When darkness falls, join park naturalists for a hike deep into the forest to search for owls and other nighttime wildlife Friday at 8:30 pm. Call for nighttime walk reservations. 100 National Park Rd., 20 mi southeast of Columbia, Hopkins, SC, 29061. 803/776-4396. www.nps.gov/cong. Free. Visitor center: weekdays 8:30-5, weekends 9am-1pm.
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