Congaree National Park's most popular trail, called simply the Boardwalk, is just that--2.4 miles of continuous boardwalk through stunning old-growth forest. The entire length of it is stroller and ADA accessible, and dogs are allowed on leash, making it easy for the whole family to enjoy the trees, birds, and wildflowers of Congaree.
The Boardwalk is necessary because, though this trail does not reach the river, most of it is on a floodplain. When prolonged wet weather causes the Congaree River and Cedar Creek to overtop their banks, water spreads out and nourishes the huge old trees that thrive here. Frequent flooding is one reason why they grow so large.
When the forest is flooded, the Boardwalk is the only way to get around on foot. It is built to form a loop, half of which is elevated far above the forest floor and half of which is only raised about a foot. During some floods the low boardwalk may be covered, but you can walk above the submerged swamp on the elevated section. One highlight is at the end of the elevated Boardwalk, which is a viewing platform over Weston Lake.
The Boardwalk makes a great short hike of its own, but it is also the beginning of most of the park's other trails. A short trip beyond the Boardwalk on either Sims Trail or Weston Lake Loop leads into Congaree's wilderness area, which has more trails, lakes, and waterways among the huge trees.
Note: Although generally easy and accessible, the Boardwalk becomes very slippery when wet or covered in leaves, so use caution. The low boardwalk may remain open even if soaked by rain or partially flooded. There are benches located along the boardwalk for resting, but no drinking water or facilities are available, so come prepared. During the warmer months, mosquitoes can be very bad throughout Congaree.