Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
10.00 ft (3.05 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
10.00 mi (16.09 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

River Trail is one of the most remote trails in Congaree National Park, and it is the only trail that leads to the Congaree River from the visitor center. It travels into designated wilderness, tours multiple forest types, and a provides a good chance to see wildlife. The trail is all flat, but it requires 10 miles of hiking to complete the loop. The distance is enough to deter most, so the trail receives little traffic. Some parts are overgrown or blocked by fallen trees, but detours are short and fairly easy to navigate.

One thing you may note about the River Trail is that as it nears the river, the forest becomes denser, trees are not as large, and the species composition changes. This is because the forest along the river is mostly secondary growth rather than old growth. Much of it was logged within the past 100 years. The remote and swampy terrain that frustrated logging efforts in Congaree did not save trees close to the river, because they were more easily accessed by boat and floated downstream once felled. River Trail therefore provides the contrast showing how special and rare old-growth forest truly is.

River Trail provides some of the best backcountry camping opportunities in the park. Camping is allowed along most of the trail, though there are no designated sites. The best area is near the river, where large sandbars are exposed during lower water, and small clearings can be found in the trees near shore at any time of year. If you plan to camp, be sure to allow plenty of daylight for finding a good spot, because you may want to search a bit off trail.

Backcountry camping is allowed with a permit from the visitor center or self-registration at Longleaf Campground. Campfires are not allowed. Be sure to read and follow all other wilderness regulations as well as Leave No Trace principles when obtaining a backcountry permit.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Backcountry. Uncrowded.

Cons

Overgrown. Downed trees in places.

Trailhead Elevation

130.00 ft (39.62 m)

Highest point

140.00 ft (42.67 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Bird watching
Wildlife
Big Game Watching
Old-growth forest
Wildflowers
Fishing
Near lake or river

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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