MNN Galleries

8 under-the-radar gems of the National Park Service

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Photo: Billy3001/Flickr

7 of 10

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

To be completely honest, hiking, canoeing or backcountry camping in a lush, densely wooded swamp filled with gators, wild pigs, snakes, feral dogs and bobcats doesn’t sound all that appealing. But for the brave, South Carolina’s Congaree National Park is a great alternative to more swamped swamp-parks. It’s home to the largest tract of old-growth floodplain forest in North America and is a relatively young national park — it achieved national park status in 2003 — meaning tour buses aren’t perpetually lined up waiting to get in. And Congaree isn’t that primitive: There’s a visitors' center and an elevated 2.4-mile boardwalk loop trail that keeps the squeamish at a safe distance from delicate wildlife and unsavory (non-winged) critters.