Best In Tent Camping: Carolinas

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Book Excerpt Below

The Best In Tent Camping
The Carolinas, 2nd edition

ISBN: 08-9732-547-8

This tent camping guide offers the 60 best tent camping destinations in North and South Carolina, from the mountains to the Piedmont to the coast.

Johnny enjoyed his research on this book. Now, you can enjoy the tent camping destinations this book has too offer!


Heron at park pond

Poinsett State Park

Campsite Name: Poinsett State Park

Campsite City: Wedgefield, SC

Beauty Rating: 5

Privacy Rating: 4

Spaciousness Rating: 3

Quiet Rating: 3

Security Rating: 4

Cleanliness Rating: 4

Address: 6660 Poinsett Park Road, Wedgefield, SC 29168

Operated by: South Carolina State Parks

Information: (803) 494-8177

Open: Year-round

Individual sites: 25 non-electric sites, 25 electric sites

Each site has: Picnic table, water spigot, some have fire rings

Site assignment: First come, first served and by reservation

Registration: At park office by lake

Facilities: Hot showers, flush toilets

Parking: At campsites only

Fee: Tent sites $9-$10 per night depending on season; other sites $12-13 per night

Elevation: 185 feet

Restrictions – Pets: On leash only

Restrictions – Fires: In fire rings only

Restrictions – Alcoholic beverages: Prohibited

Restrictions – Vehicles: 2 autos per site

Restrictions – Other: 6 people per site

Summary Quote: This state park is one of South Carolina’s most ecologically interesting areas. It has great camping, mountain biking and hiking, too.

To get there: From Exit 9 on I-77 in Columbia, take US 378 east, Garners Ferry Road, for 26 miles to SC 261. Turn right on SC 261 south and follow it for 10.1 miles, passing through Wedgefield, to reach Poinsett Road. Turn right at the signed turn and follow it 1.7 to enter the state park.

Poinsett State Park is an interesting location. Set on an outlier of the Carolina Sand Hills, Poinsett is where the vegetation of the Low Country meets the vegetation of the Upcountry, resulting in the overlapping of ecosystems, a place where Spanish moss hangs in trees that stand over blooming mountain laurel bushes. The melding of nature’s finery results in a beautiful setting for a park, and an understanding of why this was an early addition to the South Carolina state park system, originally developed by the Civilian Conservations Corps in the 1930s. Historic structures from the CCC era add charm to an already pretty park. Another plus in the location department is Poinsett’s proximity to Manchester State Forest, which effectively adds thousands of acres to the activity area, where hiking and mountain biking trails abound. Add a camping loop used exclusively by tent aficionados and you have a great destination in the Palmetto State.

The campground is set high on a hill. It is mostly level up here. The sites are laid out in a classic double loop. Pines, oaks, sweetgum, dogwoods and hickories, draped in Spanish moss, stand over sandy sites. Ample ground vegetation divides the campsites and provides good privacy. Two bathhouses serve the locale.

The first loop is the original loop and has electric sites. Also note the rock fire rings from the CCC days in the first few campsites. The second loop is in the back of the campground and is where tent campers want to be. The loop once had electricity but it was taken out. However, each campsite still has its own water spigot. The large, shady sites allow room for all the extras you can cram in your vehicle. A few of the sites have tent pads, but the sandy campsite floor already makes for a level, easy-draining surface. The campground loops around and passes by a large field, then reenters the first loop. Note the recreation building here, which could come in handy during rain spells.

Campsites are always available in the non-electric loop. However, reservations can be made. Once you come here, you can find the campsite you like and can reserve it for the next trip. Poinsett is a spring/fall destination. Summer can be excessively hot and there is no swimming here. Note that you may experience noise from a nearby bombing range.

The Civilian Conservation Corps dammed Shanks Creek to create Old Levi Mill Lake, 10 acres in size. The scenic watery valley offers boating and fishing in a quiet setting, where gas motors are not allowed. You can rent a johnboat from the park at a low rate, or bring your own canoe, kayak or other boat, as long as you can carry it to the water, since there is no boat launch. Bass, bream and catfish lie beneath the placid pond.

Most campers travel the extensive trail system that spreads over the state park and Manchester State Forest. For starters, South Carolina’s master path, the Palmetto Trail, extending from the mountains to the sea, heads through here in what is known as the High Hills of Santee Passage. It is 14 miles end to end on this segment of the Palmetto Trail

The Coquina Trail makes a loop around Old Levi Mill Lake, which connects to another loop trail, the Hilltop Trail, which connects to the Laurel Group Trail. The Equestrian Trail is also open to hikers, and makes a 6 mile loop among valleys cut by spring fed creeks. Swamp vegetation such as tupelo and cypress grow next to mountain vegetation on the hills, such as galax and mountain laurel.

On the way in you passed the main mountain biking trailhead for Manchester State Forest. The 25,000-acre forest has trails aplenty. Three trails make loops covering over 17 miles of pedaling. The Killer 3 Trail is the longest at 10 miles. Be prepared for some of the hilliest terrain in this part of the state, and also for sand, as you are in the sand hills. Some riding can be quite technical. Be apprised that these trails are open only on Sundays during the fall hunting season. Consider coming in spring for more riding opportunities. Also, a permit is required. For information on obtaining a permit, visit that way you will be prepared for your visit to Poinsett State Park.