Poinsett State Park
An adventure doesn’t have to take you far from home. My friend Troy actually got a weekend off and was heading to the park, so he asked if I wanted to go along for a weekend of camping and mountain biking. I checked my schedule and with my wife, the coast was cleared, and I told to go have a good time. We loaded up the truck with the camping supplies and the bikes, then headed west two hours to Sumter, SC. The nice thing about going over to Poinsett is that unlike Myrtle Beach, they actually have hills and some challenging bike trails. One thing to be aware of while visiting the park, it is surrounded by Manchester State Forest and this requires a separate permit for entry. The second thing to be aware of, is that you are by Shaw Air Force Base and this area is used for bombing practice by the A -10’s. If you hear a jet screaming by closely overhead don’t be alarmed!
A Piece of History
The park was established in 1934 and named after amateur botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first American ambassador to Mexico, but you may know him better as the man who popularized the poinsettia! The sight was originally used by many local Native American tribes including the Santee, Wateree, and Catawba. The Congaree lived nearby and may have also used the area for hunting.
The park was constructed in the early 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp and made of coquina. The buildings that are still present are on the National Register of Historic Places. There is also remnants of a Pre-Revolutionary War grist mill in the park.
Please click here or more in information on the CCC in Poinsett State Park.
“Weird and Beautiful”
The park is best known for its botanical oddities, combining the flora of the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills and Piedmont of Upstate South Carolina, with the South Carolina Sandhills and the Atlantic coastal plain, giving it an extremely diverse ecosystem. In Poinsett State Park one can see mountain laurels draped with Spanish moss, which has been called “weird and beautiful”. It is home to 337 species of flowering plants to include 65 species of trees and scrubs, including the mountain laurel. The area is also known as “the mountains of the midlands.
Here is a Brochure with more information.
An Outdoor Enthusiasts Dream
The park is surrounded by the Manchester State Forest, and both provide access to the Palmetto Trail, linked hiking and mountain bike trails, and Manchester State Forest also offers equestrian trails. There is no fee to enter the state park but as mentioned above, Manchester State Forest requires a separate parking permit (this includes you bike, there is no separate bike fee). It is $5 per visit or $25 annually and can be paid at the fee boxes located in the parking areas. Poinsett State Park has 26 designated tent sites and 26 electric and water sites that can accommodate up to a 40’ camper. (The length is according to their website. We have only tent camped here so far so we can’t give a review on the camper sites.) There is a dump station available. They also offer cabin rentals. Camping fees start at $16 per night. Poinsett State park offers lots of recreational activities from hunting (permit and license required), fishing (license required), boating (rentals available), biking, and hiking.
Scout Trail: 2 miles Multi-Use Trail: 4 miles Hill Top Trail: .4 Mile
Laurel Group Trail: .5 Miles Coquina Trail: 1.5 Miles Knot: 2.9 Miles
Palmetto Trail: 2.7 Miles within Poinsett State Park and are the Santee Passage and Wateree Passage sections of the trail, it continues outside of the park.
For a complete list of trail you can visit the website here.
A Relaxing Boys Camping Trip
We arrived at the park and found our campsite then met up with another friend who came over to just ride his bike for the day. After we unloaded the bikes, we geared up for some riding in cooler weather. Leaving out of the campground is a great downhill run on the roadway, but the whole time I am thinking what goes down must come back up. We got down into the main parking lot and headed up the Scout Trail, which starts out as an old logging path then narrows up and starts a sneaky uphill climb that will get the heart working and the sweat popping out! It is about a mile climb to the top which comes out onto Hilltop Lookout and an awesome view of the valley from picnic shelter 5. From there it is a single track ride down the mountain back to the logging road and eventually back to the parking lot. (Come back for an upcoming post for a complete park guide). I rode for about twelve miles that day and wanted to head back to the campsite while Troy and Mike rode some additional trails. When I got back to the site I grabbed the camp chair, and found a sunny spot to sit in the sun to read for a while. I enjoyed the quiet of the woods until they returned about an hour later and we had a lunch of smoked bologna sandwiches.
Mike packed his bike up and headed back to Myrtle Beach as Troy and I began to set up the tent and camp site for the evening. It was scheduled to get down in the low 30’s that night and this not being mine and Troy’s first rodeo, we made sure to bring the small space heater for the tent. It was a good thing we did as it got down to 32 degrees that night! The great thing about Poinsett is a site with electricity is only $20 per night and it is usually not hard to get a site at the last minute.
Night fall was coming on so we gathered up some fire wood and got the fire ring going so we could get something on the grill and dine al fresco. The dinner that night consisted of wild boar chops, grilled zucchini and baked beans. Just because you are in the woods doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. I got the fire cranked up good and hot and we had a few cold beverages while we waited on it to get good and dark.
Troy wanted to go on a night ride down one of the trails and check out his new bike light. It was a 350 lumen light and it looks like a car light in the woods at night. We headed out to the hilltop overlook and down part of the Scout Trail, then came back into the back side of the campground after a mile ride. It was a nice way to end the evening before heading into the sleeping bags for a night in the warm tent.
We awoke to a brisk 32 degrees and got the fire going to start some breakfast after heading to the bath house to freshen up for the day. The bath house is very clean and has two showers, sinks, and toilets in each side. We cooked some eggs, grits, sausage and coffee for breakfast. Cheryl discovered the best coffee appliance for camping is an old fashioned tea kettle. It heats water fast over an open flame and you can make lots of things with boiling water, so it has multiple uses.
We broke down the camp site and packed everything away in the truck before heading out to do some hiking. We started out going down the Splice Trail and hiked up to the cabins, which looked very nice from the outside. We then went across the road to the Laurel Trail, along the marsh area to the Cocinna Trail, and up the mountain to the Hi Knot Trail. The Hi Knot Trail is a long trail on the ridge line which separates Poinsett State Park from Manchester Forest. This trail has some old barns along it that you are welcome to look around in.
From the Hi Knot trail we connected back up with the Bowline Trail (make sure to take this as it is the only trail that goes back down the mountain to get back to the road) back down to the Laurel trail to the road. We headed back to the campground after a seven mile hike, got in the truck and headed back into the real world. It was an awesome two days just getting out of town and unwinding in nature with some great friends doing three of the things I love best: camping, hiking and biking.
Live Your Adventure!
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