Saluda Shoals Park: Outdoor Family Fun in Columbia, SC

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Are you thinking about a visit to Saluda Shoals Park? If you’re looking for ways to enjoy the great outdoors, have some fun on the Saluda River or explore awesome play areas with your kids, Saluda Shoals is the place for you! Saluda makes for the perfect day trip activity or even a wonderful place to spend a few extra hours out of the house. We’ve got all you need to know about things to do, our favorite places to go within the park, and events you won’t want to miss out on!  

Things to do at Saluda Shoals in Columbia, SC

This article includes:
Admission to Saluda Shoals
Leo’s Landing Playground at Saluda Shoals
Saluda Shoals Splash Pad
Swim in the Saluda River
Trails at Saluda Shoals
Kayak and Canoe at Saluda Shoals: Rentals available
River Tubing at Saluda Shoals
More Things to Do at Saluda Shoals
Summer Camps at Saluda Shoals

Interested in other wonderful parks in the Columbia, SC area? Check out Citadel Park, where your kid can finally fulfill their dream of riding a T-Rex!

Scoot on Over to Saluda

Saluda Shoals is a large 480-acre park that can be found along the banks of the Saluda River. This park encourages play within nature and does a wonderful job at keeping amenities clean, the landscape well-manicured, and the park itself inviting! Catching a glimpse of wildlife is not unheard of here. Take a break from the hustle of the city and enjoy the fresh air, nature, and all the fun Saluda has to offer! 

Arriving at Saluda Shoals Park 

Saluda Shoals has two entrances into the park. The main entrance, also considered the West Entrance, can be found off of Bush River Road. It is best to enter here if you are planning on going to the splash pad and smaller playground, kayak/tube rental shed, or dog park.

The East Entrance is located off St. Andrews Rd. and we recommend entering through this gate if you’re looking for Leo’s Landing, the Drone Zone, disc golf course, or tennis courts. Either entrance can get you to where you need to be, but for convenience, this is what we’d recommend.   

Saluda Admission and Annual Passes 

Entry into the park is $5/car. If you plan to visit the park frequently, an annual pass for $55 could be the best option for your family. A few of the amenities such as the dog park and splash pad cost additional fees which will be discussed below. 

Top Things to do With Young Kids at Saluda Shoals Park 

Leo’s Landing 

Leo’s Landing is the perfect all-inclusive playground that you never knew you were missing! It is a very unique and well-designed play space featuring large ziplines, countless climbing structures, a musical area, a variety of inclusive swings, and so much more! Be sure to check out our review of Leo’s Landing for more details and tips! 

Leo's Landing Playground in Columbia, SC at Saluda Shoals
Leo’s Landing

Saluda Splash 

Need a place to cool off while enjoying Saluda Shoals? Head over to this large splash pad and let your kiddos run free.

This splash pad has a lot to offer. There’s several sprinklers for kids to enjoy as well as a large dumping bucket. My kids love to bring large plastics cups with them to fill up and splash at one another!

Saluda Shoals Splash Pad

To enter the splash pad, you will need a wristband which costs an additional $4/person at the gate. If you think you’ll use this feature a lot, you may want to look into purchasing a 15-visit pass for $55. The pass can be used at both Saluda Splash and the Melvin Park splash pad in Chapin. 

The splash pad hours change frequently throughout the summer so be sure to double-check that they will be open before you go!

Saluda Shoals Splashpad Hours (2024)

  • April 27 – May 26
    • Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 6 pm 
  • May 27 (Memorial Day) 9 am – 6 pm
  • June 1 – August 9
    • Monday – Friday 9 am -2 pm 
    • Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
    • Thursday (July 4th) 9 am – 6 pm
  • August 10 – September 15
    • Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
    • Monday, September 4 (Labor Day) 9 am – 6 pm

Shaded Playground

Right next to the splash pad sits a completely covered and shady playground with a rock wall, slides, and monkey bars. There is also a large picnic shelter and restrooms next to the playground and splash pad. For a full day of play, we recommend bringing a dry change of clothes, packing a lunch, and then heading over to either the shaded playground or Leo’s Landing after the splash pad. 

Playground at Saluda Shoals
Covered playground at Saluda Shoals

Our Favorite Outdoor Adventures at Saluda Shoals 

The outdoor fun is endless at Saluda Shoals Park! Load up your family and enjoy nature, make memories along the river, and observe the wildlife all around you. Here are just a few of our favorite outdoor activities available at Saluda. Keep in mind that children must be at least 5 years old to take part in rental activities! 

Swim in the Saluda River

We found the perfect place at Saluda Shoals to splash around and swim in the river! That being said, swimming at Saluda is allowed; however, there are no lifeguards or roped-off swim areas so, swim at your own risk!

To get to the “swimming hole” we recommend either parking at the Splash Pad or the lot near the upper boat ramp and kayak rental shed. If coming from the splash pad, follow the sidewalk to the far back of the parking area. When you see the picnic shelter, continue along the trail which will lead you into the parking lot of the boat ramp. Here you will have a great view of the river! Continue walking towards the left and you will come to the set of stairs that leads you down to the swimming area. While the beach landing isn’t large, it is decent-sized and gives the perfect entry into the river.

Saluda Shoals River
River Access at Saluda Shoals

My family was not aware of this little swimming hole before our trip, but we still walked down and let our son dip his toes in. There was another family taking advantage of the cool water that had small tubes and toys for their kids to play with. I also loved that this area was very shady and surrounded by some of the trails.

Pro tip: don’t forget the water shoes if you plan on going for a swim!

Trails at Saluda Shores

Load up the bicycles and lace up the walking shoes because throughout Saluda Shoals Park you will find more than 10 miles of trails! These trails are both paved and unpaved, have a variety of different lengths, and are welcoming to many different fitness levels. Several miles of the trails even run along the river . . . talk about a beautiful view! 

Saluda Shoals Park along the river

Kayaking and Canoeing 

What better way to enjoy the Saluda River than by kayak or canoe! The park has canoes and both single and tandem kayaks available for rent from 9 am – 4 pm, daily. You can rent these for 1 hour for $25, 2 hours for $35, or for the entire day for $50.

This is a popular attraction during the spring and summer months so be prepared to potentially wait in line. As always, we recommend getting there early, especially during the weekend! 

Canoe and kayak rentals

River Tubing

Rent a tube for just $15 and have a relaxing two-hour float down the Saluda River! Rentals take place daily from 9 am – 3 pm and must be returned no later than 5 pm. Don’t forget to bring a small waterproof bag or cooler along with you for snacks and water. 

Other Things To Enjoy At Saluda 

Some additional amenities that can be found within Saluda Shoals Park are a disc golf course, two boat ramps, 8 picnic shelters, a river observation deck, team building programs, bird observation, and a large tennis court complex.

Barking Lot Dog Park 

Have a 4-legged furry child . . . I mean pet at home? Allow them to tag along on your family adventure and take them over to this 2-acre, fenced-in green space to run and play. Not only does this dog park have an agility course, but it also includes 3 shallow pools for your dog to cool off in, a fire hydrant sprayer, and a large gazebo. In order to use this feature, however, you must purchase a $40 annual pass which is good for up to 2 dogs per family. Leashed dogs are also permitted along the trails for no extra fees or passes required. 

Drone Zone

Calling all drone lovers! Head over to the “drone zone” located next to Leo’s Landing and practice your flying in a large, open green space. I’ve personally never seen this offered in other parks and thought it was a neat attraction!    

Event Spaces at Saluda Shoals

If you need a unique space to host a meeting, wedding, birthday party, or any other social gathering – look no further! Saluda Shoals is home to three event spaces that can be rented out all throughout the year: Meech House, River Center, and Environmental Center. To book your next event you can go online for more information or contact Lori at 803.213.2015. 

Events You Don’t Want to Miss at Saluda Shoals 

Saluda Shoals has a calendar FULL of events year-round. One of the most noteworthy events is the Christmas light display, “Lights on the River”. The route goes on for 2.5 miles with a place about halfway through to stop and roast s’mores, purchase hot chocolate, and enjoy several other holiday favorites. 

The lights themselves are truly amazing. Cars packed with families and eager children filled with the holiday spirit go on for MILES. Our best tip is to get to the park before the start time and prepare to wait. As in, pack lots of snacks and car-friendly activities for the kiddos. Even if you don’t get there early, you’ll be in a looooooong line of cars waiting to enter. It’s worth it though, we promise!

Some of the other events you can find at Saluda Shoals are wine tastings, beer tastings, cook-offs, family days, a 4th of July celebration, and more! Be sure to check out their calendar

Summer Camps at Saluda Shoals 

Saluda offers several summer camps for ages 4 – 16 year olds. The majority of the camps begin at 9 am and end around noon; however, there are a few that end later in the afternoon. Camps vary on dates and price and include:

  • STEM Camp
  • Arts and Crafts Camp
  • Outdoor Adventure Camp
  • Fitness Camp  
  • Sports Camp
  • Cooking Camp
  • And more!!!

For more Columbia area summer camps, don’t miss the 70+ summer camps in our Columbia, SC guide.

See You at Saluda! 

Saluda Shoals Park
5605 Bush River Rd.
Columbia, SC 29212

March – October: 7 am – sunset
November – February: 7 am – 5:30 pm 

Have you visited Saluda Shoals yet? What did your family enjoy the most? We would love to know! 

Kayla Simmons
About the Author
Kayla grew up right outside of Charleston, SC and is a proud graduate of the University of South Carolina. She has lived in Columbia for a combination of 5 years. Kayla has a background working with special needs children, but now enjoys nothing more than being a stay-at-home mom of two. She enjoys keeping her kids busy by finding unique play spaces and events, involving them in hands-on activities and watching them learn about the world through play. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercise and spending quality time with her family and friends.

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