Have you heard of the Angel Oak Tree in Charleston, SC? The 400-year-old live oak on Johns Island is well worth the visit and should be on your list of things to do in the Charleston area.
I had been to the Angel Oak Tree once before but I could only see it through the fence because I happened to go on a holiday weekend when it was closed. When I was back in Charleston, SC, I was determined to make the stop to see the incredible tree. After all, I had seen numerous photos of it, even in places as far as a museum in Florida! I had to see it for myself.
History of the Angel Oak Tree
Arborists estimate the oak tree is between 300 – 400 years old. To say it’s enormous is an understatement. It’s likely the largest live oak tree east of the Mississippi River.
The tree has a diameter of 25.5 feet and is 65 feet tall, providing more than 17,000 square feet of shade, which felt really nice on the hot July day we went. It’s a historical site and is deemed a “Lowcountry Treasure.” I’d agree. Records indicate the tree was initially owned by Abraham Waight starting in 1717 and stayed in his family for four generations. It became part of a marriage contract between Martha W.T. Angel and Justus Angel, hence the name of the tree I assume.
While the tree does grow up, it also grows outwards. The branches and limbs are massively heavy so you’ll notice some of them are held up by wooden beams.
Today, the tree and land are technically owned by the City of Charleston and part of their park system. There’s a gift shop on site and parking and entry are free.
Visiting the Angel Oak Tree
To get to the parking area of the oak tree, you have to drive on a really bumpy road and there is limited parking. People usually don’t spend a lot of time there so parking spots will open quickly and just go slow on the bumpy road. You don’t need a 4×4 and we saw plenty of compact cars there.
Let’s talk about the rules of visiting the tree. Leashed pets are allowed but not within 100 feet of the tree. There are signs about where you can go with them. Secondly, as you may imagine, there is no climbing, sitting, marking, or standing on the tree. No food or drinks are allowed near it as well as tripods, blankets, and props. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches in the park if you’d like to sit and rest while there.
Weddings and special events and professional photography are allowed but permits are required. Contact the City of Charleston to arrange for those: 843.724.7327.
Make sure to double-check the hours before you go (I didn’t the first time I went and it was closed!). Hours are Monday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1-5 pm; closed holidays. The last entry is at 4:50 pm. There are port-a-potties on site but it’s probably better to go at a nearby gas station before you get to the park.
What It’s Like at the Angel Oak Tree
I didn’t research the history of the tree before we went so my kids were thinking that the tree should look like an angel and they decided it didn’t. I could see it though, with the limbs spread out and the trunk resembling a body. Others may think of the mythical creature Medusa with her multi-snake hair.
Regardless, let me say that visiting Angel Oak® was really special. There’s a peace surrounding it that I think maybe comes with historical places. I felt the same when I visited the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church further south near Beaufort, SC.
I’m not sure exactly what it is that makes this spot so special but I was thinking of the stories this tree could tell if it could speak, of the battles waged near it, of the people who sat under its shade maybe reading or writing documents and books we still read today. Charleston itself is so steeped in history that I think some of that spills into this particular spot.
I think it’s worth the 10 or 15 minutes you’d spend wandering under the shade of the massive branches that stretch many feet around you and gaze at the wonder of nature that is the Angel Oak Tree.
Things to do Nearby
Charleston is full of adventure for families! Just 10 minutes down the road from the Angel Oak Tree is the Charleston Aqua Park, a super fun place with an over-water ropes course and floating obstacle course.
Downtown Charleston is about 20 minutes away and Mt. Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, and Folly Beach are all nearby as well. For more info to help you plan your next trip to the low country, check out the Kidding Around Travel Guide to Charleston, SC: Things to Do, Where to Stay, and Places to Eat
3688 Angel Oak Road, Charleston, SC
Hours are Monday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1-5 pm; closed holidays