Conestee Nature Preserve in Greenville, SC opened in 2006, and quickly has become a favorite destination for families across the Upstate. We’ll tell you all about this amazing preserve right in the heart of Greenville.
Conestee Nature Preserve is an incredible park with miles of trails, wetlands, boardwalks, educational programs, and lots of hands-on opportunities to learn about the environment, conservation, and participate in some pretty cool things. We are big fans of the Preserve and can’t wait to tell you all about it here.
About Conestee Nature Preserve
First and foremost, it is easy to confuse Conestee Nature Preserve (CNP) with its neighbor, Conestee Park. Managed by Greenville County Recreation, Conestee Park has an enormous playground, stadium, baseball fields, dog park and picnic shelter. For more about Conestee Park check out Kidding Around Greenville’s mom review of Conestee Park.
The nature Preserve boasts 13 miles of trails that crisscross 640-acres of forest and wetlands. In 2020, the Preserve changed its name from Lake Conestee Nature Park to Conestee Nature Preserve to better reflect the park’s environment education and conservation mission.
Since its inception in 2006, the nonprofit has purchased more land and expanded the preserve, making it one of the top nature destinations in Greenville. They host events throughout the year like river cleanups, night hikes, bird watching, homeschool days, educational programs for kids, and even adult events like the Winter Wine Walk, which features wine and food.
Trails at Conestee Nature Preserve
With 13 miles of hiking and walking trails, you can easily get however many miles you’d like of the easy trails. We like to combine them and wander around. Conestee Nature Preserve has a helpful Trail Guide to get you started. We like using AllTrails as well in there to kind of see where we are and help us get to where you want to be.
There are boardwalks throughout the park as well where you can observe all kinds of cool things in the water like salamander eggs, salamanders, turtles, fish, ducks, geese, and lots of different kinds of birds. There are 11 observation decks so no shortage of places to check out the local wildlife.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail even goes through the heart of the Preserve. In the spring, be sure to look for all the cool wildflowers. We like using the free Seek app to identify them. Just don’t pick any and follow the Leave No Trace principles.
Mountain Biking at Conestee Nature Preserve
It may not be widely known but there are mountain biking trails at Conestee Nature Preserve. The trails are accessed by parking at 415 Churchill Circle, Greenville. They are located on the Brushy Creek Lands and are used by both pedestrians and bikers so trail etiquette is important.
The Preserve asks that bikes go right on trails on even days, and left on odd. Pedestrians should go left on even days, and right on odd. You can see the trails on this map.
Birding at Conestee Nature Preserve
Other than hiking and biking, there are many other fun things to do at Conestee Nature Preserve. CNP is one of our favorite destinations for birdwatching. The National Audubon Society has designated the Preserve as an Important Bird Area of Global Significance, and over 220 bird species have been reported by the Greenville County Bird Club. You can join the Greenville County Bird Club on a guided bird trip in the Preserve on the third Saturday of every month.
They do a short and long walk so you can choose what suits you best.
Educational Programs at Conestee Nature Preserve
We have been to so many of the Preserve’s educational programs and have loved all of them. Here are some of the different programs they offer.
Ever seen an ant zombie or get up close to a snake? It’s all possible if your school group does a field trip at the Preserve! They offer field trips from pre-K all the way through high school and adhere to the South Carolina Science Standards. The field trips fill up really fast so if your group wants to do it, get in touch with them well before the beginning of the next school year.
Field trips are free for public schools. The cost for private schools are $10/student for a standard field trip (3.5-4 hours long) and $8/student for a two-hour field trip. For homeschoolers, the cost is $10/student, $5/adult or child ages 3 and 4 for a standard field trip; $8/student, $4/adult for two-hour field trip.
Classes & Programs for Ages 2 and Up
If you have been looking for educational but fun classes for your kids, then you are in luck! Conestee Nature Preserve offers classes for kids ages 2 through middle school! Classes are offered monthly, and they even have some specialized homeschool classes and adult classes you may want to check out. Some of the adult classes include themes like rain barrel workshops, guided hikes, and birding! Tickets must be purchased ahead of time.
Preschool Nature Discovery Club (Knee-High Naturalist)
For younger children ages 2 – 4 years old, this spectacular program gets your kids outdoors learning about local wildlife. Cee, our instructor during our hour long class, was amazing! She speaks to every child with kindness, making the class interesting and fun, while creating a fun craft to go along with our lesson.
For our class in February, we started off reading a book about the subject we would be studying, in our case, metamorphosis. The classes have a different theme each month and correspond with what is going on during that time of year. We then explored logs for larvae and beetles, and the kids were so excited to find some critters crawling around on the logs. Afterward, we made a fun craft lighting bug that paired with the theme while reading another book and talking about what we saw.
The class is an excellent bite-size science lesson for littles, allowing them to engage with nature and look a little closer at the world around them. Classes are available twice per month, usually on a Thursday morning or Saturday morning, during the school year.
Nature Discovery After School Program: Elementary and Middle School Classes
Nature Discovery is a really cool program that gives exclusive access to elementary and middle school students to parts of the Preserve that the general public cannot go to. Kids can explore well beyond anything they could if they just visited the Preserve and this lets them dig deeper into the environments present and learn all about the different wildlife and seasonal cycles.
We did a salamander-focused Nature Discovery with the middle school group and had such a fun time! We learned what the eggs look like, got to search for them, hold them, and look at them under a microscope. We even got to search around to find a salamander, which one of the kids in our group. It was the coolest thing. Like the themes for the younger kids, these classes also follow the seasons and what is happening that time of year.
The staff at the Preserve are so passionate about their jobs and it’s hard not to have some of that passion rub off on the students while there.
Nature Discovery is offered in the fall and spring and you can sign up for one class or the semester. They meet every other week in the late afternoons. The cost is $10/session or $60 for all eight sessions.
The Preserve offers multiple homeschool days throughout the year but they sell out quickly. This is a drop-off program and you must reserve tickets in advance. You can stay tuned to their events page or subscribe to their email newsletter for the latest updates on when those dates are released.
Visiting Conestee Nature Preserve
Conestee Nature Preserve is open daily sunrise to sunset. While there is no admission, the Preserve kindly asks for a donation of $3/person. All proceeds go to supporting the Preserve. It is entirely a nonprofit and funded by donations.
Other tips when visiting the Preserve
CNP has a brand new little shop, which you can check out at the main entrance near the playgrounds. You can purchase CNP-branded merch.
Dogs are allowed at the park but they must be on leash at all times.
Follow Conestee Nature Preserve on Facebook to get the most up-to-date information on trail closures. The Preserve often floods and sometimes these waters can damage or close trails.
There is absolutely no swimming at Conestee Nature Preserve, for humans or animals. The lake was created when the Reedy River was dammed at the Conestee Mill in 1892. The lake originally covered about 130 acres, but over the years industrial waste and discharge filled about 90% of it with sediment so toxic that the lake was classified a Superfund site. Safety studies of the brownfield site were completed, and it was determined that the best course of action would be to leave the toxic sediment in place.
Conestee Nature Preserve
840 Mauldin Road, Greenville (there are four other entrances to trails, which you can view on the Conestee website)
Conestee Nature Preserve Website | Conestee Nature Preserve Facebook
Love bird watching? Be sure to read our article about Upstate, SC birds at Lake Conestee.
What is your favorite place to visit in Conestee Nature Preserve?