Spring is arguably the best time to visit Greenville and the surrounding upstate of South Carolina. The temperature is near perfect, the flowers are starting to show up, and the wildlife is awake. Getting outside is an absolute MUST! One of the best ways to enjoy the fresh air is to take advantage of the South Carolina parks and trails. Hiking and biking give you the control of how fast or far you want to travel.
Caesars Head State Park is 13,000 acres on the border of North Carolina, offering visitors the opportunity to explore 60 miles of trails! There is something for every skill level. The easiest trail is just following the path from the Nature center to the Caesars Head Overlook. At .3 miles round trip it may not seem worth it, but the view! You can see from North Carolina to Georgia. Overlooking the piedmont, at 3208 feet above sea level, you will be set to watch the birds fly below you. Caesars Head is known as a perfect location for bird migration: songbirds in the spring (167 species!) and hawks in the fall. From there you can move on to the Devil’s Kitchen. Steep stairs lead you down a narrow path between a 90-degree split in the rock, before bringing you out to another majestic view. There are multiple stories on the name, but my favorite is the tale that the Devil himself was brewing on the mountain when an obviously strong drop landed on the rock causing it to split.
The Raven Cliff Falls Trail is the most used trail in the park. Rated as a moderate hike, it is a 4-mile loop. This trail will take you to an overlook where you can see (and hear) the waterfall in the distance. Should you decide you want a closer look and a little more of a challenge, you can continue on another mile (making this a 6-mile loop) to the suspension bridge. The bridge walks you over Raven Cliff Falls, so you can look down at the 420 feet of cascading water. For the brave among you, Caesars Head offers many difficult trails to follow. At 8.8 miles the Raven Cliff Falls and Dismal Trail Loop is a great way to experience the park. Don’t let the name chase you away, the trail isn’t “dismal”, the forest is. That doesn’t sound any better, does it? Named for the mature dense hardwood, it is the home to plenty of wildlife including “black bears, Peregrine Falcons and the federally-endangered Green Salamander” according to the SC Parks website. This trail is strenuous and steep, but worth the experience.
Cycling is another great way to enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is considered one of “America’s Best Urban Bike Paths” by Fodor’s Travel. The 22-mile (ever growing) rails to trails path from Fountain Inn, through Greenville and on to Travelers Rest, has an interactive map to help you enjoy the art, Reedy River Falls, Furman Lake, and the MANY places to stop for a snack on the Greenville and Travelers Rest side of the trail. You can bring your bike with you or rent one from a number of venders including Reedy Rides. They even offer electric bikes. Still welcome on the trail, these pedal assist bikes allow you to not have to work quite as hard at going the distance.
Don’t be so quick to dismiss the other end of the Swamp Rabbit. The south side of the trail runs through Lake Conestee Nature Preserve, filled with all number of species from river otters, to fox, to salamanders, and an abundance of birds (listed as a Birding Hotspot by Audubon-South Carolina). This won’t be a long-distance trail; you’ll have a few spots that you will have to walk the bikes over the boardwalks. This just gives you more of an opportunity to see the historic dam or stop for photographs and a snack.
The great outdoors are not too far from Greenville. These are just a few of our favorites, and I hope you find the time to check them out.