Recreational trails abound in South Carolina, where the weather is mild most of the year and the diversity of beautiful landscapes draws the active-minded outdoors. Among the most popular pathways are rail trails. Once used by railroads to haul passengers and goods across the state, the abandoned rail lines have been transformed into exciting destinations for hiking, biking, skating and dog walking
Here are 10 of the best—and most unusual—rail trails in South Carolina:
Peak to Prosperity Passage
Length: 10.7 miles
Surface: crushed stone, dirt, sand
Railroad line: Norfolk Southern Railroad
Part of the cross-state Palmetto Trail, this off-road pathway takes you across an 1,100-foot-long railroad trestle over the Broad River, offering fantastic views of an undeveloped stretch of riverfront. Farther along, the path traverses 14 wooden trestles over Crims Creek through the community of Dutch Fork, an area settled by German immigrants in the 1730s.
Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail
Location: Greenville-Travelers Rest
Length: 22 miles
Surface: asphalt, boardwalk
Railroad line: Carolina, Knoxville and Western Railway
This wildly popular paved pathway rolls through downtown Greenville, passing Reedy River Falls and the landmark Liberty Bridge in the city’s much-acclaimed Falls Park. It follows the scenic Reedy River, eventually turning to pass the beautiful campus of Furman University before reaching downtown Travelers Rest. Whether you begin your ride in Greenville or TR (as it’s called by locals), you’ll find lots of restaurants and breweries at both ends of the trail to relax and refuel before making the return trip.
Spanish Moss Trail
Location: Beaufort-Port Royal
Length: 10 miles
Railroad line: Magnolia Line Railroad
Starting at the old train station on Depot Road, the 12-foot-wide paved trail will take you past Battery Creek, expansive stretches of salt marsh and historic points of interest as it meanders through several Lowcountry communities.
Mary Black Foundation Trail
Length: 1.9 miles
Railroad line: Norfolk Southern Railroad
The slew of amenities along this urban multi-use trail is all the reason you need to hop on your bike or lace up your sneakers and enjoy a leisurely trek to Spartanburg’s historic downtown. Along the way you’ll pass The Rail Yard Community Park featuring a yoga and exercise pad and misting stations, Hot Spot Skate Park, Rail Tail Dog Park, a bike park with pump track and progressive obstacle course, as well as restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. Bicycles are available to rent from BCycle stations in the area.
Doodle Rail Trail
Length: 7.5 miles
Surface: paved, boardwalk
Railroad line: Doodle Line Railway
Using the route of trains that once carried commodities between the textile town of Easley and the Oolenoy Gap in the South Carolina foothills, the trail traverses the countryside, flanked by gently sloping farmlands and scenic grain fields. As you cross over wooden bridges, past residential neighborhoods and cow pastures, you’ll enjoy glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
Florence Rail Trail
Length: 2 miles, with a connecting nature loop
Surface: paved, boardwalk, natural
Railroad line: Wilmington & Manchester
The history of this trail dates back to the mid-19th century when a railway along the route was used by Confederate forces during the Civil War to transport troops, artillery and supplies. Today, it’s a popular destination for walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists. Starting in the Ebenezer Park residential neighborhood, the trail winds its way through a canopy of trees over Jeffries Creek to the McLeod Health & Fitness Center, where you can extend your trek on a packed dirt loop through the woods.
North Augusta Greeneway
Location: North Augusta
Length: 7 miles
Railroad line: Central of Georgia Railway
While it rambles through residential neighborhoods, the trail is well buffered by a 100-foot wide wooded right-of-way that serves as habitat for native birds, deer and other wildlife. However you choose to enjoy it, it’s an easy endeavor with less than 200 feet of elevation gain. And you’ll be shaded by a canopy of trees, making it a pleasant outing any time of year.
Savannah Valley Railroad Trail
Length: 9.4 miles
Surface: natural, asphalt
Railroad line: Charleston and Western Carolina Railway
Constructed in 1885, the original railroad line traveled from Anderson to McCormick, transporting passengers and freight for nearly 100 years. A section of the original route has been converted into a trail for hiking and fat tire biking. Two wooded sections of the trail are connected by 2.5 miles of the paved Huguenot Parkway.
Blue Ridge Railroad Historical Trail
Length: 2.5 miles
Surface: dirt, natural, boardwalk
Railroad line: Blue Ridge Railroad
This unusual hiking trail located at Stumphouse Park follows the route of the uncompleted 19th-century Blue Ridge Railroad. Three tunnels, abandoned after the start of the Civil War, can be found along the way. The largest and most accessible is the quarter-mile-long Stumphouse Tunnel, excavated by hand by Irish miners. A flashlight will come in handy if you want to explore the tunnel and feel the near-constant 50-degree temperature inside the mountain.
Cathedral Aisle Trail
Length: 1 mile
Surface: dirt, sand
Railroad line: South Carolina Railroad & Canal Company
Back in the mid-1800s, the first steam locomotive, named the Best Friend of Charleston, ran through Hitchcock Woods. Well-preserved remnants of the tracks from the 136-mile Hamburg-to-Charleston rail line—the longest in the world at the time—can be found on the Cathedral Aisle Trail. Note, biking is not allowed on any of the trails in this 2,100-acre urban forest.