I recently joined a group of mountain bikers riding one of the newest sections of the Palmetto Trail, South Carolina's ambitious cross-state recreational trail system now two-thirds complete.
The first phase of the Peak to Prosperity Passage runs 6.5 miles from the Broad River at Alston to the town of Pomaria. Part of the old Norfolk Southern Railroad line, the trail features a bed of railroad ballast along much of the route, making for a bit of a bumpy ride.
We met at the Alston trailhead, a well-kept park in Fairfield County that includes picnic tables, canoe access and a primitive campsite. We had hardly left the parking lot when we came to an 1,100-foot long railroad trestle decked by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation to allow passage over the Broad River. The view is gorgeous in this undeveloped stretch of riverfront, so be sure to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Less than a quarter mile down the trail is the bridge over River Street. The last of 14 trestles on this section of the passage to be decked, we were pleasantly surprised to find it had just been completed. Up until recently, bikers and hikers had to take a detour that put them on the road for a short distance before reconnecting to the trail.
It was a pleasant and easy ride along the flat trail as we rode through the thick piedmont forest, crossing over Crims Creek several times before reaching Pomaria and the popular Wilson's Grocery. I'm told the service station/food mart features the best hamburgers on the Palmetto Trail. It was too early for lunch, but cold drinks and a banana hit the spot.
There are two primitive camp sites on the passage, one at the Alston trailhead and a second at mile 5.3.
To date 290 miles of the Palmetto Trail have been open to the public. Built as a series of passages showcasing the unique history, culture and geography of the Palmetto State, the trail will eventually run from Oconee State Park in the Upstate to Charleston on the coast, forming a spine for a network of trails and bikeways in South Carolina. Camp sites will be available along the entire route to allow for multi-day trips.
For a map and details of Phase 1 of the Peak to Prosperity Passage, click here.