Visitors to Spartanburg, South Carolina, will find no shortage of fun, funky things to do in the Hub City known for its edgy music scene, cool art venues, historic landmarks and bounty of outdoor recreation.
But if you're looking for a quiet place to chill for a couple of hours, take the short drive out of the Upstate urban center to the Pacolet River Heritage Preserve.
The 260-acre retreat features a 1.5-mile trail to the namesake Pacolet, a Broad River tributary with its own fascinating history. Thousands of years ago, Native Americans stopped here on their seasonal migrations between the South Carolina coast and the Uplands.
These early South Carolina residents obtained material from the land to make bowls, pipes and other necessities. Two prehistoric soapstone quarries dating back to 5000 B.C. can be found within the preserve.
More recently, the river brought the textile industry to the area. The Pacolet and Clifton mills used water from the tributary and other nearby creeks to power the factories' large thread spinners and weaving looms during the 19th century.
Today, the preserve offers visitors a lovely venue to bird watch, take photographs, fish and hike.
From the kiosk in the parking area, the wooded trail begins an occasionally steep but easy-to-follow course through mixed hardwoods and pines. You'll cross a number of footbridges over Richland Creek before the path takes a turn to the left to run along the banks of the river.
The trail ends at a large stone abutment left over from a bridge that once allowed passage over the river. The rock ledges along the shoreline provide a fantastic vantage point to view long stretches of the stream.
As you walk through the woods, look out for wood thrushes, red-eyed vireos, Eastern wood pewees and yellow-billed cuckoos. In addition to songbirds, the preserve serves as habitat for harmless black rat snakes, Eastern king snakes, gray tree frogs, toads and other amphibians.
Find directions or more information on the Pacolet River Heritage Trust Preserve here.