You don't have to drive all the way up to Table Rock or Caesars Head to find trails with calorie-burning elevation gains. Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville has several ascending routes steep enough to get you stripping layers and sucking on your hydration pack.
Never mind that it's a monadnock, a small isolated mountain rising abruptly from an otherwise level area of land. Paris Mountain has earned its climbing cred with both hikers and mountain bikers.
I recently hiked the popular Brissy Ridge Trail, a 2.6 mile-loop billed as strenuous and steep. It begins at a kiosk near one of the park's parking areas, winding along babbling creeks before ascending up beautiful hills thick with oak and pine woods.
The first two-thirds of the trail is open to mountain bikers as well as hikers. On a scale from one to 10 with 10 being the most difficult, this section is rated seven.
At the point the trail crosses the road, cyclists have to peel off. The rest of the loop is open only to hikers. That's when the serious climbing begins. Suffice to say, this section of the yellow-blazed path is rated a nine.
The day we hiked Brissy Ridge, I got up the rocky, rooted ascents with help in the form of a yellow Lab. We probably ran into a half-dozen other dog walkers looking to wear out their pooches.
The 3.6-mile Sulphur Springs Trail offers an equally challenging route, and like Brissy Ridge, it features a section reserved just for hikers.
Those looking for an easy walk through the woods will enjoy the 1.2-mile Lake Placid Loop. As you might have guessed, this mostly level pathway takes hikers around the centerpiece lake. The only place you're likely to break a sweat is climbing the slopes below the dam.
Paris Mountain also offers plenty of moderately difficult trails for those preferring something in between the two aforementioned trails with sections rated nine and the Lake Placid Loop rated one.
If you're planning to mountain bike, look out for the "foot-traffic only" markers and remember the park is closed to bikes on Saturdays.
For a trail map with trail lengths and ratings, click here.