Set in the South Carolina foothills against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pleasant Ridge Park has long attracted visitors looking for a scenic spot to fish, hike and picnic.
When it was built in the 1940s, the park's most popular amenity was its four-acre lake. These days, the big attraction is a six-mile hiking and mountain biking trail that winds through the woods surrounding the picturesque reservoir.
Opened in 2014, the Jorge F. Arango Trail is the first mountain biking trail in the Upstate with an E-911 system. Markers are posted every one-tenth of a mile on the trail to make it easier for cyclists to identify their location in case of an emergency.
Named for an avid North Carolina mountain biker who died in a motorcycle accident, the smooth-rolling, hard-packed trail is similar to those at Paris Mountain State Park, but with more technical turns and ups and downs. It also features several fun rock gardens and tight off-camber switchbacks.
On this multiuse trail, hikers and bikers travel in opposite directions. The assigned route, which changes monthly, is posted in the parking lot kiosk near the trailhead.
At its start, the trail meanders through new-growth forest, climbing slowly and steadily some 700 feet to the 1,300-foot ridgeline. As it approaches the high point at the 2.5-mile mark, the woods grow thicker and the trail narrows. Several granite overlooks at the top, offer great views of the mountains when the leaves are off the trees.
The trail continues along the ridge skirting the park's northernmost boundary before beginning the descent to the lower elevations of the park. At one point, it passes through a fern grove, crossing over small logs embedded in the soil.
Several shorter trails intersect with the JFA trail, extending the hiking and biking options. Among the points of interest found along the trails are the sites of an old homestead, grist mill and moonshine still.
Located in Marietta about 40 minutes from downtown Greenville, the 240-acre park originally was developed for African-Americans, who were prohibited from visiting nearby Paris Mountain during segregation. In the 1960s, both parks were integrated.
Swimming and boating are no longer allowed in the lake, but it remains a favorite fishing spot for bass, bream and catfish. In the colder months of the year, the lake is stocked with trout, considered the aristocrats of fishes.
The park also features three picnic shelters, two rustic cabins, a playground and the Pleasant Ridge Camp and Retreat Center, available for group events.