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Out-of-the-Park Adventures: Paris Mountain State Park

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Got cabin fever? Hit the road with your own accommodations for a socially distanced vacation in a South Carolina state park campground. With 33 parks offering campsites for tents and RVs, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for an out-of-the-way getaway. Some parks even feature lodging for those who prefer to stay in a cabin or villa.

Along with their many recreational amenities and beautiful settings, state parks offer visitors the opportunity to explore less-traveled areas of the state and discover small towns and communities with a rich history and unique attractions.

Ready to roll? Here’s a two-day, out-of-the-park itinerary for Paris Mountain State Park:

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, Paris Mountain State Park has long served as a retreat from the bustling city of Greenville. Its picturesque Lake Placid and stone-and-timber Park Center create a nostalgic image of family vacations from a bygone era.

Park features:
- 39 paved campsites—13 offering tent pads—with water and electrical hookups and convenient access to restrooms with hot showers.
- 5 trailside campsites.

Day 1

Dedicate today to exploring Greer, a once-sleepy Upstate community that has grown significantly since BMW opened its only U.S. manufacturing plant in the city in 1994. Despite major expansions of the facility and the addition of dozens of suppliers in the area, Greer has preserved the small-town character of its historic district, known as Greer Station.

It’s going to be a busy morning, so fuel up at Barista Alley with a specialty coffee and crepe or a fresh-fruit smoothie. The milk and honey used in its drinks are all locally sourced and the flavored syrups made in-house.

Around the block is Trade Street, the main corridor of Greer Station. Recently redeveloped to create an inviting and walkable village atmosphere, the street is lined with hip shops and trendy restaurants housed in restored historic buildings. Take your time and pop into some of the cool stores, among them The Shoppes on Trade featuring the work of multiple artisans.

From Greer Station, you can walk along a pathway to the 12-acre Greer City Park where you can catch your breath and relax on benches overlooking fountains, a pond and a gazebo.

When it’s time to refill your belly, head back to Trade Street and grab a table at SELECT, known for its custom-dining options and chef-designed special courses. Its tempting selection of sandwiches runs the gamut from a Greek gyro to a unique blackened chicken breast flambeed with a sweet anise liquor and served on a Bavarian pretzel roll.

After lunch, make the short drive to the 1,150-acre BMW U.S. and visit the Zentrum Museum, featuring an incredible display of Beemers from vintage models to race cars. Two different plant tours also are available, offering a glimpse of what it takes to build the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” You’ll want to make reservations in advance to ensure a spot on the tour of your choice.

Before you head back to your campsite, swing through Greer Station for barbecue and a brew at Blue Ridge Brewing Co. The lively alehouse offers outdoor spaces and rooftop seating to enjoy your slow-cooked, hickory-smoked ribs, pork or chicken.

Day 2

Like Greer, Travelers Rest was a quiet little town until the construction of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, connecting TR (as locals call it) to nearby Greenville. If you have a bike, bring it along to experience the trail and ride to one of the day’s destinations.

Your first stop this morning should be the TRee House Cafe & Studio. Along with an assortment of coffees, teas and smoothies, this local favorite offers breakfast paninis, a grits bowl and bagel sandwiches. And it has a craft area the kids will love, too.

Located on South Main Street, a visit to the cafe will put you in the center of all the action in TR. Walk both sides of the street to shop the locally owned clothing and gift stores, antique shops and art galleries, including White Rabbit Fine Art Gallery and TR Makers Co.

Looking for camping supplies, outdoor apparel or gear for hiking, kayaking or biking? Stop at Sunrift Adventures, one of the largest outdoor outfitters in South Carolina. If you didn’t bring your own bike, you can rent one here.

The town center is also home to Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Carolina Honey Bee Company where you can pick up the sweet stuff harvested from Upstate hives.

By the time you’ve made your way around town, you’ll be ready for lunch. Whatever you’re craving, you’re sure to find it on Main Street. Among the many options are Sidewall PizzaFarmhouse Tacos and Whistle Stop at the American Café

If you brought a bike or rented one, now’s the time to saddle up and hop on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which runs parallel to Main Street. You’re heading to Furman University, easily accessible from the trail.

Those who prefer to drive to Furman should stop by the Welcome Center near the main entrance and pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour of the university grounds, ranked among the most beautiful college campuses in the U.S.

Cyclists who come off the trail may prefer to simply walk the 1.5-mile loop around the centerpiece lake and famed Furman Bell Tower. This area of the campus also includes several gardens, including the Asia Garden and koi pond. As you make your way along the path, find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the view of Paris Mountain in the distance.

From Furman, you’re about a third of the way to Greenville on the trail. Named one of the Best Small Cities in the U.S. by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, Greenville rates a much longer visit, but you can get a taste of the city’s flavor riding into downtown and viewing its highly acclaimed Falls Park.

Skip dinner tonight at the campground and return to TR for a fabulous meal at Topsoil Kitchen & Market, serving farm-to-table cuisine created with veggies from its own farm and products from other local food producers. It is so worth the 15-minute drive for a final taste of Travelers Rest.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.