These days, the term “hike” isn’t just associated with mountain trails and wooded paths. You can make anywhere you happen to be into a hiking expedition – on any given day. Urban hiking is the perfect way to explore new places with many of the same benefits as traditional hiking – you simply have to look at things with a different perspective.
Tucked away in the north of South Carolina’s Olde English District, Rock Hill is an often overlooked college town with plenty of charm. If you’re looking to stretch your legs a little and test the urban hiking waters, this is an ideal place to begin. The idea behind this is exactly that of a regular hike – park your car and start walking. However, we’ve included some planned stops for a bite to eat and sites for photo ops along the way. So check the weather, wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget to pack some water and your camera.
The best place to start is Rock Hill’s Old Town District on Main Street. One awesome thing about this city is that there’s always parking to found along shopfronts and restaurants – and it’s free, so you can easily find a spot in the morning and not worry about your car for the rest of the day. Look for the tall building on the corner of Main and Caldwell streets where Amelie’s French Bakery has set up shop in the first floor. This classic bank lobby with its large windows and massive vault behind the patisserie counter adds even more character to the quirky design and mismatched furniture of the bakery. Order some breakfast – you’re going to need energy for the day, so treat yourself to a coffee and pastry – or try something seasonal and unexpected like a Fall Spiced Russian Tea.
Once you’ve finished your breakfast, there are several worthy spots to check out on Main. Take a peek in to the windows of Overhead Station, a quaint little gift and stationary shop, and see if anything catches your eye. Next, stop and appreciate the architecture of the old Presbyterian Church. One of the prettiest structures in the city, its cream painted doors and pristine grounds are definitely worth a second glance. Nearby you’ll see Rock Hill’s Fountain Park, complete with an amphitheater and a large, open green space perfect for picnics.
Not far from the park on Elizabeth Lane, you’ll get a great view of the historic White Home Museum and grounds. Stop in or keep walking, and take a look at the tiny fountain on the corner where Elizabeth turns into Charlotte Avenue. On your way to Glencairn Garden, you’ll pass Cedar Crest children’s park – a small enclosed play place that is almost always brimming with young families.
Glencairn Garden is a shady oasis full of lush greenery, bubbling fountains and colorful blooms depending on the season when you choose to visit. This is the kind of place you’ll want to spend some time really taking in the scenery and capturing a photo – or 20.
After your garden photo shoot, head towards Winthrop Coliseum by way of Eden Terrace. This lane is picturesque with its large trees and interesting houses. Not one home looks alike, but none of them seem out of place either. Eventually you’ll come to Winthrop’s athletic complexes and its handsome lake. Take some time to explore the various fields and foliage and loop around the park. You’ll often find students and families by the water enjoying the weather and disc golfers playing the course that stretches to every corner of the complex.
Next stop is the main campus of Winthrop University. Winthrop might be small, but it has gorgeous grounds and a great mix of classic architecture and eccentric pieces of art. Walk across the giant lawn of Byrnes Auditorium and admire the uniform classroom buildings as you head to Scholar’s Walk. This brick walkway is the most popular place on campus, almost always brimming with students. Near the end you’ll come to a Starbucks at the entrance to Winthrop’s massive DiGiorgio Student Center. This is open to the public so grab a drink and do some people-watching.
At the end of Scholar’s Walk take a look at the contemporary raining fountains in Hardin Gardens before you head back to the front of campus, getting a glimpse of the giant chairs on the front lawn as you step out past the iron gates onto Oakland Avenue.
You’re nearing the end of your journey, and there’s no better way to finish a hike than with a cold drink in hand and a savory meal in your stomach – you’ve earned it. Grab a bite at Legal Remedy Brewing Company on your way back into Old Town where you began your day. You never know, a walk around Rock Hill could very well turn urban hiking into your favorite new pastime.