South Carolina's Upstate offers so many ways to feed your adventurous spirit - and you don't have to hike up treacherous mountain terrain or paddle white-knuckle whitewater to do it. Greenville has made it easy to enjoy the pleasures of the great outdoors without any of the perils.
In this outdoorsy city, parks and pathways have been built to take advantage of the area's natural attractions, most notably the scenic Reedy River. Rising in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this Saluda River tributary winds its way through the heart of downtown Greenville.
It's most impressive feature - Reedy River Falls - serves as the focal point of Falls Park, a 26-acre metropolitan masterpiece in the Historic West End.
Visitors can get an aerial view of the 28-foot double falls from the Liberty Bridge, a one-of-a-kind cantilevered footbridge that is as much an attraction as the falls themselves. The 345-foot span features two 90-foot masts that lean away from the bridge at a 15 degree angle. Its graceful lines and unique geometry give Mother Nature's riparian handiwork a run for its money.
Nature trails winding through the park lead to more overlooks and grassy areas where you can admire the beautiful surroundings. Shaded by a canopy of trees, the walkway will take you to six distinctive "garden rooms" with spectacular displays of seasonal color.
Farther down river is Cleveland Park, 126 acres of green space offering a beautiful setting to take a walk, enjoy a picnic lunch or toss around a Frisbee. Along with a slew of recreational amenities, the park features several quiet areas, including a one-mile nature trail through a hardwood forest and the beautiful Rock Quarry Gardens with its rock ledges, 10-foot spring-fed waterfall and flowering trees.
The two downtown parks are connected by the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 19-mile paved pathway that follows the Reedy River along a former railroad line from Greenville to nearby Travelers Rest. One of the city's most popular outdoor amenities, this multi-use trail takes you past restaurants, shops, Furman University and even a craft brewery featuring a mural of the namesake hare bursting through the tap room's brick wall.
Near the end of the line is Greenville's Bike Skills Flow Park, offering multiple loops with the kind of terrain and features you'd find on a mountain bike trail. The park includes a figure-eight pump track, cross-country course and a pump, berm and jump track affectionately called PB&J.
For the real thing, take the short ride up to Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville's go-to getaway to lift the spirits and renew the soul. Some 15 miles of trails traverse the mountain, offering mild to mighty challenges for both hikers and bikers. The park also features lakes for fishing and swimming, picnic shelters and a campground.
At the other end of the Swamp Rabbit Trail is Lake Conestee Nature Park, another popular urban escape. Like its downtown counterparts, it too is located along the Reedy River and includes several of the waterway's sloughs and lakes. The diversity of habitat within the park's 400 acres of woodlands and wetlands makes it a prime birding destination. Trails, boardwalks and elevated observation platforms provide easy access to view the wildlife.