Last week on our adventure day, Tom and I loaded up the tandem and headed to Greenville, South Carolina, to ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This is the only lengthy trail in western South Carolina. Whenever we asked people where to ride our bike, they would suggest this trail, so we knew we had to try it.
The Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail runs from Greenville through Travelers Rest. It is finished to a length of 21 miles, although they hope to lengthen that someday. The trail is built on the roadbed of the old Carolina, Knoxville, and Western Railroad. The railroad never made much money and changed owners and uses many times, but the nickname stuck. The line was called the Swamp Rabbit because it went through swampy areas of the Reedy River and the tracks bounced as the train traveled along.
The rights to the rail bed were acquired in 1998 in partnership with Rails to Trails. The trail opened in 2009 and continues to be lengthened north and south. Every year, use of the trail brings $7 million dollars to businesses along the trail. Downtown Travelers Rest has been transformed from rundown to trendy as people using the trail take advantage of the many restaurants. Greenville Health Systems, which believes in the health benefits of the trail, is a partner in its development.
We started our ride just south of downtown Greenville. Greenville is a small city of about 60,000 people. The downtown area is not large, but it is clean and bustling. The Swamp Rabbit Trail goes through a greenway set up along the Reedy River. There were so many people out enjoying the beautiful day (a Tuesday) that we had to get off the bike and walk. There were also several detours: a new trail bridge is being built over the Reedy River.
Falls Park is an especially lovely part of the downtown greenway. There is a large amphitheater along with multiple trails and places to explore, linger, and enjoy. Multi-use housing, restaurants, and businesses line the area. There were also lots of road crossings and tight turns on the trail. I think the ongoing construction caused some of the congestion on the trail. Hopefully, when it is done, the trail downtown will be easier to navigate.
Once we got north of downtown, however, riding the Swamp Rabbit trail got easier. There were fewer road crossings and the people density went down. We rode through Greenville, and passed Furman University. We reached Travelers Rest and checked out where we wanted to stop on the way back. I was determined to reach the north end of the trail, which is just a couple of miles past Travelers Rest.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail ends at a county road with a sign that says “End of Trail – for now.” The ending place had several “No Trespassing” signs scattered around, so we did not linger.
We headed back to Travelers Rest for a stop at Pink Mama’s Ice Cream where I got a scoop of Deep Dish Apple Pie and Tom got a scoop of Midnight Caramel River. Yum! They didn’t have any Bunny Tracks (a flavor I had in Minnesota) although I think that would be a natural for Pink Mama’s. Although we didn’t eat there, we also checked out the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and the Whistle Stop Restaurant. They both looked like very good, fun places to eat.
On our way back we took a detour around the lake at Furman University. The water was really low because of the drought in the area and all the grass was brown. But it is still a very pretty campus with a lot of construction going on.
We rode 29 miles on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and enjoyed the beautiful day and the beautiful trail. It was definitely worth the drive to Greenville.