From abandoned railroad corridor to multi-use greenway
Travelers Rest to Greenville, South Carolina
From abandoned railroad corridor to multi-use greenway the Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT) connects the towns of Greenville, South Carolina to Travelers Rest. At 25 miles, and growing, this popular urban and woodland trail provides people of all ages a place to go for fun and fitness and is prized for its safe, car-free accessibility.
A 2022 post holiday trip to Greenville, South Carolina introduced us to the pedestrian friendly Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT) which begins just south of Greenville and ends slightly north of Travelers Rest, South Carolina.
During our 4-day Greenville getaway we decided to take a day trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Soon after leaving Greenville we passed through the charming whistle stop town of Travelers Rest. It was then that we realized what a bicyclists mecca the area is. There were cyclists everywhere…noshing at Farmhouse Tacos, hanging out at Freehub Bicycles and cruising around the vibrant downtown area. Of course there were numerous runners, cyclists and stroller pushing parents taking advantage of the Swamp Rabbit Trail which runs through the heart of Travelers Rest. Excited by the prospect of riding the trail we vowed to return with our bikes once winter released its chilly grip.
Starting in Greenville the Swamp Rabbit Trail runs north along an old railway line through the city’s trendy downtown and over the Reedy River to two of its signature green spaces…Falls Park and Unity Park. The trail courses through lush bottomland forests passing the gorgeous, park-like campus of Furman University as it continues on to Travelers Rest.
With the growing use of the SRT there has been a corresponding boom of businesses between the two ends of the trail including bike rental shops and exercise studios along with trailside markets, restaurants and breweries. Whichever end of the trail that users choose to start from there are plenty of benches and gazebos along the way to catch some shade, rest up and socialize with fellow riders.
Returning in March of this year we booked a 2-night stay at the gorgeous, European inspired Hotel Domestique located a short drive from Travelers Rest. This charming 13 room boutique hotel is owned by George Hincapie of Tour de France fame and serves as the heartbeat of his annual event known as the Gran Fondo Hincapie which draws thousands of riders from around the world to test their mettle in the rolling hills surrounding the region. Think of it as a mini Tour de France with George serving as the events impresario.
Not being members of the technical riding class it was our goal to ride the length of the SRT from Travelers Rest to downtown Greenville and back. Fueled up on coffee and breakfast we drove to Travelers Rest, unloaded the bikes and headed south to Greenville. The sky was impossibly blue and the temperature was ideal for cycling. Being that it was a Wednesday there were very few people on the trail which suited us just fine as a fellow rider informed us that on weekends the trail is populated by thousands of outdoor lovers taking an exercise break from their hectic lives.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail is one of thousands of miles of similar trails throughout the United States serving exercise enthusiasts of all stripes. Credit for this nationwide movement lies squarely with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) which got its start in 1986. Since their founding RTC has worked from coast-to-coast supporting the development of rail-trails and multi-use trails to the delight of millions of users. To date RTC can lay claim to close to 2400 rail-trails covering over 25,000 miles. With another 8000 miles of rail-trails in development, along with a cross country initiative titled the Great American Rail-Trail, it is clear that RTC is still going strong in their commitment to connect our country city-by-city and rural community by rural community.
During the ride from Travelers Rest to Greenville we experienced a genuine camaraderie among fellow riders and joggers as many friendly greetings were exchanged along with well mannered cyclists calling out a reassuring “on your left” as they passed. Our destination was Falls Park on the Reedy River which serves as the official heartbeat of downtown Greenville. We rested near the falls for a short time while engaging in a little people watching before heading to Unity Park and the The Commons for lunch.
Our next stop was the lively gathering spot called the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery where their motto is “Eat Local. Ride Bikes”. Established in 2011 this bustling grocery, cafe, bakery, food hub and event space is frequented by an eclectic mix of healthy food advocates, trail users and tourists. The grocery is truly an example of grower-to-table as they partner with hundreds of local farmers and food makers to provide the freshest food to the community. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in an outdoor picnic setting makes for a great gathering spot with equally great ambiance.
The return trip to Travelers Rest would not be complete without a stop at the gorgeous campus of Furman University and a ride around the 40 acre spring fed Swan Lake. Although the loop around the lake is only 1.5 miles it allowed us the opportunity to take in the magnificent beauty of the native trees, bushes and flowers that frame the banks of the lake. Riding around the lake we could not help but notice the stunning 88 foot tall Florentine clock tower with its 60 bells ringing out various songs throughout the day. In addition to the clock tower there is also a beautiful rose garden and the Place of Peace, the first ever the first Japanese temple brought to the United States.
Even our brief visit to this beautiful campus allowed us the opportunity to see how history and beauty come together in what Travel + Leisure magazine ranked as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.
The final leg of our late afternoon ride was was graced with warm temps and a slight headwind. With a relaxing soak in the jacuzzi on the horizon we hastened our pace and beat a path back to Travelers Rest. Once back at the hotel we retired to our room, donned our swim suits and headed to the hotel bar for a margarita before hitting the jacuzzi. There is something about soaking your bones in a jacuzzi in the fading afternoon light while overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance that makes you appreciate a day well spent.
Or maybe it was the margaritas!
After an hour or so in the jacuzzi we regrouped and enjoyed a leisurely dinner at Restaurant 17
Sleep came quickly and deep.