About this Itinerary
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an unexpected surprise awaits you in the vibrant southern city of Greenville, S.C. The town has received much praise in recent years for its revitalized historic downtown filled with quirky shops, museums, galleries, fabulous restaurants, and a thriving arts scene. Its ‘upcountry’location and temperate climate also makes it an ideal spot for outdoor exploration with numerous activities both in town and further afield. For bikers, the nearly 20-mile long Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT), which travels through the heart of Greenville to the charming town of Travelers Rest, is the ideal route to experience this dynamic area. Named after the native swamp rabbit, a large cottontail found in wetlands, the trail was opened in 2010 and has drawn thousands of locals and tourists alike to the area.
The nearest major airport to the city is Greenville-Spartanburg Airport located about 15 minutes away. Public transportation is not available; however, car service can be arranged in advance through Atchison Transportation Services. If driving, follow I-84 to I-385.
Located in historic downtown Greenville, we recommend staying at the charming b&b, Pettigru Place. The property is a federal-style home located on a quiet, tree-lined street within walking distance to shops and restaurants and close to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Each of the six rooms is individually decorated and all have private baths. The owners strive to offer the comfort of an inn with the amenities of a hotel and provide full concierge services to assist with dinner reservations, securing theater tickets, or whatever else you might need. Wine and cheese are served each afternoon and guests have access to a coffee bar and cool drinks in addition to a full gourmet breakfast.
Bike rentals are available in the downtown area at Reedy Rides. The shop has 3- or 7-speed cruisers and is the only rental company in town, so be sure to reserve a bike in advance. Greenville is a bike-friendly community and a city initiative called ‘Bikeville’ seeks to encourage bicycle use by providing infrastructure and making streets safe for cyclists. As part of this initiative, the city runs a short-term rental program where individuals can rent bikes for trips around town. Currently, there are eight bicycle stations scattered around the city. These bikes are ideal for short trips around town, but we do not recommend them for riding the 20-mile long SRT as they are heavy cruiser bikes.
To reach a SRT trailhead from Pettigru Place, take a right on Pettigru then the second right on to Boyce Avenue, a left on E. Washington and then the second right on Cleveland Park Drive (follow signs to reach the Greenville Zoo). Look for the trailhead on the other side of the zoo parking lot (running alongside Richland Creek). Turn right on to the trail and follow it over Lakehurst Street. Note that this section is actually a spur of the main trail which provides access to the parking lot. Locating the main trail from this area is a cause of confusion for many people. With Richland Creek on your left, follow the path, crossing Lakehurst Street, and you will reach the main trail, and can choose to head north toward Travelers Rest or south to the southern terminus of the SRT about 2 miles away, just past Greenville Technical College. On this itinerary, we suggest turning right and heading along the Reedy River in the direction of Travelers Rest.
The SRT is well utilized by the community and depending on the time and day, it may be crowded with runners, walkers, and bikers. Don’t let any potential crowds dissuade you however, as once you leave the downtown area behind it will become less congested. The most crowded section is through Falls Park. On a nice day the park is filled with people, and the trail can get overwhelmed, necessitating walking your bicycle. Be patient and enjoy the lively crowd, wonderful vistas, and gorgeous plantings. The park is the centerpiece of the city and was instrumental in the revitalization of the nearby historic downtown. Its most striking feature is Liberty Bridge, a unique pedestrian suspension bridge that connects with the downtown commercial district. The park also features beautiful landscaped grounds, shaded walking trails, waterfalls, sculptures, and hosts a variety of festivals during the year. Be sure to spend time meandering through at a more leisurely pace sometime during your stay.
Greenville’s history is very much tied to the textile industry that developed here in the late 19th century. By 1917, the town was known as the ‘Textile Center of the World’and mills were scattered throughout the area. The bike trail follows the rail bed of the former Swamp Rabbit Line that brought goods to and from the mills. You can see remnants of the textile industry along the SRT, most notably at Monaghan Mill. This was a functioning mill from 1900 until 2001 (when it was converted to loft apartments) and the building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You will get a nice view of the building as you bike along.
Trailside, about two miles from the heart of the downtown, is Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery. Featuring fresh baked goods (Brazilian Cheese Puffs anyone?) and an array of gourmet sandwiches, all made with ingredients locally sourced, this is the place to pick up anything you need for the day. Also check out the shop’s very stylish Swamp Rabbit Trail bike jerseys and t-shirts: the perfect souvenir from your ride!
As you bike along, the trail becomes heavily forested and will provide some respite from the sun on a hot day. After passing Furman University, the SRT reaches Travelers Rest. The unusual name comes from the fact that the town, at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was a popular stopover for travelers, especially livestock drovers. Today, the town provides rest for bikers along the Swamp River Trail and offers a number of tempting options for lunch. Located trailside, The Cafe @ Williams Hardware is run by two sisters who grew up in the town. They extend a warm bike-friendly welcome at their cafe, which features such traditional favorites as club sandwiches and classic reubens, as well as innovative daily specials such as tomato okra soup and strawberry chicken wraps. Or stop at Tandem for a savory or sweet crepe. This quirky bike-themed cafe offers such tantalizing options as the Swamp Rabbit (a wheat and cheese crepe top with a mixed salad); Roasted Roots (roasted sweet potatoes with garlic, onion and bechamel); and lemon sugar, blueberry cream, or tiramisu crepes for dessert. Perhaps one savory and one sweet?
If you are up for it, visit the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom to get a taste of master brewer Ben Pierson’s craft brewed beer. Freshly brewed, the selection changes regularly but may include such favorites as double IPA, American pale ale and white ale. The brewery does not sell food, but does host local food trucks. If moonshine is more to your liking, next door is the Copperhead Mountain Distillery. The distillery features small, all copper stills that produce limited quantities of moonshine, rum, and whiskey, and offers samples in their tasting room. Also in Travelers Rest, and located next to the distillery, is Sunrift Adventures. This local outdoor store rents hybrid cruisers, road, and mountain bikes, and is a rental option should you decide to begin your ride at this end of the SRT. For fans of good local honey, before leaving town stop by The Carolina Honey Bee Company for a variety of honey types native to the region, including sourwood, tulip poplar and wildlflower. All come from beekeepers in the area and all honey is 100% pure, raw and natural.
Back on the trail, continue north (a rest stop will be on the left past the downtown) and travel approximately another 1.5 miles before reaching the end of the route at Tate Road. Note that there is no parking lot here. If you wish to begin the trail in Travelers Rest, park at the lot on Greer Highway across from the North Greenville Hospital. Enjoy a leisurely ride back to Greenville.
Upon your return to town, if you skipped the distillery in Travelers Rest (or even if you didn’t), visit Dark Corner Distillery for a sampling of their ‘Worlds Best Moonshine,’aged whiskey, gin, absinthe and other distilled spirits. Moonshine has deep roots in this area, and a visit to one of the local distilleries will give you a better understanding of the region’s traditions that grew out of European settlement over the last 175 years.
If it’s something more refreshing you are craving, heading to Luna Rosa Gelato Cafe to taste their wildly popular gelato. Choose from a rotating selection that may include chocolate velvet or biscotti cookie crunch. On a hot day expect a long line at this favorite shop!
Past the trailhead where you entered the SRT, the trail continues another 2 miles through Greenville before ending at S. Pleasantburg Drive. The first mile follows the Reedy River through a forested area and is quite nice, but once you parallel E. Faris Road the remainder of the trail provides a perfect corridor for students reaching the technical college or for commuters, but is more functional than scenic.
On your return, stop and spend some time meandering through Greenville’s popular local zoo. The Greenville Zoo is relatively small, but has some interesting exhibits and is home to a range of animals including lions, leopards, red pandas, toucans, and alligators. Be sure to return to Pettigru Place in time for the complimentary afternoon wine and cheese and enjoying the beautifully landscaped backyard garden.
There are numerous options in Greenville for a lovely meal to cap off a long day of biking. On the banks of the Reedy River, The Lazy Goat features a Mediterranean-inspired menu with small plates to share as well as main dishes. Try some of their delicious meat and cheese plates, truffle pomme frites, or paella. Enjoy the outdoor patio, the perfect place to unwind with one of the restaurants fresh fruit cocktails. If it’s steak you are craving, head to Larkins. This award-winning restaurant features premium steaks, fresh seafood, and an extensive wine list. They are located in an historic factory building dating back to the Civil War, on the river at the Peace Center. For a true taste of the south, head to Breakwater Restaurant & Bar for a ‘contemporary approach’to low-country cuisine. This elegant restaurant, features seafood from the Carolina coast as well as traditional southern favorites like southern fried chicken, shrimp & grits, and braised short ribs, and is considered to be one the best restaurants in town.
Later in your trip, when you return to Falls Park, plan on lunch at Mary’s at Falls Cottage. Located in a two-story stucco brick house dating from 1894 in the middle of the park, Mary’s is situated in a picture postcard setting overlooking the river and surrounded by the park’s beautifully manicured grounds. Serving only brunch on weekends and lunch Wednesday-Sunday, the restaurant features fresh baked croissant sandwiches, crab cake BLT, and a classic fried shrimp po’boy.
Explore one of the south’s best art museums, at the Greenville County Museum of Art. Known primarily for American art, the museum is home to the world’s largest public collections of watercolors by Andrew Wyeth, and acclaimed Southern Collection featuring artists with ties to the South.
Catch a live performance at one of Greenville’s many venues. The Carolina Ballet Theater is the area’s resident professional ballet company and they perform an array of productions from classical to contemporary. For live music, head to The Peace Center, which attracts some of the top artists in the world performing everything from classical, jazz, country, bluegrass, to folk. For the best of regional theater, visit Centre Stage.
Explore the region’s history at the Upcountry History Museum at Furman University. Through a series of permanent and rotating exhibits, learn about the people, history, and culture of this region of the state from the early 18th century to present day. Exhibits are designed using technology rather than artifacts to engage visitors more fully in the subject matter.
Take a hike! With the Blue Ridge Mountains close-by, as well as numerous other areas for outdoor exploration, no visit to upcountry South Carolina is complete without spending some time in the mountains. Stop by the visitor center in downtown Greenville for a list of hiking opportunities in the region. From Caesar’s Head State Park, located about 45 minutes away, to the spectacular Chimney Rock State Park, in nearby North Carolina, there is something for everyone.