Written by Bailey Berg
Travelers Rest, South Carolina, used to be restful. But after the 22-mile-long multi-use Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail connected the little hamlet to Greenville (one of the fastest growing cities in the country), it exploded with activity. And it’s not just Travelers Rest—the entire trail is bustling. There’s a lot to do and see between the two communities, including James Beard-nominated restaurants, local coffee shops, art galleries, breathtaking scenery, micro-breweries, and more.
For those who like to take frequent breaks or want to make it a full day adventure, the trail makes for a lovely way to sample a lot of what the area has to offer. Here are some of our favorite stops along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Head south on Greenville’s Main Street to Falls Park on the Reedy River. The 32-acre park is popular with locals as a spot to picnic, walk dogs among flower gardens, take yoga classes, photograph the Medusa Tree, and gaze upon the picturesque Reedy River Falls. The latter is best seen from the 345-foot Liberty Bridge, which connects downtown to the West End. When it was built, the curved suspension bridge was meant to both provide a panoramic view of the falls and act as a stand-alone sculpture. From the bridge, you can hop on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Even if you’re not a beer drinker, Southernside Brewing Co. is worth a stop. This new brewhouse goes well beyond hopped beverages, with a refreshing cocktail list (including “Grown-Up Slushies”) and a southern-inspired food menu. The expansive beer garden features picnic tables, yard games, and live music most nights.
Hampton Station is a bit of a detour from the trail, but worth the extra effort. Due South Coffee, Craft Axe Throwing, Hollowed Earth Pottery, Outside the Lines Art by Nicole Kamb, Wandering Bard Meadery, White Duck Taco Shop, Birds Fly South, and other businesses call this trail spur home. Most of the store fronts face a large, shared yard where there are often activities, like yoga or frisbee, taking place.
It’s impossible to miss this hybrid grocery, bakery, and cafe—it’s right off the trail, but you’ll start smelling the homemade pastries a quarter of a mile away. The bulk of the goodies here are grown or produced within the region, from ice cream to locally-crafted sausages. Swing through for an iced strawberry lavender latte or pick up foodstuffs for a picnic later.
The excitement surrounding the trail has meant that over the years it has raked in awards and accolades, frequently making top-10 lists of the best bike trails across the country. With negligible elevation gain and an entirely paved route, it’s a fairly easy trail.
Right at the southern gateway to Travelers Rest is this urban green space. It’s a lovely park by itself, with panoramic mountain views, a covered pavilion, and an open-air amphitheater. But it also often hosts a variety of activities, including a Music in the Park concert series, food truck round-ups, a farmers market, and movie screenings. If you happen to be there on the weekend, be sure to check out the nearby History Museum at Travelers Rest.
This impossibly charming community (ranked one of the Best Southern Small Towns by USA Today) boasts a plethora of independently-owned shops and art galleries, a brewery, a distillery, and a variety of eateries, including the train-themed Whistle Stop at the American Cafe and Topsoil, a farm-to-table, seasonally-influenced, James Beard Best Chef award semi-finalist. Spend some time poking around the various businesses before venturing back to Greenville.
You’ll know that you’ve reached this mini park when you see a green, 1940s railcar. This bit of train was originally part of the Southern Railway, but today it’s largely used as a waypost along the trail. Feel free to climb aboard and look around. Here you’ll also find a bike fix station and mural that depicts the history of Berea, a small community near the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The piece was a collaboration between artist Adam Schrimmer from Blank Canvas Mural Company and art students from Berea High School.
Situated on 750 acres, Furman University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state. Check out the Florentine bell tower (which dates back to 1854), the 28-acre Swan Lake (with several duck food dispensers), the immaculate Janie Earle Furman Rose Garden, The Place of Peace (a Japanese temple and garden), and the Doughboy Statue (which honors Furman students who served in World War I).
It’s about a mile detour from Swamp Rabbit Cafe, but considering how much ‘que you’ll want to consume, the ride is probably necessary. For 21 years, Mike and Jeff’s BBQ has been perfecting its 16-hour wood fire process. Each piece of wood is hand selected and stacked to impart optimal smokiness into the succulent pulled pork, chicken, and spare ribs. Be sure to sample the myriad sides, including fried okra and sweet potato souffle, as well as the signature sauces.
Reedy Rides is the only dedicated bike rental shop in downtown Greenville (however, you can also check out bicycles at various Greenville BCycle spots). The fleet includes electric bicycles, 7-speed cruisers, tandem and kid’s bikes, as well as trailers and Tag-a-Longs. Each rental comes with a helmet, storage bag, bike lock, and trail map. Though it’s entirely possible to ride the trail yourself, the shop offers guided tours by request.
Banner Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Diego Delso