When it comes to active adventures in Greenville, South Carolina, there’s a choice for every travel interest. From hiking to winery hopping, you’re sure to find fun things to do. A self-proclaimed non-adventurer, Susan Dejanovic, from Baggage and Bubbly, offers her tips for an active trip to Greenville for the less adventurous.
Why visit Greenville, SC?
For years Greenville, SC was overshadowed by its coastal neighboring cities of Charleston and Hilton Head. When I’d tell friends I was going to South Carolina, they’d ask “Charleston” or “Hilton Head”?
It was almost comical. But thanks to the revitalization of downtown, Greenville has made its way onto many best-of lists, attracting over five million visitors each year.
Active adventures in Greenville
There’s a lot to like about Greenville, including a thriving art and culture scene with over 60 murals and sculptures that many say rivals Asheville and Austin. A vibrant foodie scene that attracts award winning chefs and restaurant groups provides Greenville with over 120 top notch restaurants. But perhaps the largest draw to Greenville, SC is the active lifestyle people find in outdoor adventures.
Hike easy trails
Thanks to the natural beauty and topography of the region, there are countless hiking opportunities nearby. Two of the most famous are Caesars Head and Chimney Rock.
At Caesars Head, which is also a state park, hike the Raven Cliff Falls Trail for views of a 420 ft waterfall. For those looking for views without the hike, as you make your way to Caesars Head there’s an opportunity to pull off to the side of the road and stand on Bald Rock—a natural scenic overlook of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
At Chimney Rock, where the Last of the Mohicans was filmed, and which overlooks Lake Lure where Dirty Dancing was filmed, hikers climb 499 ft to an amazing 75mile skyline and tree top view that awaits. You can probably guess that I was not interested in climbing to what looks like the heavens. If you aren’t into hiking like me, Chimney Rock has an elevator that takes you up 26 stories to a spectacular sight.
Closer to Greenville is Paris Mountain State Park, where hiking trails range from .5 to 4 miles, taking hikers across streams and to small waterfalls. My first and only hike, ever, was the Sulphur Springs Trail, which is considered moderate and 3.6 miles long. This is when I knew for sure that I’m not into hiking.
But I did enjoy a water safety class at Paris Mountain, held annually by Sunrift Adventures. This event gives people the opportunity to try out equipment on the water, which is good since besides hiking, you can also rent peddle boats and kayaks, as well as fish and swim there.
Bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail
During my visits to Greenville, I rode the Swamp Rabbit Trail, an over 20mile long multi-use path that runs along a former railroad line connecting Greenville to the charming town of Travelers Rest. While you’ll find walkers and joggers along the path, biking is most popular. So popular in fact that there are bike rental companies that will not only rent bikes for the day, but they’ll also meet you on the trail with bike and helmet and pick them up when you’re done.
Being that I’m not terribly athletic, the idea of being able to say I rode a bike from one town to another intrigued me. So, l called Reedy River Rides to rent a bike.
They met me on the trail at Linky Stone Children’s Garden with a bike and helmet, and picked them up when I was done. Besides the cost of renting a bike, should you need one, there’s no cost to use the trail.
If you want to eat before you get too far along, I recommend Swamp Rabbit Café. This European like grocery store and café is a food hub with emphasis on community, and a destination itself, often hosting live music and cultural art events.
The ride I did from downtown Greenville to Traveler’s Rest was 17 miles round trip. If you’re like me, having a restaurant as your reward for making it halfway is encouragement to keep going, so I rode to Traveler’s Rest and had lunch at Farmhouse Tacos. Creative tacos like steak and blue cheese, and an IPA crispy fish taco keep people coming back to this open-air biker friendly restaurant.
Get wet with water adventures
There comes a time in life when you realize you’ve missed out on certain things, like river tubing. If you’ve never been river tubing, it’s an affordable and no skill required outdoor adventure not to be missed when visiting Greenville.
My favorite river for tubing near Greenville is the Green River which has Class 1 and Class 2 rapids. There’s really not much to tubing. Just rent the tube and take a seat.
Easier said than done, right? The trick is to fall back into it. You’ll find a number of adventure companies along the river that operate May thru September, weather permitting. Be sure to check before you go.
Hop into North Carolina for the wine
Greenville, and nearby mountain towns, offer year-round adventures including winery hopping that dips over into North Carolina. With Western North Carolina’s Wine Trail nearby, no trip to Greenville is complete without a visit to the wineries.
Hop in the car and make your way to the Napa of the East, Western North Carolina’s Wine Trail. You’ll pass small mountain towns and roadside peach stands on your way to the towns of Tryon, Hendersonville, and Mills Springs, where there are so many wineries that if you’ve got the better part of a day, you can even go winery hopping.
For tours and transportation, I recommend Van in Black. While you really can’t go wrong with any of the wineries in Western North Carolina’s wine country, these are some of my favorites:
When to go
I could argue that any time is a good time to visit Greenville, since the region offers year-round adventures. Keep in mind this is the South, and it gets warm and humid during summer months, making the mountains a nice escape with temperatures often ten degrees cooler than Greenville.
To enjoy festivals, sidewalk cafes, and other outdoor adventures, Spring, with its gorgeous flowering crepe myrtles in bloom with profuse colors of pink and white, and Fall, especially during peak leaf season, can’t be beat.
Getting to and around Greenville
Greenville is easy. The airport (check flights here), GSP, offers rental cars, Uber, Lift, and private car hire.
There is not much in the way of public transportation. The heart ofdowntown is 10 miles from the airport, and if you stay downtown you really don’t need a car except for a day trip to the mountains.