The Palmetto Trail: Southern Ditch Divide!

  • Distance

    330 Mi.

    (531 KM)
  • Days

    3.5

  • % Unpaved

    58%

  • % Singletrack

    25%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    4

  • % Rideable (time)

    99.9%

  • Total Ascent

    8,462'

    (2,579 M)
  • High Point

    780'

    (238 M)
The bikepacking edition of the Palmetto Trail is a 330 mile traverse of South Carolina through long-leaf pine forests, sand hills, wetlands and wooly swamps. The route follows established passages from Spartanburg in the upstate all the way to the Intercoastal Waterway just north of Charleston, SC.
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Established in 1994, the Palmetto Trail is slated to be a 500 mile trans-state trail that crosses South Carolina from its northwest corner in Walhalla, to the coast at Awendaw. There are currently about 350 miles of trail that have been ‘completed’. All accounted for, the Palmetto Trail is made up of 26 yet to be connected ‘passages’. Most of the passages are singletrack trails, dirt roads, or gravel rail trails, while a few utilize paved greenways. Four of the five northernmost passages are hiking only, so needless to say we started the bikepacking variation in the upstate skipping these passages as well as a couple other disjointed stretches. Ultimately this variation of the route is about 330 miles — including paved connectors — and starts in Spartanburg using the Hub City Connector passage, and finishes at the official route terminus of the Awendaw Passage. Note: we consider this an open source version of the Palmetto Trail for bikepacking. We welcome recommendations and changes to improve it over time.

The Palmetto Trail passes through several interesting natural and cultural landscapes including the Sumter National Forest with its twisty forested tracks, several historical rail trails, and the state capital, Columbia. The route also takes in the aptly named Sand Hills and the Spanish moss bedecked cedar swamps of Francis Marion National Forest. It follows a few snippets surprisingly good singletrack on the Enoree Passage as well as flowing trails complete with views and exposure in Poinsett State Park.

  • Palmetto Trail, Bikepacking
  • Palmetto Trail, Bikepacking
  • Palmetto Trail, Bikepacking

At times — due to its current unfinished state and lack of use in certain parts — the Palmetto Trail can seem rather disjointed and rough. There are also a few too many requisite paved connections between the Passages. That said, the Palmetto Trail may not be a destination route for most folks. But for others living nearby, it could be a great long weekend escape. Done with a few friends, you’ll likely have a great time with plenty of good campsites and interesting scenery along the way. Meanwhile, you’ll be adding to the use of the trail and supporting the project. Just keep in mind that there is a fair amount of road riding involved as well as a couple stretches of swampy tracks and unused trails littered with fallen trees and branches. All that said, we enjoyed our time on the trail and are happy to add it as a route option here. Make sure to read the Trail Notes below for recommendations and options for overnighters.

Thanks to Jim Tonyan for planning a much of the route connectors and bringing along the “Analog Garmin” …

Also, make sure to pick up a Palmetto Trail Pale Ale. Spartanburg based rewer RJ Rockers donates a portion of each sale to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation in hopes of one day completing the trail.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • Well-cut and interesting singletrack, including the Enoree Passage, Poinsett State Park and The Swamp Fox Passage.
  • Scenic rail trails such as the Wateree Passage and the Peak to Prosperity Passage.
  • Pine forests and low country foliage.
  • Swamps, coastal terrain and wildlife.
  • A long slow look at southern culture in South Carolina.
  • BBQ in Columbia, if you’re into that kind thing.
  • Watch for a detour around mile 38… there is orange plastic construction marking the trail where the bridge is washed out.
  • This route is best ridden in the fall, winter or very early spring. It could get blazing hot in the summer and probably pretty buggy.
  • There are sections of trail that get fairly sandy, swampy, and rough. Because of this we recommend a 2″ tire or larger. While this route could be done on a cross bike, I wouldn’t. Also, with the amount of branches along the lesser used stretches, going sans derailleurs might be advised. Three in our group rode singlespeeds while I had an internal Pinion system and only one had a rear derailleur (although there were no mechanicals to speak of).
  • Just a reminder that there is a fair amount of road to be reckoned with along this variation of the Palmetto Trail. Bring blink lights and take proper precautions.
  • There are some critters to watch out for along the Palmetto Trail… other than snakes and such, bears are present in several of the national forests. Bring a rope and stuff sack to hang your food. Also, watch out for alligators, we saw a few six footers along the way… in February!
  • The Palmetto Trail route is unfinished. There are many interested parties who want to see it to full fruition — including RJ Rockers Brewing who is helping fund the completion of the route by donating a portion of sales of their Palmetto Trail Ale. So drink beer and ride the route to help keep it alive!
  • This isn’t a classic bikepacking route, by any means. The Palmetto Trail is currently in an unfinished — and little used — state of slight disarray. If you live in the southern US and do this ride with a few friends, you’ll likely have a great time with some scattered good riding and plenty to look at. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of not too great stretches of pavement, a couple sections of swampy tracks, and several trails that are not well used with an assortment of fallen trees and branches littering the path.
  • There are several designated free campsites and campgrounds along the way in National Forests and parks. A few are noted on the map.
  • While there are possibilities for wild camping, once you get close to the lakes much of the terrain is wet and swampy.
  • Hotels are available in Newberry, Columbia and Santee.
  • Hammocks are a good option too as there are plenty of trees throughout.
  • Most of the Palmetto Trail route has points for resupply. However, the first 80 miles from Spartanburg to Newberry has  very few options. It’s best to carry a couple days of food for this stretch. Also, the last 55 miles has no resupply options.
  • Dollar General stores seem to be the best bet for finding preparable food in the rural southeast.
  • El Sorullo in Newberry has great Mexican food.
  • Make sure to have a good meal in Columbia; it’s a college town and there are tons of great options. Check out Five Points area… we had barbecue at Southern Belly.
  • Have a Palmetto Trail Ale at RJ Rockers in Spartanburg and support the project.

As mentioned above, the Palmetto Trail is made up of 26 ‘Passages’. We skipped the first several as they were either limited to hikers only, on roads, or very disjointed. Here are the Passages in order from Spartanburg to Awendaw with notes. Also, each is linked to the corresponding page on palmettoconservation.org. It’s also worth noting that there are a couple of good options for making overnighters out of better portions of the route. We recommend the Enoree Passage (mile 36 on the GPS) and the section beginning at Santee (mile 220 on the GPS) to include the Swamp Fox Passage and end at Awendaw.

Hub City Connector (~10 miles)

The Hub City Connector is about nine Trail miles of greenways, bicycle lanes, and safe, signed sidewalks through the city of Spartanburg. We cycled an alternate line as we shuttled from someone’s house outside of Spartanburg.

Croft Passage (~12 miles)

A fun, hilly mix of singletrack and roads through Croft State Park.

Glenn Springs Passage (~7 miles)

Rolling farmlands, mature forests, and the historic town of Glenn Springs highlight the Glenn Springs Passage.

Blackstock Battlefield Passage

Skipped, this is a separate loop.

Enoree Passage (~36 miles)

Enoree Passage is 36 continuous miles of trail through Sumter National Forest, linking Newberry, Laurens, and Union counties.

Lynch’s Woods Passage

Skipped, separate loop.

Peak to Prosperity Passage (~11 miles)

The Peak to Prosperity Passage is a gravel rail trail that proceeds west from the HWY 26 intersection for 11 miles across the impressive Broad River trestle.

Capital City Passage (~7 miles)

The Capital City Passage meanders through South Carolina’s largest city and seat of state government. A great place to stop for a bite to eat.

Fort Jackson Passage

Skipped due to closures and rumors of logging truck hell.

Wateree Passage (~7 miles)

The Wateree Passage begins at an odd spot near a power plant. We got escorted into the woods where we proceeded to bushwhack to find the old rail bed. In the GPS we highlighted about a half mile where you’ll need to hike along the railroad tracks to access the trail and trestle crossing the river. The Passage then flows through Poinsett State Park.

High Hills of Santee Passage (~9 miles)

High Hills of Santee in Sumter County was named for the high, sandy ridges that are part of the Sandhills geographical region. We skipped a portion of this and opted for the sand road. We’ve heard it can take hours to make this short distance due to thick and challenging sand. If you ride it and prove me wrong, please let us know.

Lake Marion Passage (~34 miles)

Lake Marion Passage skirts along the high-water mark of the lake’s north side between Santee, SC, and Mill Creek County Park. After Sparkleberry Landing, this gets really swampy and wet. Do it during the day.

Santee Passage (~12 miles)

Lots of dirt roads and time on rural highways make Santee Passage a nice break from swampy singletracks and roads.

Eutaw Springs Passage (~20 miles)

Eutaw Springs Passage pushes through a varied terrain of grassy pastures and shady dirt roads, past the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Eutaw Springs, and through tiny downtown Eutawville.

Lake Moultrie Passage (~27 miles)

The Lake Moultrie Passage circles the eastern and northern shores of a 60,000-acre lake. Nice panoramic views and fast gravel roads.

Swamp Fox Passage (~47 miles)

The Swamp Fox Passage is the longest and arguably one of the best sections on the Palmetto Trail. The passage traverses the Francis Marion National Forestand several ecosystems including swamps, mature long-leaf pine forests, and grassy savannas.

Awendaw Passage (~7 miles)

Awendaw Passage is the coastal terminus of the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail. Probably the most used trail, but also one of the fastest and most fun.

Additional Trail Notes

Contributor, Todd Shollenberger, provided his trail notes when they attempted the route in reverse and made a few improvisations. For mileage reference, follow his route GPS at ridewithgps.com/routes/19479228

Awendaw Passage – Short but well used singletrack section along the Intracoastal Waterway and coastal marshes.  Trailhead camping at Buck Hall Rec Area, fill up with water here, there’s not much on the trail until Lake Moultrie.

Swamp Fox Passage – This is the longest and most remote of all the Passages.  Mostly single track thru the Francis Marion NF with a few short sections on forest roads, almost no pavement.  The trail is fairly easy to follow although not very well marked, picking up the trail again after crossing roads was sometimes confusing.  Rode thru a lot of ankle deep water on this section and there are a lot of boardwalks and footbridges in various states of disrepair.  Very little drinking water on this section, we filled up at a horse farm at mile 58.  The Witherbee Ranger Station at mile 35 is abandoned, no water.  The best option for camping is probably at or near the ranger station, not much dry open space along the trail.

Lake Moultrie Passage – Mostly unpaved section with fast gravel roads along the Lake Moultrie dikes.  Bonneau Beach is the first real resupply point on the route at mile 59, two small restaurants and a c-store.  Felt like we were flying thru this section compared to Swamp Fox.  Best camping spot of the whole trip at Sandy Beach on the north side of the lake, mile 75.  Significant bushwhack near the end of this passage, mile 80-81.

Eutaw Springs Passage – Mixture of paved and dirt rural roads, flat easy riding.  C-store at mile 91.  There is a confusing turn in the trail at mile 92, we never saw any trail signs but eventually found an old overgrown road/path that continued the trail.  C-store at mile 96, Eutaw Springs Battle field at mile 102 is a good spot for lunch.  At mile 103 along the edge of the Gardensgate Plantation the trail had been freshly tilled and was not ridable.  There is supposedly camping at the plantation but we never found it.  Dollar General in Eutawville at mile 105.  Met the owner of Eutaw Outfitters, he was repairing his shop after a car drove thru the front window.

Santee Passage – Most of the second half of this passage is not ridable anymore.  Starting at mile 113 the private land that the trail crosses has been clear cut.  After detouring around this we came upon a huge road construction project at mile 116.  Without any obvious detour we rode thru the construction zone.  Its probably better to skip this passage by riding Old Hwy 6 from Eutaw Springs to Santee.

Lake Marion Passage – Paved roads and single track thru the swamp along the edge of Lake Marion.  Cross the lake on the old Francis Marion Bridge.  Single track along the lake is overgrown with lots of deadfall and difficult to follow in places.  Skipped the section from Carolina King Marina (mile 135) to Packs Landing (mile 149), very wet and overgrown it was hard to stay on the trail even with a gps track.  Camping at Jacks Creek Marina, mile 129, seemed almost abandoned.  Water and very limited food options at Carolina King Marina and Packs Landing. High Hills Passage – Single track and sand/dirt roads.  Mostly follows a horse trail thru the Manchester State Forest from Mill Creek Country Park (mile 159) to Poinsett State Park (mile 168).  Horses and bikes don’t mix, even with 3 inch tires the horse trail was awful.  Detoured onto dirt/sand roads at mile 163.  Forest single track starting at mile 165 into the park was really nice but the last 1/4 mile had been recently logged. Water and camping at both parks, limited food at Poinsett State Park.

Wateree Passage – Single track and rail trail.  Great single track for the first few miles out of Poinsett State Park and then rail trail starting at mile 173 across the Wateree River and swamp.  Numerous rebuilt trestles over the swamp, the last one before the Wateree River Bridge at mile 177 is still under construction.  Unfortunately the official trail ends just on the other side of the river about 1 mile from Hwy 601. After getting a bit lost we found a still active RR spur to hike out on,  there might be a better way to the road on the faint trails we got lost on.

Ft Jackson Passage – Single track paralleling Hwy 262 and paved bike paths/sidewalks within Ft Jackson.  This passage is probably best skipped, the time/effort/paperwork required to access Ft Jackson just isn’t worth it.  After many emails and phone calls to get permission to enter the eastern most gate we were unable to enter when we arrived.  We ended up entering and exiting at the main gate, closest to Columbia, riding the trail thru the fort as an out-and-back.  Took almost an hour to get a visitor pass at the gate.  A better option would probably be to ride thru Congaree NP from the end of the Wateree Passage and then north to Columbia.

Capital City Passage – Paved roads and sidewalks thru Columbia.  Lots of good restaurants near the USC campus in downtown Columbia.  We skipped the second half of this passage and headed towards Camden to wait out Hurricane Matthew.

Peak to Prosperity Passage – Rail trail starting at the Broad River bridge.  Seems to be one of the more used sections of trail, we saw lots of hikers and a few bikes.  Flat and easy riding.  Primitive camping at mile 320 and Wilson’s Grocery (c-store) at mile 322.  Like the Wateree passage, this rail trail ends at mile 326 just short of a road and requires a difficult bushwhack, lots of downed trees over the old rail bed.  This last half mile is across private property and could be skipped with a road detour starting at Wilson’s Grocery.

Lynch’s Woods Passage – Singletrack thru town park.  Nice singletrack diversion in this Newberry town park, unfortunately camping is no longer allowed.  We arrived at dusk to find a locked gate and large “No Overnight Camping” sign at the entrance.  Plenty of cheap hotels in Newberry plus grocery stores and restaurants.  We rode the trails the next morning, saw a few walkers and the old campsites, new residential development is very close which probably explains the no camping.

Enoree Passage – Mostly singletrack thru Sumter National Forest.  Camping (no water) at Brickhouse Rec Area (mile 368) or along trail in NF.  Limited water from some small streams. Long section thru the forest with a lot of potential.  The section from Newberry to Brickhouse has recently been rerouted, soft and muddy in spots but easy to follow and not too many downed trees.  The section from Brickhouse to Cross Keys (mile 388) is completely overgrown, tons of downed trees and kudzu overtaking the trail.

Blackstock Battlefield Passage – Short singletrack in preserve along Tygre River.  Skipped.

Glen Springs Passage – Short section paved and singletrack but most singletrack is hiking-only, with a bike detour.

Croft Passage – Road and singletrack thru Croft State Park.  About half of the singletrack is hiking-only with bike detour on paved and dirt roads in the park.  The singletrack open to bikes is very good and in great condition.  Trail along Kelsey Creek from mile 420 north difficult to follow, seems relatively new.  Camping, water and limited food in the park.

Hub City/USC Upstate Passages – Paved roads and bike paths thru Spartanburg.  Plenty of restaurants and resupply points along the paved multi-use rail trail in Spartanburg.

Peach Country Passage – Paved back roads from Inman to Landrum.  Resturants and c-stores in both small towns.

Blue Wall, Poinsett Reservoir, Saluda Mountains, Middle Saluda, Jocassee Gorges Passages – All hiking-only, closed to bikes.  Detoured around these sections on paved and gravel roads from Tyron, NC to Oconee State Park, SC.  Great camping on top of Sassafras Mtn on SC/NC line.  Gravel roads thru Jocassee Gorges are close to the actual trail.

Oconee Passage – Short singletrack section from Oconee State Park to Oconee Station Historic Site, mostly downhill, well maintained and well used.

Additional Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Ryan Stouten

    I tried riding the eastern 130 miles about two years ago. I was met with several dead ends, including one where the forest had been clear cut for 100 yards and could not find the trail on the other side. The trail markings were old and in disrepair and many missing. I’m not trying to discourage people but navigating was very difficult and confusing. I ended up riding a lot of low traffic roads instead of the anticipated trail. If attempting this route you will certainly need a map and plans to change the “route”

  • Yeah, there are a few areas that are rough and difficult to track, but that’s where this GPS comes in (as well as keeping it ‘open source’). For those reading these comments new to GPS, check out our article on using your phone as a GPS: http://www.bikepacking.com/plan/smartphone-as-a-gps/

  • A few friends and I did the Awendaw/Swamp Fox Passage up to Lake Moultrie Passage last year with camping at Cane Gully. While gravels roads run parallel with the trail for most part of it, we stayed on the trail. It made for a very long day. Lots of hike a bike on marshy areas and non existent primitive bridges. It was fun but taxing 60+ miles. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2ac2b1b213d762dc411dbe5ab99ea99e6da4baf51dec70135dbab87cd99023ae.jpg

  • A few friends and I did the Awendaw/Swamp Fox Passage up to Lake Moultrie Passage last year with camping at Cane Gully. While gravels roads run parallel with the trail for most part of it, we stayed on the trail. It made for a very long day. Lots of hike a bike on marshy areas and non existent primitive bridges. It was fun but taxing 60+ miles. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/79046cb9a37eea31e5dda337e5525edef6754b7e23293da49aef9ffb1d1d8fe7.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ba9a692f82c344db81ac8a18d0addc494345c864fb838364201a5e8b3a7cc3ca.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2ac2b1b213d762dc411dbe5ab99ea99e6da4baf51dec70135dbab87cd99023ae.jpg

  • Nice! Yeah, the trails get rough in places… Enoree Passage is rough in its own ways too. Kind of nice that way though :)

  • “unfinished – and little used – state of slight disarray” is a good description of the Palmetto Trail. We rode from Awendaw to Wahalla back in October, detouring around the hike-only sections in the Upstate. Being former residents of the Upstate we were excited to bikepack thru SC but our expectations were too high. Many of the completed sections have seen little trail maintenance and the swamps and thick forests have begun to overtake the trails. The first three sections from the coast (Awendaw, Swamp Fox and Lake Moultrie) were in pretty good shape and offered the most continuous trail riding and the trails within the state parks were nice but short.

    I’ve got notes on each section which could be added to the trail notes section and gps tracks for our entire route if your’re interested.

  • Ah yes, I completely forgot you mentioned that you guys were going to ride it! Any notes would be great. I think the more people that get out and ride it, the better it could become.

  • More users on the trail would definitely help, we saw some some riders in the state parks and a handful of day hikers but no one else touring or camping. I’ll get the info together and sent to you

  • Mark Troup

    I had just been checking out these trails online for an August ride. The trail very closely follows the path of the total solar eclipse that will occur on August 21st, 2017. If it’s a clear day, the trail should afford some of the best views of the eclipse anywhere in the US. You can check the eclipse’s track at greatamericaneclipse.com. I’m making a trip from Pennsylvania to check it out.

  • Logan Watts

    Interesting. But, SC in August is going to be super hot!!

  • Mark Troup

    Oh, I know it! And humid and buggy… I’ll probably just be doing Wateree to the coast, though. At about half the pace you guys were moving!

  • Kenneth Sanders

    I’d be very interested in your trail notes for this route. I’m planning a simple overnighter with some friends in the Clinton, Newberry area in the next few weeks. Any information yo can provide would be greatly appreciated.

  • Kenneth Sanders

    And loaded with bugs!

  • Hi Kenneth-
    The Enoree Passage starting just north of Newberry would make a good overnighter, the northern half of this section was pretty overgrown back in October, might be better this time of year. I think the first three Passages (Awendaw, Swamp Fox, Lake Moultrie) would be the best for one or two night trips.

    Notes from our October 2016 ride:

    Route GPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19479228

    Awendaw Passage – Short but well used singletrack section along the Intracoastal Waterway and coastal marshes. Trailhead camping at Buck Hall Rec Area, fill up with water here, there’s not much on the trail until Lake Moultrie.

    Swamp Fox Passage – This is the longest and most remote of all the Passages. Mostly single track thru the Francis Marion NF with a few short sections on forest roads, almost no pavement. The trail is fairly easy to follow although not very well marked, picking up the trail again after crossing roads was sometimes confusing. Rode thru a lot of ankle deep water on this section and there are a lot of boardwalks and footbridges in various states of disrepair. Very little drinking water on this section, we filled up at a horse farm at mile 58. The Witherbee Ranger Station at mile 35 is abandoned, no water. The best option for camping is probably at or near the ranger station, not much dry open space along the trail.

    Lake Moultrie Passage – Mostly unpaved section with fast gravel roads along the Lake Moultrie dikes. Bonneau Beach is the first real resupply point on the route at mile 59, two small restaurants and a c-store. Felt like we were flying thru this section compared to Swamp Fox. Best camping spot of the whole trip at Sandy Beach on the north side of the lake, mile 75. Significant bushwhack near the end of this passage, mile 80-81.

    Eutaw Springs Passage – Mixture of paved and dirt rural roads, flat easy riding. C-store at mile 91. There is a confusing turn in the trail at mile 92, we never saw any trail signs but eventually found an old overgrown road/path that continued the trail. C-store at mile 96, Eutaw Springs Battle field at mile 102 is a good spot for lunch. At mile 103 along the edge of the Gardensgate Plantation the trail had been freshly tilled and was not ridable. There is supposedly camping at the plantation but we never found it. Dollar General in Eutawville at mile 105. Met the owner of Eutaw Outfitters, he was repairing his shop after a car drove thru the front window.

    Santee Passage – Most of the second half of this passage is not ridable anymore. Starting at mile 113 the private land that the trail crosses has been clear cut. After detouring around this we came upon a huge road construction project at mile 116. Without any obvious detour we rode thru the construction zone. Its probably better to skip this passage by riding Old Hwy 6 from Eutaw Springs to Santee.

    Lake Marion Passage – Paved roads and single track thru the swamp along the edge of Lake Marion. Cross the lake on the old Francis Marion Bridge. Single track along the lake is overgrown with lots of deadfall and difficult to follow in places. Skipped the section from Carolina King Marina (mile 135) to Packs Landing (mile 149), very wet and overgrown it was hard to stay on the trail even with a gps track. Camping at Jacks Creek Marina, mile 129, seemed almost abandoned. Water and very limited food options at Carolina King Marina and Packs Landing.

    High Hills Passage – Single track and sand/dirt roads. Mostly follows a horse trail thru the Manchester State Forest from Mill Creek Country Park (mile 159) to Poinsett State Park (mile 168). Horses and bikes don’t mix, even with 3 inch tires the horse trail was awful. Detoured onto dirt/sand roads at mile 163. Forest single track starting at mile 165 into the park was really nice but the last 1/4 mile had been recently logged. Water and camping at both parks, limited food at Poinsett State Park.

    Wateree Passage – Single track and rail trail. Great single track for the first few miles out of Poinsett State Park and then rail trail starting at mile 173 across the Wateree River and swamp. Numerous rebuilt trestles over the swamp, the last one before the Wateree River Bridge at mile 177 is still under construction. Unfortunately the official trail ends just on the other side of the river about 1 mile from Hwy 601. After getting a bit lost we found a still active RR spur to hike out on, there might be a better way to the road on the faint trails we got lost on.

    Ft Jackson Passage – Single track paralleling Hwy 262 and paved bike paths/sidewalks within Ft Jackson. This passage is probably best skipped, the time/effort/paperwork required to access Ft Jackson just isn’t worth it. After many emails and phone calls to get permission to enter the eastern most gate we were unable to enter when we arrived. We ended up entering and exiting at the main gate, closest to Columbia, riding the trail thru the fort as an out-and-back. Took almost an hour to get a visitor pass at the gate. A better option would probably be to ride thru Congaree NP from the end of the Wateree Passage and then north to Columbia.

    Capital City Passage – Paved roads and sidewalks thru Columbia. Lots of good restaurants near the USC campus in downtown Columbia. We skipped the second half of this passage and headed towards Camden to wait out Hurricane Matthew.

    Peak to Prosperity Passage – Rail trail starting at the Broad River bridge. Seems to be one of the more used sections of trail, we saw lots of hikers and a few bikes. Flat and easy riding. Primitive camping at mile 320 and Wilson’s Grocery (c-store) at mile 322. Like the Wateree passage, this rail trail ends at mile 326 just short of a road and requires a difficult bushwhack, lots of downed trees over the old rail bed. This last half mile is across private property and could be skipped with a road detour starting at Wilson’s Grocery.

    Lynch’s Woods Passage – Singletrack thru town park. Nice singletrack diversion in this Newberry town park, unfortunately camping is no longer allowed. We arrived at dusk to find a locked gate and large “No Overnight Camping” sign at the entrance. Plenty of cheap hotels in Newberry plus grocery stores and restaurants. We rode the trails the next morning, saw a few walkers and the old campsites, new residential development is very close which probably explains the no camping.

    Enoree Passage – Mostly singletrack thru Sumter National Forest. Camping (no water) at Brickhouse Rec Area (mile 368) or along trail in NF. Limited water from some small streams. Long section thru the forest with a lot of potential. The section from Newberry to Brickhouse has recently been rerouted, soft and muddy in spots but easy to follow and not too many downed trees. The section from Brickhouse to Cross Keys (mile 388) is completely overgrown, tons of downed trees and kudzu overtaking the trail.

    Blackstock Battlefield Passage – Short singletrack in preserve along Tygre River. Skipped.

    Glen Springs Passage – Short section paved and singletrack but most singletrack is hiking-only, with a bike detour.

    Croft Passage – Road and singletrack thru Croft State Park. About half of the singletrack is hiking-only with bike detour on paved and dirt roads in the park. The singletrack open to bikes is very good and in great condition. Trail along Kelsey Creek from mile 420 north difficult to follow, seems relatively new. Camping, water and limited food in the park.

    Hub City/USC Upstate Passages – Paved roads and bike paths thru Spartanburg. Plenty of restaurants and resupply points along the paved multi-use rail trail in Spartanburg.

    Peach Country Passage – Paved back roads from Inman to Landrum. Resturants and c-stores in both small towns.

    Blue Wall, Poinsett Reservoir, Saluda Mountains, Middle Saluda, Jocassee Gorges Passages – All hiking-only, closed to bikes. Detoured around these sections on paved and gravel roads from Tyron, NC to Oconee State Park, SC. Great camping on top of Sassafras Mtn on SC/NC line. Gravel roads thru Jocassee Gorges are close to the actual trail.

    Oconee Passage – Short singletrack section from Oconee State Park to Oconee Station Historic Site, mostly downhill, well maintained and well used.

  • I can’t seem to get the notes to post here, they get marked as spam, maybe too long. Email me if you still want them todd at bergersride dot com

  • Hi Todd. I am going through them now and will get them posted to Trail Notes in short order…

  • OK, all of @bergersride:disqus notes are added under Trail Notes…

  • Andrew Jordan Hicks

    I attempted this trail last summer 100% hot as balls. probably would be tons more fun if it wasn’t so hot.

  • Yeah, I can’t imagine riding it May-Sept… way too hot.

  • Indigo Alps

    Rode the route pretty much as posted (in reverse direction) last week, with beautiful weather and no bugs. While it’s not the “classic” in the sense that every turn is a great view on a great trail, it is quite a classic in terms of throwing the unexpected fun adventure your way.

    Unused: There were no other riders or hikers seen the whole length (there was the occasional day-walker).
    Unfinished: Let’s just say that you need to be prepared to down climb the railroad trestle when that planks run out…
    Slight Disarray: I often found that “Exiting” a section I was able to follow more marked trail than the posted GPX (I think due to the travel in opposite direction) and would even sometimes miss an entrance with the GPX.

    All in all, this route was a blast *because* it is not yet all in shape. Travel light, as I ended up doing a lot of log-lifts in Enoree. The worst part (road) is the Columbia-Peak transition.

    I agree with the 2″ tire width minimum (still had to walk(!) thru some sand sections) and ran a standard derailleur with no issues.
    Thank you all for the great info!
    PS: with Amtrak bike roll-on service to both Charleston and Greenville this is one of the most accessible rides out there per capita…

  • Cool, thanks for the feedback! If you have any specific GPX corrections or suggestions, let me know. Good to know about Amtrak too…

  • Mark Troup

    I’ll be riding Wateree to Awendaw mid-August for the eclipse. I was going to take my Jones Plus down there for the trip, but I also have a Tern Verge Tour folder that would be much more convenient. My question then is how rough are the trail sections? Could you suck it up and do the trip on a pair of 20″ Big Apples (2.15″ wide), or would that be insane? The bike has plenty of gearing for any hills (22 to 117 gear inches) and is very rugged for a folder, but in the end… it’s a 20″ folder. Any thoughts?

  • I wouldn’t recommend it. The trail sections get rough; a lot of deadfall, sand, sticks and such. It’s definitely a 29er type of trail…

  • Mark Troup

    Kinda thought that was the case. I think certain sections would be very doable, but the singletrack sections would probably be dealbreakers. Thanks for the quick reply!

  • Yeah, there are just too many roots, ruts, logs, and branches… plus a fair about of sand.

  • Scottinsc

    Hi all, I am interested in riding the first 3-4 sections — Awendaw to basically the start of the Santee section. I’m wanting to do it with my Surly Disc Trucker with 700x40c cyclocross tires, rear rack and panniers. Is this doable and/or advisable? These sections seem pretty tame. Any thoughts?

  • I wouldn’t. There was a lot of downed trees, branches, etc on he trail when we did it. Also, near Santee there is a ton of sand…

  • Mark Troup

    Little update on my August ride: the eclipse was fantastic, the riding, not so much. Mosquitos were ferocious, ticks were legion, humidity unbearable. Heat index varied from 103-105. I think I’ll catch the next eclipse (April 2020) in Maine. ;)

  • Steven P Nance

    I just found out that the Francis Marion Bridge, commonly known as the 301 bridge, in Santee is permanently closed. That means if you want to connect the Lake Marion and Santee passages, you’ll have to hitch a ride across I95. Another option is to ride the highway far west or east of Santee. I’m trying to find out if there is an alternate route via the Santee dam.

  • ReallyTiedTheRoomTogether

    (Long post alert)
    Rode the eastern section of the trail last weekend. Brand new to bikepacking, and this was a great first trip.

    We set out at the beginning of the Lake Moultrie Passage and ended at Buck Hall. The trail is definitely underused with a fair number of downed trees that interrupt the flow. There are some very fun sections. For a newbie like me, I’d say the “99.9% rideable” figure was an overestimate, but not by all that much.

    The Lake Moultrie passage is easy, if largely uneventful. Parking at the trailhead sketched us out at tad, as it’s nothing more than a sign in a grassy lot next to a fenced-off pile of boulders. Nothing there to deter anyone who’d care to mess with your vehicle, but in the end we had no problems on that front.

    I’d recommend splitting off at the Sandy Beach spur between miles 18-20, as it breaks up the several miles of dirt road and dike. We saw some pretty large gators on that spur, as well as several from atop the dike. The dike is sandy enough to wear you down before the Rediversion Canal at mile 15 (it seems like you should be flying through the wide open space, but it can be a relative slog at times.) It’s packed hard and mixed with gravel for the rest of the passage, though, and that made for an easy and enjoyable ride.

    Bonneau Beach is a pleasant stop and is the only real civilization we encountered along the trail. Special shout-out to the bacon patty melt (hand-pattied, please) at Evelyn’s Diner. And riding on the dam between Bonneau and the Swamp Fox trailhead was beautiful in the afternoon on a pleasant fall day. We may have followed the wrong trail between the dam and the Swamp Fox, because the route we used was a mess. Practically unmarked, and we ended up riding the shoulder of US-52 for the last half mile or so.

    The Swamp Fox had some beautiful and very fun sections. It’s rooty and overgrown in spots, so be aware of that. Like the rest of the trail, it could use a little maintenance. The cypress swamp around Wadboo Creek is really beautiful, even if we did have to do a little bit of hike-a-bike through there.

    One big trail note: the bridge over Cane Gully around mile 38 is no longer there. It was apparently washed out in a storm at some point. There’s a detour, but we ended up missing the detour in the dark. We bushwhacked through high weeds and chest-high saplings trying to follow blazes that were rarer than I’d have liked for about a mile and a half before we found that the bridge was washed out and passage was impossible. We were too pooped to circle back, so we camped trailside and circled back to the trail in the am.

    Water really was scant along this stretch. We filtered swamp water to hold us over and eventually found a church around mile 18 where some kind folks let us refill from their hose. We packed in a fair amount, but it was warmer than had been forecast and we worked through the water pretty quickly.

    With fresh water and a slightly cooler day, the rest was just about cranking through sore legs and getting it done. We alternated between the trail and adjacent forest service roads and occasionally skipped some of the loops when the trail wasn’t as interesting. The Awendaw Passage was a favorite for everyone, particularly the sections that overlooked the marshes. There’s some fun stuff to ride in there, though we had to watch out because there were a fair number of walkers on the trail. And the ICW at Buck Hall is a great payoff for the ride. We had someone to pick us up there, but it is well maintained and I’m sure it would be a fine place to leave a car overnight if needed.

    We saw almost no one on the trail. There was an ultramarathon going on with fewer than 10 participants, and if they hadn’t been there, I think we would have encountered no one. Besides Bonneau Beach, we literally saw 5 individuals on the Moultrie section (one family strolling along the well-maintained section near the Rediversion Canal and another guy fishing by the dike). There were a fair number of day users on the Awendaw Passage, but that’s it.

    Great intro to bikepacking, and thanks, Logan, for this run-down. This site, the Palmetto Conservation trail site, and Google Maps made our trip possible.

  • Thanks for the detailed feedback. and glad you enjoyed it. Is the detour clearly marked otherwise?

  • ReallyTiedTheRoomTogether

    It wasn’t all that well marked in the daylight either. I don’t know if you would notice it if you weren’t looking for it. There had been some orange plastic construction netting across the closed section of the trail, but it had been pulled aside and trampled. We weren’t the only ones who got thrown off either. One of the ultramarathoners got lost on that section and ended up calling for help. We were awakened by voices and a car horn (on a service road we didn’t even know was there) at 2am. The runner literally stepped over our tents to get to her friends.

  • Oh wow… good to know. I’ll make a note of it in the Must Know

  • ReallyTiedTheRoomTogether

    Yeah, I don’t recall it being well-marked in the opposite direction either, but the washed our bridge is only maybe a hundred yards from the detour if you’re headed east-to-west. Here’s the trail note from the Palmetto Conservation site (written from an east-to-west orientation: “From Mile Marker 38 turn left (west) onto Forest Service Road 133 (labeled FS 133). Travel for approximately 1.4 miles. Turn right (north – northeast) onto Cane Gully Road. Travel for approximately .8 miles. Turn left (north) onto the Swamp Fox Passage where it crosses Cane Gully Road.”

  • Scottinsc

    Hi all, any late Fall/early Winter updates on the lower sections of the Palmetto Trail? My plan is to get dropped off at the top of Lake Moultrie and bike to the end at Buck Hall campground — probably at a relaxed 3 day/2 night trip. I mentioned this once before, but are the conditions in these 3 sections okay for a Surly Disc Trucker with knobby cyclocross tires and panniers? Any additional thoughts? Thanks so much!

  • There is a detour issue. See the long post by reallyTiedTheRoomTogether below.

    As far as the bike, as long as you are up for getting beat up a bit, that bike shouldn’t be a problem. There is plenty of roots, sticks and mud through that section though…

  • Scottinsc

    Thanks so much. I’m not sure how I missed that post from TiedTheRoomTogether. That’s the exact trip I want to do. When I do it, I’ll definitely report back. Cheers!