Railroad companies have abandoned more than 700 miles of track in South Carolina since the 1970s. Many communities have converted some of the old rail beds into trails and greenways. Some of the abandoned right of ways have been incorporated into South Carolina’s statewide Palmetto Trail. These rail trails provide opportunities for outdoor recreation while preserving part of our country’s past. Here are some of the highlights of central South Carolina’s rail trails.
Central South Carolina’s premier rail trail is the Peak to Prosperity Passage of the Palmetto Trail. The 10.8 mile section of abandoned rail bed was purchased from Norfolk Southern Railroad. Hikers can begin at the trailhead in the Alston community in Fairfield County. The trail begins at the Broad River and runs west into Newberry County, through the towns of Peak and Pomaria. A highlight of this rail trail is the 1100 foot long bridge over the scenic Broad River. There are also 14 wooden trestles over Crims Creek. The trail is open to hikers and mountain bikers; motorized vehicles and horses are prohibited. The trailhead in Alston has parking, picnicking, primitive camping, and canoe access to the Broad River. Mile 5.3 also has a primitive campsite. Trail access in Pomaria is on US Hwy 176 at Anjella Street.
The Heritage Trail is located in Greenwood, South Carolina. The 2.5 mile one-way paved trail runs from the center of town south along an old rail bed of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The trailhead is at the intersection of Main Street and Circular Avenue, and trail users are allowed to park in the Palmetto Bank lot. A brick plaza marks the start of the trail. There was once a turntable on this site for manually turning around steam locomotives. The Railroad Historical Center is adjacent to the trailhead. The center contains exhibits on Greenwood’s railroad history and seven vintage rail cars, including a Pullman sleeper, dining car, caboose, and a 1906 steam engine. The museum is open Saturdays in April-October from 1-4pm. Admission is free. The Heritage Trail goes through an industrial area where textile mills and other manufacturing businesses were once located. Bikes are allowed on the trail.
The Ninety Six Town Trail is also located in Greenwood County. The trail runs parallel to Main Street (Hwy 34) for 1.4 miles through the historic town of Ninety Six. This former rail bed is a straight, level path consisting of rock dust and lined with crepe myrtle trees. Many of the town’s historic buildings are located along the trail, including the historic 96 Depot. The red brick depot is one of the oldest buildings in town. It was constructed in 1852 by Southern Railroad and used until 1970. The depot has been restored and is now used as a meeting space. Trail users may park at the depot.