The weather is warming up (finally), and we’re no longer afraid to venture outdoors. Lucky for us, the Upstate offers plenty of gorgeous scenery to explore. That is why we are thrilled to introduce our new Fresh Air Fridays series. We’ll be giving you the inside scoop on all of the best places to get out and take a hike (or just a leisurely stroll) every Friday.
Fresh Air Friday: Paris Mountain State Park
Tips to Breathe In
- Difficulty: Various trails range from easy to strenuous. You can learn more about each trail’s difficulty on their website before visiting.
- Price: $5 adults; $3.25 SC seniors (age 65 & older); $3/child age 6-15; Free for children 5 and younger. This admission includes access to the designated swimming area when it is open.
- Wheelchair/Stroller Accessible?: Trails are unpaved but certain shelters within the park and Camp Buckhorn are wheelchair accessible.
- Pet-friendly?: Pets are not allowed in or around cabins, cabin areas, or other lodging facilities. Pets are allowed in most outdoor areas provided they are kept under physical restraint or on a leash not longer than six feet.
- Parking: Seven parking areas at various locations within the park
- Hours: 8am-9pm, daily, during daylight saving time. Winter hours: 8am-6pm, daily.
- Amenities: Bathrooms, picnic shelters, paved campsite, & Park Center
- Nearby: Paris Mountain Country Club Golf Course, Furman University, Downtown Travelers Rest, Various Restaurants and Shops
- Fact 1: At less than 15 minutes from Main St. to trailheads, this is the perhaps the best hiking you will find this close to an urban center we have ever seen.
- Fact 2: Some trails are appropriate for any skill level while others are downright gut busters…plan accordingly.
- Fact 3: The park is rich in Upstate history, from the Native Americans to the establishment of Greenville itself.
Can a state park be both well known and overlooked at the same time? Casual and novice participants of outdoor adventure often hear the word “mountain” in Paris Mountain State Park and opt for flatter destinations like the Swamp Rabbit Trail. At the same time, dedicated weekend warriors often set their sights on bigger game like Table Rock, Jones Gap, or Pisgah National Forest.
What if we told you that both groups would be pleasantly surprised by the multitude of options Paris Mountain State Park has in store?
Those just looking for an easy jaunt through the woods will absolutely love the Lake Placid Trail near the entrance of the park. This ¾ mile trail is perfect for any age group with the ability to place one foot in front of the other on a mostly level terrain. The trail circles the lake as you encounter the birds, turtles, and other animals that call the park home. The dam that keeps the lake in its place offers one of the park’s most impressive scenes and is the only part of this particular trail that offers anything in the way of an elevation change, as brief as it is.
In summer months, this loop is perfectly paired with a visit to the lake’s designated swimming area or a ride on the open water thanks to the park’s weekend canoe, kayak, and pedal boat rental.
On the other end of the spectrum, hardcore hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts may feel the call for bigger or more expansive parks further to the north. One might argue that few views are as impressive as from the top of Table Rock and Pisgah National Park offers a seemingly endless offering of mountain bike trails. The truth is, the one making that argument might be correct but that is not to say that Paris Mountain cannot hold its own with the best of them.
The 1,540-acre park is home to roughly 15 miles of trails ranging from “piece of cake” to “I should probably be in better shape”. A recent visit saw us cover just shy of six miles and about a thousand feet of elevation gain resulting in thoroughly sweat soaked clothes on a merely 63-degree day. To get that kind of work under your hiking boots would normally require an additional 30 to 45-minute drive from home, something that does not always seem practical when you are just getting off work on a Thursday afternoon with a limited amount of daylight to work with.
Most of these trails are also open to mountain biking, with the exception of Saturdays. The single track trails are as technically challenging as anything you will find in the Upstate and a welcome reprieve from the drive to North Carolina that dedicated bikers often have to make. Unlike some Upstate trails and walking paths, a notable respectful etiquette is observed between hikers and bikers on Paris Mountain, making their coexistence an easy and enjoyable relationship.
Beyond all of this, one of the most fascinating aspects of Paris Mountain State Park is just how rich it is in Upstate history. Originally home to the Cherokee Indians, much of the land was gifted to Irishman and European settler Richard Pearis who married a member of the tribe. Pearis found himself on the wrong side of history, however, when he sided with the British during the Revolutionary War and was literally thrown on a boat and sent “down the river” to avoid the wrath of an angry mob in Augusta, Georgia. He lived out his life in the Bahamas and the state of South Carolina claimed his land for its own.
The land he previously owned eventually became known as Paris Mountain and was the home of Greenville’s primary water supply from 1890 until 1916. Today, you can hike to what is now known as North Lake and stand on its banks and hike, fish, and camp alongside the waters that kept Greenville hydrated more than a century ago. The land also served as the home of a resort and a bible college in the years before it was officially designated as a state park by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935.
Be it a leisurely swim or stroll, a hike or ride that will whip you into shape in a hurry, or a walk back to a long forgotten time in Greenville’s history, Paris Mountain State Park has it all. The best part is that no matter what, you can be on Main Street (Greenville or Travelers Rest) for a rewarding cocktail or meal in less than 15 minutes from all of it. Find another part of the country where you can say that and we will make plans to visit it tomorrow.