Paris Mountain: Sulphur Springs Trail

Trail runner on Sulpher Springs Trail, Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville, South CarolinaHaving frequented Paris Mountain State Park a lot for almost 8 years and now living in very close proximity to it, the trails are very familiar to us. However, I consistently hear friends and acquaintances share confusion about which trails to take or what goes where. I think any unfamiliar trail area can feel that way. So, I want to dedicate a few blog posts over the next several months to our favorite trails and loops at Paris Mountain. We are always trying to get people to try trail running/hiking and excited to hear about friends who are wanting to get outside more, so hopefully this will take one obstacle (the where should I go? conundrum) out of the way and help make it more accessible.

Sulphur Springs Trail sign at Paris Mountain State ParkFirst up,  is one of our favorite all-around trails, Sulphur Springs a 3.8ish mile loop trail.  It is definitely not the easiest trail, but it is beautiful and varied. There is decent elevation gain in either direction, but that means you get a significant downhill both ways as well.

trail runner on sulphur springs trail at Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville, SCGetting Here: The best spot to start this trail is from the Picnic Shelters 5&6 parking area.  These shelters are located around 2 miles from the park entrance.  Sulphur Springs trail is a loop with one end of the trailhead located near the creek in the parking area and the other end located directly across the street from the parking area and picnic shelters. I would recommend starting on the hike-only section of the trail that is closest to the bridge and the shelters. It winds along the stream about a half mile before reaching Mountain Lake, a smallish body of water with great reflections of leaves and sky and an old rocky dam that creates a small waterfall. This is a nice turnaround point if you don’t feel like tackling the whole loop.

Trail Running on Sulphur Springs Trail, Paris Mountain State Park, Mountain Lake, Greenville, South Carolina

Final ascent to Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake on Sulphur Springs Trail, Paris Mountain State Park

Mountain Lake

If you decide to continue, you’ll go along the rocky side of the lake and continue to cross a couple of streams and gain some decent elevation. This is the toughest part of the trail, but it is really lovely  and you can hear the rushing creek all along the way and see it tumbling down in lots of different places. Once you get to the top, you’ll dead end into a wider trail and turn right to continue down Sulphur Springs. If you go left, you are taking another little trail called Fire Tower. It’s not super long so if you wanted to add on a bit (about .8 miles round trip), you could. It’s an out-and-back trail so you come to a dead end at the top of it, turn around and continue down Sulphur Springs.

Sulphur Springs Trail, Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville, SCThis part of the trail is wide and gently downhill, a wonderful respite after the climb you’ve just completed. Take it all the way down to an upper parking lot which you will cross to continue the trail. This can be a little confusing the first time, but it is marked and if you know it’s coming, it’s no big deal. Once you’ve gotten on this final stretch, you have a lot of swooping switchbacks that propel you down the mountain and back to your starting point. You will come down a final small hill that throws you out beside the road across from the parking area where you began. You’ve just completed an awesome workout!

Sulphur Springs Trail, Paris Mountain State Park, Trail Running

Upper Sulphur Springs Trail near the final descent

Good to Know: The Sulphur Springs Trail has portions of it (roughly the first half as I described it) that are hike-only. This means there shouldn’t be any mountain bikers to watch out for; however, when you come to the top of the mountain and head back down you should watch out for bikers as they can come up pretty quickly on the descending switchbacks. Also, be sure to take water on this trail particularly in the summer or if hiking. The distance is not super long, but as mentioned the elevation change is not insignificant.

Where to Eat: If you need some refueling, I’d recommend our go-to post-run meal: pizza. There are some great options around, but one of our current favorites is Swamp Pizza. They use local ingredients,  delicious scratch made dough, and a brick oven to create some of the best pizza in Greenville.

Keep looking for adventure far and nigh!

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Advertisements

Hilton Head Island: Kayaking and Dolphin Watching on Broad Creek

Kayaking on Broad Creek Hilton Head IslandFor the past 7 years, I have been part of a longstanding custom in my husband’s family that consists of  a weeklong vacation in Hilton Head Island, SC. Over the years activities  have ranged all over from long boarding or biking down long moss-shaded sidewalks to fishing with casting nets and watching for alligators in the lagoons.  Loosely held traditions include a putt-putt game, extensive beach time and wave riding, the obligatory trips to thrift stores or other shopping outlets and an out-to-dinner date night for all the adults at a fun restaurant. My husband and I love to get in  beach runs on the wide flat expanses of sand and the days end with a rotating roster of different family members taking turns cooking a big dinner for all 18 of us.

While the whole week is a sunlit, breezy run-together wave of relaxation and fun, we have developed a tradition of our own that is now one of our favorite things to do in Hilton Head.  No trip feels complete without a kayak or SUP adventure down Broad Creek searching for dolphins. While there are many  dolphin watching cruises and even paddle tours available, we always prefer to bring our own boats and explore for ourselves. There are always tons of gorgeous waterfowls–pelicans, herons, egrets, white ibis,  even the occasional eagle and we usually catch a glimpse of at least a dolphin or two.  Several times, we have had whole pods surrounding our boats, gliding in and out of the water  close enough you could almost reach out and touch them.

dolphin dorsal fin on Broad Creek Hilton Head IslandI don’t know why the excitement of this never diminishes for me. Every time we spot a distant dorsal fin, shining gray across the water I am filled with childlike giddiness. These creatures are so beautiful and coming across them in the wild feels like being let in on a lovely secret. The tides and marshes lend the area an ever-changing allure, and whether the dolphins appear or not, we always enjoy our excursions on Broad Creek.

Kayaking Low tide on Broad Creek Hilton Head Island

Low Tide

Getting Here: There are several places you can enter Broad Creek, but recently our favorite spot has been Shelter Cove Marina. Here, you can rent boats from Outside Hilton Head or launch your own boat for a $5 fee. We like this spot because the water entry is super clean, easy, and gentle on the boats. It also happens to drop you in a part of the creek where we have most frequently come across dolphins.

If you have your own boats and want to make the Shelter Cove area a destination (roughly 2 miles), you can begin at Marshland Road Public Boat Ramp near the Old Oyster Factory. It is free to use this spot and easy enough to get to and unload. The only downside is that the entry point is composed of two extremes–rather rough pavement and very squishy marshy mud. Despite this slight inconvenience, we have successfully used this spot many times, taking a right off the ramp and heading towards Shelter Cove and beyond.  It is another great option.

Kayaking out of Shelter Cove Marina Hilton Head Island

Exiting Shelter Cove Marina

Good to Know: No matter which launch spot you choose, make sure to check the tide direction and observe wind/weather conditions. These details can potentially make or break your trip. If you rent at Outside Hilton Head they will happily give you a rundown of this info, but if you’re striking out on your own, it’s good to have thought through this. You ideally want to do your hardest work (going against the tide or wind) at the beginning of your paddle and save the easier direction for your return.  Always bring water, a PFD, an emergency whistle and some snacks. I personally prefer to have a good hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen as well.:)

Where to Eat: When you’re done with your dolphin watching and paddling, you should definitely hit up a delicious Hilton Head restaurant. We love the Lucky Rooster for a nice dinner. Their food is creative, delicious, and locally sourced. The Hilton Head Social Bakery is a new favorite that happens to be in very close proximity to the Shelter Cove put-in (same shopping center). It is a French bakery with delicious pastries, breads, and savory items such as sandwiches and quiches.

IMG_2674

Hilton Head Social Bakery: Lemon Tart, Chocolate Almond Croissant, and Peach Mango Turnover

Keep looking for adventure far and nigh!