5 Best Mountain Bike Rides in South Carolina

FATS mtb

Situated in the far southeastern corner of the U.S., South Carolina is a quaint and picturesque state that consistently draws thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year looking to tackle the region’s many thrilling off-road cycling trails. Ranging from wide meandering courses that are perfect for novice riders to expert-rated, steep and treacherous single tracks, South Carolina has an incredible variety of terrains that collectively make the state a favorite spot for mountain bikers of all abilities.

To give you a better idea regarding South Carolina’s many biking hotspots, below we have compiled some facts about five of the state’s most popular and well-ridden trails.

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1. Forks Area Trail System

Located in the town of Clarks Hill in the heart of the Sumter National Forest, the Forks Area Trail system (FATS) offers courses for intermediate to advanced riders seeking to perfect their skills in a beautiful natural setting.

The Forks Area Trail system boasts approximately 23 miles of fast, flowing single track with an abundance of thrilling jumps and other obstacles.  The minimal climbing on this course makes it a great track for intermediate riders, while its many switchbacks and rocky outcroppings are an expert rider’s dream.

A series of well-marked loops traversing through a thickly forested area provide great fun and amazing scenery featuring the local flora and fauna. Although the course is fairly hilly, riders will not find many grueling climbs, but the many jumps on the course ensure riders will get good air on most sections of the trail.  The trail system is open year round; however some portions of the course may be closed after heavy rains.

2. Horry County Bike Run Park

Nicknamed “the Hulk” by local riders, the Horry County Bike Run Park opened in 2012 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a tourist hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.   The seven-mile single track course commences with a grueling 30-foot climb that gives riders a gorgeous panoramic view of the cityscape and the glorious coastline below. From there riders will descend into an exciting rollercoaster-like track, one that features numerous tight switchbacks, brief hilly climbs, ditch digs, pronounced drop offs, field laps and downhill speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

The Horry County Bike Run Park gets its nickname (HULK) from its resemblance to the Universal Studios rollercoaster of the same name. While negotiating this popular course, riders are constantly changing elevations and directions, climbing up 12 steep hills and tackling more than a dozen exhilarating g-force drops.  The terrain on the course is also varied, ranging from hard-packed dirt to slippery soft sand, and the extended pump section ensures a great day of heart-pounding exercise for riders of all abilities.

3. Whippoorwill Trail

If break-neck speed and technically challenging single track is your idea of fun, grab your bike and head to South Carolina’s Whippoorwill Trail.  As the locals are sure to point out, certain sections of this course are some of the most advanced tracks in the region—a trail system bursting with obstacles and impediments, including rocky jumps, switchbacks, sand and loose gravel, collectively forcing riders to remain vigilant or risk the possibility of a potentially harmful spill.

The Whippoorwill Trail spans just over five miles and was recently adopted as part of the Southern Classic MTB series in 2014.  The course, which is located in the town of Pinewood, South Carolina, begins at the apex of a switchback situated high above the Splice Bridge. The trail can be accessed in one of two ways: either as a continuation of the Southern Classic racecourse or independently in a counter-clockwise direction.

The Whippoorwill Trail treats riders to a beautiful mix of fragrant pine and hardwood trees as it winds its way along a small spring-fed creek that runs underneath the Splice Bridge.  The various loops on the course, which are colorfully marked according to their level of difficulty, makes this trail system one of the most popular spots in South Carolina.

4. Jackson Bluff Trail System

Located in the city of Conway, South Carolina, the Jackson Bluff Trail System is an ideal locale for beginner to intermediate riders. The trails associated with this system are part of the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, and each of the courses end at the
Cox Ferry Recreation Area, a scenic park that includes covered picnic facilities, a kayak launch area, and acres of wonderful green space.

The Jackson Bluff Trail System consists of a unique mix of flowing single track, wide double track and a hard-packed fire road. The course’s single track trail, built with the assistance of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), is extremely technical in nature and thus demands riders’ utmost attention and care.  The double track and fire road sections of the course are spacious, fast and smooth, allowing riders to test their skills as they reach top speeds.

When ridden as a loop, the Jackson Bluff Trail System encompasses just over 6 miles of track, and the various courses, marked “Blue,” “Yellow,” “Orange,” and “Green” according to their level of difficulty, include a variety of different obstacles and impediments.

5. Stevens Creek Trail

Located in the town of Modoc just outside the city of Augusta, South Carolina, Stevens Creek Trail is a favorite among local riders of all skill levels.  Featuring a fast ridge and heaps of twisting and rapid single tracks, this 12-mile course offers hours of fun and excitement for the area’s mountain biking enthusiasts.

Stevens Creek Trail is an out and back course (when ridden as a loop) that offers riders a mix of precipitous hills, tight switchbacks, plenty of tributary crossings, and a series of abrupt, stomach-churning drop-offs to the creek.  On certain sections of the trail, riders are treated to rapid, flowing single track, punctuated by slower ravines that are fraught with obstacles.

As the name suggests, Stevens Creek Trail follows the creek of the same name through a beautiful hardwood forest of pine and aspen trees.  The course is especially beautiful in the late fall and early winter when the foliage displays a vibrant range of rich color.

image credit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/

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