Pleasant Ridge Park and Ice Cream!

Pleasant Ridge Park and Ice Cream!

If you are looking for a place to hike, ride your mountain bike, take the kids fishing, host a group function, or photograph waterfalls, Pleasant Ridge Park  is the place to go in Greenville County, SC!

On a recent Saturday my wife was hosting a bridal shower at our house so it was the perfect time for me to venture out to a park I had not visited in over ten years.

From the entrance of Pleasant Ridge Park (4232 Hwy 11, Marietta, SC 29661) I took the first parking lot on the right.  Immediately I realized I was probably the ONLY person not packing a mountain bike!

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There are trails for both hikers and bikers including a 6 mile loop named the JFA trail (dedicated to Jorge Francisco Arango, an avid mountain biker and dog lover).  It is directional and rotates monthly to provide variety as well as protect the trail.  Hikers and bikers travel in opposite directions which I found to be extremely helpful as a hiker.  This parking lot also included a large, older shelter (a dozen picnic tables under cover) as well as restroom facilities.

I chose to take the Leroy Smith Nature Trail on this day.  It appealed to me in that it was only 0.58 miles and fairly easy after one steep climb.  This trail is a nod to the history of the park.  Originally built in the days of segregation and as part of the State Park system, it was the first Upcountry park for African-Americans.  Leroy Smith served expertly as superintendent from 1951 until his death in 1979.  In 1985, the State decided to focus on nearby Jones Gap State Park and offered Pleasant Ridge to Greenville County Recreation.

The entire time on the Leroy Smith Nature Trail, I was the ONLY hiker (including probably 20 minutes spent at the waterfalls).  I eventually met 4-5 bikers but I could easily step to the side and let them pass.  For this trail, start from the back of the parking lot and go to the left.  Almost immediately you are walking above a small creek and within just a few minutes you reach Pleasant Ridge Falls.  It was a fantastic spot to stop, with benches to sit on to enjoy the soulful sound of the waterfall.  Since I was the only one there, I could also take my time setting up a tripod and trying different photo tricks and recording video.

 

When I left there and continued on the trail, I quickly came to the “Old Moonshine Still”.  It’s just a small trickle that seems to go underground and reappear on the other side of the trail.  That’s when I remembered being here about twelve years before.  Back then we had hiked from the opposite direction and this was the first “waterfall” we encountered.  At that time, it was no more of a trickle than that of a troublesome bathroom faucet dripping and we thought we had been ripped off (until we came upon the ‘real’ falls).  At this spot I could either climb to the left or the right.  Since I hadn’t broken a sweat, I decided I would do both.

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 First, I went left up a short spur (0.03 miles) they call the Leroy Smith Lake Trail.  It had several steps to help with the climb and it brought me out on the dam of the fishing lake located in the park.  There was also a small children’s playground.  This lake is also accessible from the road and has its own parking lot.

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I went back the way I had come to the Moonshine Still and went up the other way.  Another steep climb but very short.  It’s important to note that this is NOT a trail to do with a stroller.  Once I climbed that short hill it was pretty much downhill all the way to the parking lot.

When I was back at my car I drove the rest of the roads in the park and discovered an entrance into the Pleasant Ridge Camp & Retreat Center.  It has several modern buildings that can be rented for retreats, weddings, reunions, and other events.  It is also home to Camp Spearhead and Camp Courage which provide camp experiences for youth and adults with special needs and disabilities and for youth with cancer or blood disorders respectively.  The facilities are beautiful and include lodging, dining, and meeting space as well as a ropes course.

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My advice after a day hiking or biking is to treat yourself.  Just a couple miles from Pleasant Ridge Park, at the intersection of Hwy 276 and Hwy 11 is Marci Jo’s Olde Mountain Store (4000 Geer Hwy, Cleveland SC 29635).   It’s a great stop for hand scooped ice cream, cool drinks, hot dogs, and BBQ.  It’s worth the stop just to see all the furnishings that have been crafted out of old palettes, doors, and windows; there are some items for sell as well.  But be warned, Marci Jo is one good cook!  She’s always got a variety of cupcakes and other sweets available; my recommendation is the miniature pecan pies if there are any left!

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To find Pleasant Ridge Park from Greenville, travel through Travelers Rest and Marietta on Hwy 276.  Turn right on Hwy 11 (at Marci Jo’s) and go 2-3 miles.  It will be on your left.  If you reach Cliffs at Mountain Park you’ve gone too far (but enjoy their man-made waterfall at the subdivision entrance as you turn around!).

Happy Wanderings!

Dave is a native Texan but has lived with his family in South Carolina since 1998, both in the Low Country and now the Upstate.  He grew up receiving photo compliments like “that must be a good camera you have” which is like telling a writer “that’s a good pen you have”.  Lately he realizes it’s as much what you see and feel on the journey as it is what you capture.  He caught the Instagram bug a couple years ago and loves to shoot images mostly using his iPhone. He recently founded instagram/@Discover_Carolinas on Instagram to highlight the beauty found across NC and SC using the work of amateur and professional photographers.

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