An Afternoon on the Rail Trail

An Afternoon on the Rail Trail

An Afternoon on the Rail Trail

Runners along the Rail Trail, courtesy Kavin Bradner.

Whether you’re breaking in new shoes, working out, getting some fresh air, or taking your four-legged friend for a walk, the Mary Black Rail Trail is the place for you.

The Rail Trail, a two-mile trail just south of Downtown Spartanburg, is  Spartanburg’s most-used outdoor amenity, giving residents and visitors alike the chance to enjoy the outdoors and get to know Spartanburg a little better.

“One of the great qualities of the MBF Rail Trail is that it is used by so many people and truly builds a connected community. You see casual walkers, intense runners, skateboarders, BCycles, families, retirees, a variety of ethnic groups,” said Laura Ringo, Executive Director of PAL: Play. Advocate. Live Well! (formerly Partners for Active Living).

The Rail Yard

Entrance to The Rail Yard

The Rail Yard features an exercise and yoga pad, and a pavilion shaped like a trolley, yet another connection to Spartanburg’s railway-heavy lineage. There’s also a water station for people and pets, a misting station to beat the heat, and a picnic spot for outdoor breakfasts or lunches.

Situated just off Forest Avenue, the Rail Yard has taken off in popularity because of the unique fitness stations and natural offerings it features, not to mention an area dedicated to a certain NFL team…

The Carolina Panthers Play 60 Park

The 40-yard dash at the Panthers Play 60 Park

The Panthers-themed park features a playground with elements of an NFL Combine workout to promote youth activity through the league’s Play 60 initiative. While the course – with a 40-yard dash area and other obstacles – is perfect for kids, its open to all ages, so make sure to test your 40-yard dash time the next time you’re there. (Take it from me, your dash time won’t come close to an NFL star’s.)

Photo courtesy of the City of Spartanburg

The Hub City Hopper 

The newest portion of the trail, the Hub City Hopper, connects the Rail Trail to the heart of Downtown Spartanburg.

An initiative by local organization Play. Advocate. Live Well!, the downtown trail extension was named the #6 Best New Bike Lane in the U.S. in early 2023 for connecting the popular trail to Spartanburg’s center, and for the concrete barrier protecting cyclists, runners, and walkers from vehicular traffic in the city.

Bike Park at the Rail Trail

Cyclists on the rolling hills of The Vic Bailey Subaru Bike Park, courtesy Kavin Bradner.

The Vic Bailey Subaru Bike Park, just behind Flock Shop (more on Flock Shop below), is usually humming with cyclists as they tackle the parks’ wood-banked turns, jumps and its somewhat-daunting elevated half-log trail. The Bike Park allows riders of all skill levels to cruise through the trees or soar through the air before taking a break in the Rest Garden and watching the other riders.

If you’re looking for a more consistent pace of action, drop into the pump track or Straight Rhythm to test your skills.

Chances are, if you’re on the Rail Trail, you’ll see someone taking advantage of a BCycle – rentable bikes that are available throughout Downtown Spartanburg. Spartanburg’s fleet of BCycles can be rented on the BCycle app for use exploring the City or taking to the Rail Trail.

The Rail Tail Dog Park

The Rail Tail Dog Park sits just across from the main entrance to Duncan Park, and is the perfect place for your four-legged friends to get the rest of their energy out after a walk on the trail. The park is open during daylight hours and has on-site waste containers so you can take care of your dog’s business.

The Hot Spot Skate Park

The Skate Park, just removed from the Rail Trail, has become a popular place for skateboarders to test their talents since it opened in 2009. The skate park was the first public concrete state park in South Carolina. It features street-style staples like steps, rails, ramps and ledges, and more advanced features like a flow course, a half-pipe, and an eight-foot vertical ramp leading to a pyramid.

On the Trail

Flock Shop’s chicken tenders

Spartanburg’s hub for hot chicken and cold beer, Flock Shop, opened along the Rail Trail in 2019. The menu is guaranteed to have your favorite piece of fried chicken, along with chicken tenders and chicken sandwiches. The classic “Freebird” sandwich is served just with pickles, and the Coop de Ville takes it up a notch with a pepper relish, slaw and lemon aioli. Flock Shop’s sides and sauces are all barbecue-inspired, featuring grits, hushpuppies, collard greens, pimento mac and cheese and more. And for the spice-averse, don’t worry, everything at Flock Shop comes with varying levels of heat, from “No Heat” to “Flockin’ Hot.”

New signage overlooking the site of The Fretwell

When you’re on the Rail Trail, don’t be surprised when the pleasant aroma of coffee fills your nose as you approach the Fretwell, the newest project along the trail, opened in May 2022.

Redeveloped by a group of Spartanburg entrepreneurs, this former industrial area and cotton gin site is capitalizing on growth along the Rail Trail, inspired by popular trailside developments across the Southeast. Fretwell is home to a mixed-use gathering space featuring Little River’s headquarters and roasting facility, and a concessions trailer inside a permanent food truck selling sandwiches, specialty drinks, beer and wine, and snacks. The Fretwell is also home to a stage overlooking the trail and a large grassy area for games, activities and more for the whole family.

While you’re out on the trail, stop by and explore Vintage Warehouse to find unique and hard to find décor. Just across from the Rail Yard is Motivus Crossfit, home to some of the best-conditioned athletes in Spartanburg.

If you’re going to venture out to the Rail Trail, make sure you’re comfortable. Good sneakers and weather-appropriate attire are a must. We probably don’t have to tell you, but summer is vastly different than winter or spring in South Carolina, so make sure you know if it’s shorts-and-t-shirt weather or if you’ll need to bundle up a little more.

Now that you’ve gotten the low down on the Rail Trail’s history, what’s available now and what’s coming in the future, what are you waiting for? Get outside!



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