Francis Marion National Forest
The off-road bike trails at Francis Marion National Forest, like their counterparts in other coastal Carolina locations, offer two challenges. The first is distance. In this part of the South, you have to be interested in putting in some miles, because many of the bike trails don't offer the same level of technical challenge as those in the mountains. Riding on the Francis Marion, you will pedal miles of trail through deep woods, swamps and other remote wild places.
The other challenge is the one created by the beauty of the forest. There are some short, easy bike routes, but how are you going to keep your eye on the road with the multitude of birds to watch, ponds to explore and wildlife to look for?
The Swamp Fox National Recreation Trail, a hiking and biking trail, offers the challenge of distance. It is 27 miles long and takes about seven hours to ride. This moderately difficult trail is built over old rail lines, originally used to carry timber out of the forest. It runs along well-drained ridges and through drier pine forests before penetrating the dark, cypress swamp areas. There are sections of this hard-packed single-track that offer some technical challenge, but most of the trail is fairly straightforward.
The Swamp Fox Trail is now part of the cross-state Palmetto Trail. When completed, the Palmetto Trail will stretch through the Lowcountry, from near McClellanville to Oconee State Park in the Upcountry.
Wambaw Cycle Trail is a moderately strenuous mountain bike ride that is a favorite of serious cyclists. Since it is nearly 40 miles long, you might begin to think that you have crossed several time zones before you finally return, bedraggled, to your waiting vehicle. Technically challenging insections, the trail blasts straight through sand pits that will cause your rear wheel to fishtail if you have not geared down. See Wambaw Cycle Trail for a detailed description of the ride.
South Tibwin Plantation is a natural haven for hikers and mountain bikers, and offers the second kind of biking challenge. Go there to ride through hardwood bottomlands, pine uplands, and tidal marshes. Pedal around freshwater ponds and waterfowl impoundments. There are five miles of easy primitive roads. The best season for walking or riding at South Tibwin is fall, winter or spring.
No camping, fishing, hunting, or crabbing is allowed at this day use area, and it is restricted to hikers and mountain bikers.
An observant biker or walker might see common egrets, mottled ducks, red-shouldered hawks, river otter, painted buntings or Bald eagles. South Tibwin is near Hampton Plantation State Park and Wambaw Creek Wilderness Canoe Trail.
Directions: From the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center, take Highway 17 north toward McClellanville for 12.5 miles. Look for the opened iron pipe gates and the parking area and bulletin board on the right (east side of the highway).
Mountain biking is permitted on Tuxbury Horse Trail , a 14-mile trail along old railroad logging tram beds.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication