When we think of Charleston, we think of history, of natural beauty and year-round sunshine. We think of great shops and neat places to discover. We think of incredible food and drink and very friendly people. Well, check the air in your bike tires because with a little planning, you can experience all of that on two wheels.
1. Up and over: As a tourist or a local, you've got to love the Ravenel Bridge, the third-longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The shared bike/pedestrian lane was the result of an intense grassroots effort by local groups, including a nearby fifth-grade class. That's as cool as the awe-inspiring views from the bridge itself. What are you waiting for?
2. Green rails: The West Ashley Greenway, like many paths around the country, is largely built upon what were former rail trails. This trail is very popular with the locals and on the grow, with plans underway to refurbish parts of it. Currently, it rolls on for over 8 miles. It is part of the City of Charleston's park system. Get rollin'!
3. Yes, James: The 5 miles of trails within the James Island County Park allow you to "pedal by the fishing pier where fiddler crabs scuttle alongside the path, stop off for a turn at the climbing wall, enjoy refreshing breezes around the lake, or take a leisurely ride beneath stately oaks." Take your time. Your trek can simply be a part of a day well spent.
4. Go parkin' in Mount Pleasant: The Palmetto Islands County park boasts trails that take you "through dense foliage and tidal marsh, enticing nature lovers with a wide variety of local flora and fauna. Herons and egrets stalk through wetlands bordering the trails, while sweetgum, cedar, magnolia and palmetto trees arch overhead." Consider taking in the views from the 50-foot observation tower along the way. Oh yeah!
5. Logging the miles at Swamp Fox Passage: Imagine 47.2 miles of old, unpaved logging rail beds that "[take] cyclists on a flat journey through swamps and coastal pine forest, just like Revolutionary War General Francis Marion did. You'll likely encounter deer, waterfowl, songbirds and other wildlife in these wooded wetlands." You'll feel a little like the Swamp Fox after whom the trail was named! And that's a good thing in this case.
6. Simply historic: Biking this casual 2-mile trail that loops around Charles Towne Landing offers a great excuse to visit the site of the first permanent English settlement in Carolina. Hop off the bike and "step aboard and tour the Adventure, Charleston's only 17th-century replica sailing ship, see cannons fired, or take a peek at otters, bears, bison and more at the Animal Forest natural habitat zoo." You won't regret it.
7. Go 'round Flowertown: Part rural and part urban, this 7-mile trail runs along the Sawmill Branch Canal. Plan to end your trip on the downtown Summerville side of the path. There you will find neat shops, parks and culinary delights. Better still, start and end at the Summerville YMCA downtown. You can handle the back and forth, I'm sure!
8. Island biking: Although Kiawah Island is a gated community, you will be able to enjoy its more than 30 miles of bike paths. It's certainly worth the beautiful 21-mile drive south of Charleston to lose yourself in the astonishing natural beauty of this barrier island. Leave yourself plenty of time to soak in all the flora and fauna. Plan most of the day for this journey!
9. Wanna try?: The Wannamaker North Trail runs within the north portion of Wannamaker County Park, accessible from Goose Creek. The 13-mile trail is designed for and open to mountain bicyclists of all experience levels. It was the result of 1500 hours of donated time by local volunteers looking to build "the ultimate mountain bike trail experience." Judge for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
10. BYOB: Build Your Own Bike trail and no, leave the beer for later. Find the back roads of Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms. Hop on a beach-friendly bike and hit the sand on Folly. Visit the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel for a short jaunt worthy of your time in a place worthy of your visit. Get the skinny on riding through the local plantations. You get the idea. The options are endless. Just research a little. It'll be worth it.
One last reminder: be safe. Everyone, young and old, needs to be wearing a helmet at ALL times. Obey the guidelines. Wear the sunscreen. The biking promises to be exquisite. Returning home safely is a must.