Thursday, June 4, 2020

Founders Trail

Founders Trail is not your typical walk in the woods. It starts in a quiet suburban subdivision, ends where a massively popular paved riverside greenway begins, and covers an interesting mix of terrains in between.

Founders Trail, a Carolina Thread Trail located in Tega Cay, SC, about 30 minutes from Uptown, is a 2.3-mile (one way) trail good for biking and hiking.

The northern trailhead is in a parking lot at the end of a residential neighborhood street in the Mason's Bend development. Look for the map kiosk to get started.

Take a short spur trail to an intersection where you'll take a left to follow Founders Trail. Taking a right will put you on the 1.9-mile out-and-back Mason's Bend Trail. You can also take a right to follow a short spur trail to a river overlook, which is worth an extra 5-10 minutes of your time for this outing.

The first mile or so, the trail is flat-to-gently-rolling, packed dirt/natural surface, and shady, winding through a high-canopy forest setting. You'll cross a long stretch of boardwalk and several foot bridges. It's worth noting that, following rain, this area becomes muddy, but remains passable.

About a half-mile in, you'll come to an I-77 underpass, which is a fun place to pause for a break by the river. The following stretch is quiet and peaceful, bordering the river with benches dotting the trailside.

When you come to the second highway underpass, take a left to follow the trail to a gravel/paved abandoned service road. This next half-mile runs by a powerline field and is mostly wide open with little shade.

When you reach the gate, take a left to follow the trail up to highway 21, where you'll hop on a sidewalk connector trail. This turn is not obvious; look carefully. Once you reach the road, you'll see Carolina Thread Trail blazes painted on the sidewalk.

Follow the sidewalk connector across the river to the Riverwalk greenway at the Pump House. We chose to skip this leg of the hike, opting to retrace our steps along the service road and back to the trailhead parking lot.

Note: It is possible to skip the service road section of the hike by taking a "social trail" just after the highway 21 underpass and jumping on the sidewalk connector trail over the bridge. This cuts off about a half-mile.

Founders Trail offers a bit of an unconventional hike, but that is part of its appeal. A bonus is being able to tack on Riverwalk or Mason's Bend at either end of the excursion. If you're looking to cover new and different ground, consider this outing.

How to get there:
The Founders Trail trailhead is located in a parking lot at the end of Weir Court in Tega Cay, SC, 29708. Start by the map kiosk.

You can start at the other end of the trail by parking at the Piedmont Medical Center Trail (Riverwalk) trailhead parking lot by the Pump House at 575 Herrons Ferry Rd., Rock Hill, SC 29730.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Wear something that you don't mind getting muddy if it's rained lately.
  • Bikes and helmets: A nice option if you'd prefer to ride.
  • Water: Bring plenty for before and after your hike; there are no facilities for refills.
  • Snacks: Enjoy a refueling break on a bench by the river.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The trail is only partially shaded.
  • Bug spray: Especially during summer months.

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