Spanish Moss Trail Part 2
Northbound from Robert Smalls Parkway to Clarendon Rd.
The Spanish Moss Trail is an expanding rails-to-trail greenway running from Clarendon Road in northern Beaufort County to Port Royal along the historic Magnolia Line Railroad, which once connected Yemassee to Port Royal. This was an active railroad line from 1870-2003. This 10-mile greenway has become a must-experience activity for locals and tourists alike. The 12-foot-wide paved trail is a great space for walking, running, biking, skating, scooting, strolling or even fishing. The trail is handicap accessible, and parking lots are provided.
The Spanish Moss Trail offers spectacular views of Lowcountry marshes, waterways, coastal wildlife and historic points of interest. Points of interest are well marked along the trail. Pets on a leash are welcome on the trail.
Heading west, from Robert Smalls Parkway passes along Pick Pocket Plantation. A historic marker tells the history of this mid-19th century plantation with the funny name. According to the marker, little is known of the original owners, or how it got its name. The property changed hands many times before George W. Trask bought the farmhouse and its 214 acres. From this location, Trask and his sons ran the most prosperous truck farming businesses in Beaufort County. The property stayed in the Trask family until 2006. The house and 15 acres of the property sold to John H. Keith. He restored the dilapidated farmhouse and moved eight other historic buildings to the site.
The trail travels along Highway 21 for a while. Lowcountry natives like this stretch because it includes a hill. The trail dips beneath a driveway and under a tunnel. Hills are a rarity in this part of the state. Biking down a hill is a real treat!
The trail pulls away from the highway and over a trestle that has lovely views of Albergotti Creek.
The Roseida Road Trailhead is next. It has ample parking spaces and a trail map. Handicap spots are available. There is also a Parker’s Gas Station at this access point that has public bathrooms. The trail next heads over a wetland area and accessed by a beautiful boardwalk. This leads directly in front of the Marine Corps Air Station entrance. Cross at the light and head further up the trail.
This area was also the site for the Battle of Port Royal Island. This battle was one of 250 military engagements fought in South Carolina. Under the direction of General William Moultrie, 300 SC militiamen defeated the British in this area in 1779. This American success gave a needed boost to our troops after the fall of Savannah the previous year. On a side note – two signers of the Declaration of Independence fought in this battle: Captain Edward Rutledge and Captain Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Another historic site located along this path is Beaufort’s famous Hwy 21 Drive-in. This family fun attraction has been around since 1978. It closed briefly from 2003-2004, then reopened with much fanfare. It now has two screens and is one of only three drive-ins in South Carolina. The 80-ft tall screens have a digital format and show movies year-round. This is an attraction enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
As you travel further along the trail the pavement ends and a dirt and gravel section begins. This will be paved in the future. Pavement begins again as you near the Clarendon Road access point. This is the spot of Clarendon Plantation. In 1928 H.W. Corning bought 5,000 acres overlooking the Whale Branch River which he called Clarendon Plantation. This estate contains the remains of SC governor Paul Hamilton, who also served as Secretary of State during the War of 1812. Due to its proximity to the Magnolia Line Railroad, the property has been used as a sawmill, turpentine production, timber, cattle ranching, quail hunting, hay and other crops. It has also seen its share of fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities.
The Clarendon trailhead is the end of the journey – for now. It has a great parking area and for anyone wishing to complete the entire trail in one day, it’s a great place to park and start. The plans call for additional pathway to be added that will lead through and end at the river. The master plan map also shows additional path at the opposite end leading into Port Royal, and a path into downtown Beaufort.
These additions will be a great asset for what is already a wonderful Beaufort attraction. Plan on spending at least two hours to bike the northern side of the Spanish Moss Trail. Give yourself more time if you’re walking. Be sure to pack supplies for your journey. Make sure to stop along the way to read historic markers and enjoy views from the trestles. If you get tired just take a break on one of the many benches provided. Stay tuned for a future post on additions to the trail.
For more information on Beaufort attractions visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/. Other Lowcountry nature trails and wildlife preserves can be found at https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/wildlife-preserves-and-nature-trails/ .