Imagine a new rail trail that will transform the quality of life for those in the Carolinas.

    From decades of dreaming of such a trail, PAL, along with Conserving Carolinas and Upstate Forever, are working towards a game-changing 31-mile trail that will provide access along the countryside of Upstate South Carolina to the breathtaking mountain views of Western North Carolina.

    This vision will turn the historic Saluda Grade Railroad into a place that welcomes runners, bikers, hikers, and dog walkers. 

    Improvement of Quality of Life 

    We are excited about the opportunity to provide an outlet for outdoor recreation and quality of life improvements to the people that live along the trail.

    Visitors who explore the trail will enjoy scenic views, lively downtowns, historic landmarks, and natural sites of majestic lakes and waterfalls along the 16 miles in South Carolina and 15 miles in North Carolina – a great partnership between the two states. 

    Revitalizing Local Economies 

    Quality of life is a critical driver for economic development, and PAL and our partners are pursuing the purchase of the Saluda Grade corridor from Norfolk Southern Railroad.

    Similar to the Virginia Creeper Trail, this legacy project is good for the local economies as it starts just north of Spartanburg, SC, in Inman and continues to Zirconia, North Carolina, just south of Hendersonville.

    Travelers will pass through Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, and Saluda as they make their way through the area.  

    Numerous case studies testify that rail trails have become economic drivers for local communities.

    The trails bring customers to local businesses, attract tourists, and appeal to companies looking to locate in areas with high quality of life.

    Recently published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, “While the cost associated with the Saluda Grade Trail is steep, the economic benefits from the trail will be a significant windfall for the communities along the route, according to an economic impact study conducted by Clemson University.

    The study predicts communities will see a direct economic benefit of $27-30 million per year with an anticipated 282-313 new jobs created by the trail, including initial construction, ongoing maintenance of the trail, new businesses and development, and expenditures at those businesses by patrons and visitors along the trail corridor.” In 2011, a national study found that every $1 invested in land conservation (including parkland) returned $4 in economic value. 

    The opportunity to strengthen local businesses, grow the local tax base, celebrate local history, and connect visitors with the natural world of this beautiful area is a win-win for all. 

    History of the Saluda Grade Railroad 

    Active from Independence Day 1878, the Saluda Grade Railroad was considered the steepest standard gauge mainline railroad ever built in the United States.

    It connected Asheville to Spartanburg and crossed the Blue Ridge Escarpment with a grade of 5% along its route.

    The tracks have an elevation of 606 feet in less than just 3 miles in the area between Melrose and Saluda, North Carolina. Currently operated by Norfolk Southern for the past 40 years, and the last train ran in 2001. 

    Conserving The Carolina’s Natural Beauty 

    The Saluda Grade project will transform the northern part of Spartanburg County and serve as a regional destination and want everyone, locals and visitors, to enjoy a relaxing walk to an unforgettable hike as they experience Carolina’s exquisite views.  

    The trail would also offer an unbroken corridor for wildlife. It would help connect protected natural areas like Lake Summit, the Greenville Watershed, Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve, the Green River Game Lands, Pearsons Falls, Melrose Falls, and Norman Wilder Forest.

    Abundant wildlife will enhance recreation by making the trail an excellent place for birding and enjoying nature.   

    Making Way for Future Connections 

    This project has the potential to connect to the growing Palmetto Trail, Hellbender Trail, The Daniel Morgan Trail System, and the Ecusta Trail.

    Through partnerships, creating the Saluda Grade Trail will provide endless possibilities for people of all ages and abilities to reach their favorite destinations by walking, running, or biking. 


    Now is Our Chance  

    This project is a community effort, and we need your help constructing this trail to make the area’s dream a reality.

    PAL and others see a window of opportunity with current federal trail funding, and we are excited about bringing the Saluda Grade Trail to our communities.

    Due to strong partnerships with One Spartanburg and the Spartanburg County delegation, the state budget includes a $5 million allocation toward acquiring the South Carolina corridor portion. 

    All of these benefits add up to significantly raise our quality of life. We’re creating communities where we can enjoy good health and economic opportunity.

    Our work will cultivate a pride of place and a sense of history.

    We’re deepening joy by finding more ways to connect with nature and each other.  

    Will you help create the Saluda Grade Trail?

    Our elected leaders need to know that there is overwhelming public support for this new rail trail Sign up for emails about the Saluda Grade Trail, and the PAL team will let you know how you can support the trail. 

    Follow this project and learn more about PAL’s initiatives and the upcoming 18th Annual United Community Bank Turkey Day 8K; visit