Here’s an award with pedal power: the League of American Bicyclists deemed Charleston a Bicycle Friendly Community a few years ago, and the city continues to improve conditions for cyclists of all levels. Like anywhere else, you need to be mindful of car traffic, but if you’ve got a bike in the city—particularly on the peninsula—you’ll likely save time and money (less parking woes and fewer garage tabs) by riding around town. Charleston’s flat, low landscape and warm weather are great for cycling; bike racks are popping up all over downtown, and the county park system, bike shops, local advocacy groups, and the city itself have all been getting more involved in adding new bike lanes and trails. Around Charleston, you can now bike to and from beaches, through the National Forest, over swing and tall bridges, past historic mansions and townhouses, and along old railways. Here are a few of the best places to take a ride.
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is just 2.7 miles long, but you’ll get an incredible above-the-water view of the harbor and the city while pedaling over it. This somewhat-new path across the Cooper River opened in 2005 with shared bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Take the ride, but be sure to watch out for the walkers and runners.
West Ashley Greenway
For an urban/suburban ride that highlights marsh views, try the West Ashley Greenway. On the path of a former rail line, it extends 10.5 miles from the Windermere Shopping Center to the Main Road on John’s Island. As you cycle, you’ll get up close views of community vegetable gardens, and you might even glimpse some local wildlife, too.
Francis Marion National Forest
Mountain biking in the no-mountain Lowcountry can be a blast on trails in this nearly 259,000-acre coastal forest north of Charleston. From the Buck Hall Recreation Area, to the Awendaw Creek segment of the Palmetto Trail, you can catch seven miles of pedaling through the woods, sometimes on boardwalks overlooking the salt creek.
Except for two or three primary streets, this three-mile-long island has low traffic roadways, perfect for pedaling between the beach houses, bars, and restaurants. Streets are numbered “stations,” a leftover from pre-car days when a trolley carried beach-goers to and from the shore. At the Charleston Harbor end of the island, you can climb on former military grounds of Fort Moultrie—also a great spot to watch for dolphins.
One-way streets can make things tricky in this 300+ year-old city, but the architecture and scenery is worth it. Sunday morning is the best time to avoid heavy car traffic downtown, so plan your ride accordingly. Neighborhoods around Wagener Terrace and The Citadel are fair game, and you can time your laps at Hampton Park, which is circled by a one-mile, historic horse-track oval.