Palmetto Trail / Peak to Prosperity Passage

Palmetto Trail: Bridge over Broad River by Alston Trailhead

As a traveler in the American Southeast, I’d been eying South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail for a while. 

And when I saw Peak to Prosperity Passage, with its old train trestles and tree tunnels, I knew I’d found the one. 

Trestle & tree tunnel, Palmetto Trail

Something about trains speaks to me of journeys through time and place … quests for meaning … travel to new places. For reasons based purely on imagination, I’ve wanted a long walk along old train tracks for years and just never found the right place.

I’d been gearing up for a little while. A birthday seemed like a great time to walk out alone and take stock of life. See where I am, where I’m going.

So I’ve been getting ready. Looking at camping and trail equipment. (Is my husband’s Big Agnes tent okay, or do I want to try a me-sized ultra-light, like Gossamer?)

Walking more, building up my endurance, when I can fit it in. Working through The Way of Abundance as I walk my walks and walk my life. There’s been a lot of both to use since I (re)took on daily care of my elderly mother-in-law with bad mobility.

Then reality hit: weather in the 90s (around 34C). A 25-degree shift in the course of a week.** To some people, that’s nothing. But to someone who’s dying when it gets over about 75F (24C), that’s a miserable hike.

Then I remembered: This isn’t a hike. This is Pilgrimage. And pilgrimage means hostels and inns after a long day of walking! ;)

(Hey … if Gollum can have a Ring of Power for his “birthday present,” surely I can have a shower for mine.)

Description of the Palmetto Trail / Peak to Prosperity Passage

Broad River near Alston Trailhead

The Palmetto Trail, like me, is a work in progress. Right now, it’s a 350-mile series of sections (planned 500) intended to eventually stretch from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Intracoastal Waterway near the Atlantic coast. Basically, across the state of South Carolina—a state filled with history spanning back to before the American colonies. Available passages range in length from 1.3 miles up to 47 miles.

Peak to Prosperity Passage is a 10.8-mile passage that’s mostly level terrain. There are a few places where the bigger riprap gravel sticks up, but most of the pathway has fine, packed-down gravel and sand that makes for a pretty nice walk.

This is a really pretty, mostly quiet path stretching from Alston Trailhead up past Pomaria Trailhead to Prosperity. There are 20 trestles crossing the Broad River and various streams. Several of the streams look like great places to wade—another reason this could be a great hike for families with younger kids.

Creek near one of the campgrounds

Things to Know

  • Most of the trail, especially between Alston and Pomaria, is generously shaded. Even with weather in the 90s, this part was a comfortable walk (and I hate heat).
  • The Alston Trailhead is the only one clearly marked at its turn-off from Hwy 213 down a gravel road. (If you need an address to get you close for GPS, the Peak Post Office right across the river will get you in the right neighborhood.)
  • gives basic directions for the 3 trailheads, but just so you know what you’re looking for: Hope Station is a little blip along the roadway you can blink and miss. It’s the smallest trailhead. Both Peak Road/33 and 176 connect to Hope Station Rd, which is also the street St John’s Lutheran Church is on (and there is a sign for St John’s).
  • For Pomaria, the parking lot is a generously-sized gravel lot off a tiny side road (Angela St) next to Wilson’s grocery, which is also a gas station. The trail is on both sides of Hwy 176. On Wilson’s side, you head toward Hope Station. On the other side, toward Prosperity.
  • Based on the trail map, there should also be parking available at Prosperity, but I don't have any details on that. I never got farther than the car on the pole. (If you go, you'll know what I'm talking about). Kibler's Bridge Road appears to be the lucky street for it.
  • Small groups of primitive campsites are available at a few different spots right along the trail, mostly next to creeks. There are picnic tables and fire pits. The campsites at Alston have a sandy base.
  • If you prefer a hotel to camping, it’s easy to find one in Columbia or Newberry, about 30 minutes away.
  • The trail is suitable for walking, running, or mountain biking.
  • It's not a loop, so unless you make pick-up arrangements in advance, you'll need to cover the distance twice (up and then back).

Also Nearby

  • St John’s Lutheran Church: This one is almost right next to the Palmetto Trail but not close enough to see from the trail (I tried).
  • Historic Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Irmo. Originally built in 1788 by German Lutherans with land grants from England, it has since been relocated and reconstructed a few times. Nothing fancy, just a little local color.
Historic Bethlehem Church near Palmetto Trail

Inspiration for the journey ...

Pilgrimage destinations are all around. They aren’t a thing of the past & don’t belong to any one faith. There's one for you—sacred, historic or meaningful.

Picpus Cemetery is the resting place for 1,306 people executed during the Great Terror of 1794. It most famously houses the remains of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American & French Revolutions.