Pick Your Pleasure at Croft State Park

Among the several eye-catching state parks in the Upstate, it’s possible that Croft State Park in Spartanburg County is the one where visitors could have the most fun. That’s because Croft is unique among parks for the number of uses it supports. Hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders traverse Croft’s multi-use trails every day. In addition to more than 40 miles of trails, the park houses the 165-acre Lake Tom Moore Craig, which is used for kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and bird watching.

“We cater to just about every group out there,” says John Moon, park manager. More than half of his 17 years with the SC State Parks have been spent at Croft.

The park gets about 100,000 visitors per year, Moon says, and managing a site with so many different uses means maintaining an important balance. “You certainly have to work within those challenges. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to balance, but I’ll say it’s fun. It does pose challenges, but it’s good to work through those.”

Croft was once not as well-known as other parks, but that has changed in recent years. Moon says part of the increased popularity is due to a growing community of trail runners, which promotes the park to a whole new user group. In response, the park has created accommodations such as a half marathon trail that’s completely marked for training.

“I think at one time it was more of a sleepy little park, but I do believe that trend has taken a turn because our numbers are starting to grow,” Moon says. “I remember the days going into to town and shopping for supplies for the park and people asked me where it was located. Now it’s more like, ‘Are you at Camp Croft?’”

The park’s diverse terrain is a great contributor to why it can support so many uses. With several rolling hills, hikers and others can get a bit of a mountain feel on the trail. There are also several flat areas, reminiscent of the Piedmont or Low Country. The lake allows for all manner of water sports, and its flat waters make it an easy entrée for beginning kayakers.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of bird activity, and we also have bald eagles nesting on Lake Craig. You can get out in a kayak early evening and sneak up on them,” Moon says.

Spring is officially here, and there’s one spot in the park that’s perfect to visit this time of year before it gets very busy. Moon suggests newcomers or people short on time see his favorite spot: hit the Palmetto Trail and head down to Fairforest Creek at the Advance America Bridge. It’s a ten-minute walk from the parking lot, and it can be a place of solitude during a mid-week visit.  “These places are tonic for the soul, and it’s good to drop the computer, drop the cell phone, and just kind of disconnect,” he says.

Upcoming events include the “Hop into Croft Easter Weekend” on March 26, a kid-friendly event that includes featuring an Easter egg hunt.  Horse shows occur every third Saturday. Visitors should check the website for events that are arranged on shorter notice, such as workshops for creating a campfire or putting together perfect s’mores.

Photos courtesy of the Croft State Park.

Jennifer Oladipo is a writer in Greenville whose work appears in local and national publications.