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Nonprofits Seek To Buy Saluda Grade And Turn It Into A Rail Trail

Saluda Grade
Saluda Grade at Pearsons Gate

Imagine having a new rail trail similar to Swamp Rabbit Trail — this time the path extends from Upstate’s rolling countryside into the breathtaking mountain scenery of North Carolina? This may be happening in the near future as three non-profit groups seek to buy the right-of-way of the inactive Saluda Grade from Norfolk Southern and turn it into a 31-mile rail trail.

The trio of non-profit groups (Upstate Forever, PAL (Play, Advocate, Live Well), and Conserving Carolina) has made an offer for Norfolk Southern to buy the railroad between Inman, SC, and Zirconia, NC with about 15 miles in each state. The line was built in the 1870s and was operated by Southern and Norfolk Southern until 2001. When the line was active it was the steepest standard gauge, main line railroad in the country, averaging a 4.7% incline with a 5.1% grade.

The 31-mile rail trail would begin in Inman, SC, and pass through Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, Saluda before reaching Zirconia in North Carolina. Along its route, the trail would feature scenic views, vibrant small towns, historic landmarks, unique nature preserves, and beautiful lakes and waterfalls.

The groups say they envision the Saluda Grade as a multi-use path that will beckon people outdoors for walking, running, biking, adaptive mobility, and other compatible modes of recreation and travel.

Like the popular Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, the Saluda Grade Rail Trail would be a transformational economic engine that would boost local economies, enhance the quality of life for residents, and give more opportunities to spend time outdoors. The Saluda Grade Rail Trail would be a win-win situation for the communities.

The groups say “negotiations are ongoing” with Norfolk Southern. For more information about this project click here.

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