See the Secret Side of the Grand Strand on Area Hiking/Biking Trails

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The Myrtle Beach area is filled with neon-lit attractions that aren't very hard to find. But the best-kept secrets are a bit more tucked away, where you can only go by foot or bike.

Although well-disguised by all the restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, the Grand Strand is home to some of the most scenic natural landscapes that have been set aside for those who prefer life on the quiet side. Through maritime and hardwood forests and Lowcountry woodlands and wetlands, Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas have several trails that are hiding and waiting for hikers and bikers to discover.

From the sand hills on the North Strand to the swamps of the South Strand and even the unique Carolina bays farther inland, outdoors-minded locals and visitors can get up close and personal with nature and the native wildlife on the various hiking and biking trails. Here's a list of five that are easy to miss, but ones you don't want to miss:

* East Coast Greenway: Myrtle Beach has added a section to the famous trail that runs down the East Coast from Canada to Key West. Although the 3,000-mile trail is still under construction at various points, the Myrtle Beach section crosses Highway 31 at Grissom Parkway and becomes the scenic Perron Trail, a 2-mile paved walkway with informational signs about native flora and fauna and benches for taking breaks.

* “The Hulk”: Officially known as the Horry County Bike and Run Park, “The Hulk” is a more accurate description of this brutal single-track mountain bike trail. Located across the Intracoastal Waterway from Myrtle Beach, just off River Oaks Drive in the Carolina Forest section of town, the Hulk starts with a 30-foot hill climb and a zipline through dirt pathways. Not recommended for hikers without a death wish or bikers who are weak at heart, The Hulk gives residents and visitors the rare opportunity to escape to a natural setting and climb steep terrain that is uncommon on the East Coast.

* Huntington Beach State Park: This scenic trail stretches 26 miles from Murrells Inlet to Litchfield Beach and covers some of the most beautiful beaches and marshlands in the Lowcountry. Hikers and bikers can see the oceanfront Atalaya Castle as they stroll/pedal through maritime forests and coastal swamps. Make a day of it and stop for lunch at the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk, which is just off the beaten path.

* North Myrtle Beach Sports and Recreation Park: This brand new 350-acre complex features ball fields, picnic shelters and picnic facilities that may overshadow some of its more hidden assets, such as three short but sweet trails for hiking and biking. Located around a 25-acre lake, one of the many natural bays that are unique to the Carolina coast, and a 10-acre meadow, these trails are perfect for exercising and sightseeing. The Carolina Bay Trail (.6 mi), the Meadow Trail (.56 mi), and the Lake Side Trail (.49 mi) are quick and easy but feature lots of wildlife and scenery.

* Ocean Forest Trail: Ocean Boulevard in the Myrtle Beach city limits features sidewalks and bike trails from end to end, but a half-mile stretch along the Ocean Forest section of town (from approximately 53rd to 60th Avenues North) features a unique hiking and biking trail complete with exercise equipment and oceanfront picnic shelters with playground equipment for the kids. Ten different workout stations allow walkers to mix up their routine and sneak in some extra exercise in a beachside setting.

(posted 9/5/14)
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