The Palmetto State is Getting a Bike Park with Shuttle Service

A mountain bike park is being built in South Carolina that promises trails and features for everyone from new riders to pros.

Bike parks continue to pop up in the southeast portion of the United States. Unlike the chair lift-access bike parks we see all over the western portion of the nation, these parks offer shuttles, pedal-up, or both. In 2020, Ride Kanuga opened just outside of Hendersonville, North Carolina, then in 2022 Jarrod’s Place popped up in northwest Georgia and Ride BHM debuted in Alabama.

Many of these parks have the unique distinction of being operational year-round and took inspiration from Windrock Bike Park, which Sean Leader, a recent guest on the Singletracks Podcast, founded. Leader now has a company, Southern Gravity, that builds bike park shuttle vehicles and trailers.

2024 will see a new shuttle-access bike park, this time in South Carolina, located between Charlotte and Columbia. And, coincidentally, Leader will be involved in a way. “Southern Gravity will be making our shuttle vehicles,” Jason Murphy, a development partner of Rattlesnake Bike Park, told us.

Rattlesnake Bike Park plans to be operational by the fall of this year. We contacted Murphy to learn the story behind Rattlesnake and how the bike park hopes to provide a different style of mountain biking to the area.

Getting started

Many things have changed since Murphy started riding mountain bikes during his college days in the late 80s. While he loved the sport, mountain biking represented a pastime for Murphy, not something he fully dove into. That was until Murphy moved to North Carolina and went to check out the trails at the Whitewater Center.

“I hadn’t had a new bike since 1995,” Murphy told us. “So I went out, picked up a new bike, started riding, and really enjoyed it.” However, the trails at the Whitewater Center were primarily cross-country focused. 

In fact, Murphy found that many of the trails in the area surrounding Charlotte leaned toward XC. And while he was settling in nicely and rediscovering a love for mountain biking on his local pedal-friendly trails, he was also hearing about bike parks popping up. Unlike the trails at the Whitewater Center, which one could argue has many “bike park” qualities, these bike parks were downhill-focused.

“The company I work with does some outdoor recreation stuff,” Murphy said. I started reading about a couple of the shuttle-service bike parks—Howler, Jarrod’s Place, and Rock Creek—all fantastic places.”

Reading turned to riding and Murphy fell in love with the gravity-oriented side of mountain biking. These experiences planted the seeds, and Murphy wondered why there wasn’t something like this in the Charlotte area. 

As he continued to consider a shuttle-access bike park in his area, Murphy began to consider the “where” aspect. Fortunately, there was land not too far from Charlotte that he felt had the potential. So, he pitched the idea to business partners, and in 2022, Rattlesnake Bike Park officially purchased some acreage.

“We had found land and were thinking of what we could use it for in the outdoor recreation space. I had visited a few of these [bike parks] and had the time of my life, and thought, ‘we could do this,’” Murphy said. 

Shortly after the purchase, Murphy began looking for trail builders and found Peter Mills and his company, Elevated Trail Design. If the name “Elevated Trail Design” sounds familiar, it is because it is, as they have worked on many projects throughout North Carolina and other states. Perhaps most noticeable was their work at Berm Park, the brainchild of mountain bike YouTuber Seth Alvo.

“We linked up with [Mills] and his crew at Elevated Trail Design,” Murphy explained. “I can’t say enough good things about them. Once we got them on board, it just crystalized real fast.” Elevated Trail Design is building all of the trails at Rattlesnake Bike Park, working with the land’s natural features to provide a good mix of hand- and machine-built trails. 

Trails won’t be the only thing at Rattlesnake Bike Park, as the park will offer other amenities. Murphy described the park as “upside down.” Unlike other bike parks, the amenities and different offerings won’t be the first thing you encounter after the parking lot. Instead, they will be at the top.

“We’ve got a spectacular view from the top, being that it is one of the highest points in the county,” Murphy told us. There is a 25-mile view from the top.” Rattlesnake plans to have a permanent food truck at the top of its land, along with beer, wine, and seltzer service. There are plans for a bike shop with an observation deck on top, providing a place to have lunch or grab a between-laps beer. If the deck is crowded, firepits and additional seating will also be available—ground level, of course.

Halfway up the mountain will be several camping sites, both for tents and small RVs or vans. Many campsites will have trails running nearby. For now, Murphy has 20 tent spots and 10 RV spots planned. However, plans are subject to change, and there could be more or fewer spots depending on the need. 

The amenities at the top of Rattlesnake Bike Park aren’t only open to mountain bikers. “We’re going to have a non-rider van. So if mom and dad bring the kids and the kids want to ride, but the parents just want to hang out, they can get a non-rider pass,” Murphy explained. 

If all goes according to plan, Rattlesnake Bike Park hopes to open within the last two weeks of October 2024. This opening date applies to not only the trails but also the food cart, campsites, and all other amenities Rattlesnake will offer. Murphy has his fingers crossed that the weather, equipment, and building plans all cooperate. 

The trails at Rattlesnake bike park

Mountain biking is alive and well in places like Charlotte and Columbia. However, there is an absence of downhill-specific trails. Yes, you can find some decent descending when you get into the mountains, but shuttle-access bike parks are few and far between. Rattlesnake Bike Park brings park access within an hour’s drive of the metropolitan areas.

From the beginning, Murphy and the Rattlesnake team have wanted to create trails encouraging appropriate progression, working with Elevate Trail Design for an entire year before ever breaking ground. 

“We’ve got enough variety that somebody on their first day on a mountain bike, to somebody who is training for professional races is going to have [a trail] they really enjoy out here,” Murphy said.

Rattlesnake Bike Park won’t have inconsistent, drastic leaps from trail to trail as far as progression goes, but appropriate steps up. “If you are a solid, intermediate rider, you should be able to challenge yourself with the easiest black diamond we have without fearing for your life,” Murphy explained.

Fourteen trails will be running on opening day, with ten more already planned on the 275 acres Rattlesnake Bike Park owns. The trails will vary in difficulty and cater to different riding styles, with machine-built flow and hand-built tech. About half of Rattlesnake’s acreage will be in use, with plenty more room for future trails.

Depending on where they plan to funnel the trails for the shuttle pick-up, Murphy anticipates a bit more than 350 feet of descending. They are anticipating a bottom-to-top shuttle time of around four minutes. With the longest trail being about three-quarters of a mile, shuttle waits should be minimal, if at all.

Bringing life back to a community

Interstate 77 connects Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. Rattlesnake Bike Park is about a mile off the interstate in Fairfield County, a rural area between the two major cities. 

“Fairfield County used to have thriving mill towns,” Murphy told us. “As with a lot of places in the country, those mills went out of business or relocated. It caused real economic strain on the area.”

Rattlesnake Bike Park has the potential to help the surrounding communities. Murphy feels that coming to the area could boost hotels, gas stations, local stores, and restaurants. It may be a different industry than the area is used to, but it would be an economic boost nonetheless. 

“It’s a beautiful part of the country, and there are great people there,” Murphy said. “Everybody has been super welcoming and friendly and excited about this project.” 

Keep an eye out for updates on Rattlesnake Bike Park as the summer winds down and the fall approaches. We will do our best to inform readers about official dates, rates, and schedules.
For now, you can follow Rattlesnake Bike Park’s Instagram account to see the progression.