Seemingly everyone has one of these friends in their life: the person you barely know, but share a special bond with none the less. A relationship formed where almost immediately upon meeting said person, the two of you were thrust into some sort of intense situation. Maybe it was physically demanding (like a really tough race), maybe it was emotionally taxing (you survived a scary situation together), but whatever it was, you and that person developed a tight bond in a short amount of time due to your shared experience. And from that point on, you consider this person a genuine friend, even though you barely know them. This is my relationship with the Jericho Horse Trail.
(Yeah, I’m about to write a love letter to a trail, that I also sort of hate. )
Located in Cordesville, SC, almost smack dab in the middle of the Francis Marion National Forest, you’ll find a 19 mile looped trail known as the Jericho Horse Trail. It’s a multi use trail that allows hikers, horses, mountain bikes, and crazy ultrarunners like myself to explore the varying habitats the forest has to offer. In one moment, you’ll feel trapped in an inhospitable wasteland full of burnt tree trunks and blackwater swamps. In the next moment, you’ll see the sunlight shine through the pine trees, and it will look nothing short of a scene from a fairy tale.
This forest is confusing like that.
Though I don’t have extensive knowledge or long term experience on this trail system, I have jammed somewhere around 248 miles – that’s 15 loops – of the trail in just four (non consecutive) days. Thanks to my enabling race director pal Chad of Eagle Endurance, I’ve run four ultramarathons of varying distances on these trails, including my second 100 mile race.
This trail and I have one of those forever type of bonds, because in the short time we’ve known each other, we’ve been through a lot together. It’s a love/hate relationship, to be perfectly honest, but the “love” emotion tends to run deepest.
As long as my feet are dry.
I’ve run this trail in the sunshine. I’ve run it in pouring rain. I’ve run on this trail when the heat was so intense, I thought I was going to pass out. I’ve run on it when the cold wind was biting at my exposed skin, and I couldn’t stop shivering. I’ve run this trail when it was relatively dry, and I’ve run through it when there were spots that were ankle deep mud covered with knee deep water, filled with angry snakes looking for a dry spot to sun themselves. I’ve run the trail when the water flowed freely, and I’ve run it in a drought, where the smell of dead rotting fish made me gag.
I’ve watched both the sun rise and the sun set on this trail, and I’ve quite literally set foot on it during every single one of the 24 hours in a day. I’ve cried on this trail, and I’ve laughed on this trail.
I’ve seen this trail destroy dreams. But this trail has seen me – and allowed me to – accomplish things I had previously never dreamed possible. And this trail has brought me really low moments where I gave up on myself. This trail is equal parts miserable and beautiful, and I cannot help but love it.
So I’m happy to share it with you.
Exploring the Jericho Horse Trail:
If you want to check out the Jericho Horse Trail, either by foot, bicycle, or horse, here are some (hopefully) helpful tips:
Get There / Parking:
The address to punch into your GPS is:
6369 SC-41, Cordesville, SC 29434
Beware: highway 41 is full of speeding log trucks and other 18-wheelers. As such, you’ll likely find yourself also flying down the highway at 60+ miles per hour, and if you aren’t careful, will miss the turn to the trail parking lot (I have, numerous times). There is a sign pointing out the trail head, but it’s small almost immediately across the street from the entrance, so it’s easy to miss.
Once you take the turn into the trail head, you’ll find a very long paved road. You can park along the side of the road. There are trail heads located at either end of the paved road. Note, there are absolutely no facilities here. Be prepared with plenty of water / food, and a garbage bag to pack out any trash you create.
Terrain / Difficulty:
The Jericho Horse Trail is rated “easy” as far as hiking or riding (both horse and mountain bike) goes. There is virtually no elevation change whatsoever. But what DOES change is the terrain underneath.
You’ll find everything from grassy field, to pine covered trail, to cypress roots, to dirt road. If you’re a trail runner with a tendency to trip, be sure to pick up your feet. The ground is often littered with holes from both horse hoof prints that have dried in the mud, or other natural ankle deep holes in the forest floor.
Some sections of the trail (particularly where the Palmetto Trail and Jericho Horse Trail overlap) will have boards and bridges on the trail to help you avoid chronically wet spots.
Flora & Fauna:
The 260,000 acres of the Francis Marion National Forest is home to a slew of creatures, that you very well may run into on the Jericho Horse Trail. In fact, according to the USDA: approximately 48 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 43 species of amphibians and 58 species of reptiles are known to inhabit the forest, in addition to more than 1,600 species of plants. That includes, but is not limited to: deer, alligators, bears, feral hogs, snakes (venomous and non) otters, beavers, coyotes, bobcats, woodpeckers, and more.
Watch Out For:
In the spring and summer, you’ll absolutely be hating life if you don’t wear – and pack extra – bug spray. The mosquitoes and horse flies are ruthless.
During the fall and winter you need to be aware of hunting seasons. Check the Forest Service website to see what hunting seasons are open before your visit.
Know Before You Go:
- Cell phone service is WILDLY spotty to non-existent on this trail. Further, there is a good possibility you could cover the entire 19 miles and never run into another person. You do cross a main road (highway 41) twice, at approximately mile 6 and mile 19. Have a backup plan in case of emergency, and if you need to get in touch with someone.
- The trail is marked with blue blazes, however, there are a number of areas where the trail intersects with old logging roads, fire roads, or other trails. It can be easy to get turned around, so make sure you have a map available or downloaded to your phone.
- Camping is not available at the trail head (unless you join us for one of the Eagle Endurance events). A free, dispersed camping permit is available by contacting the district office at,(843) 336-3248 Monday – Friday.
- There is no fee for day use of this trail.