Confession: a large part of me doesn’t want to share this outdoor adventure with potential visitors, because I selfishly wish I could keep it to myself. Alas, selfishness is not the purpose of this blog post series…and it’s certainly not good trail karma. Besides, I’m pretty sure our hidden trail “gem” here in Myrtle Beach is becoming quite popular without any help from this little ol’ blog of mine.
So I might as well spill the details.
The Horry County – Carolina Forest Bike & Run Park, otherwise known as “The Hulk” by locals, is probably the only non-human thing keeping me sane here in Myrtle Beach. It is also a 7 mile (give or take) single track trail that twists and turns across 72 acres of land, sandwiched between Carolina Forest and the Intracoastal waterway. It truly is a hidden gem sandwiched between ever growing industry and subdivisions in a busy ocean front, tourism driven city.
The history of the Hulk dates back to the summer of 2012 when a few local mountain bike enthusiasts were granted permission to build a “temporary” trail on a site owned by the county that was reserved for future sports fields. The popularity of the trail grew exponentially; this trail alone is credited for spearheading the mountain biking movement here in Myrtle Beach. In 2015, Cape Fear SORBA was given creative and maintenance control over the Hulk, and from what I’ve gathered (I’ve actually spent a good 30 minutes trying to internet research this one, so forgive me if I’m mistaken) the county has recently taken a hands on approach themselves. The results are an incredibly well maintained trail that has come a long ways in simply the last 6 months alone with additions of a pavilion, benches, an improved parking lot, signage, and obviously, trail maintenance.
This leads me to believe that there is no longer anything “temporary” about the Hulk. Or at least, I’m truly hoping this is the case.
Now, since I’ve left my non-existent mountain bike back in Vermont (read: I don’t own one. Yet.) this review will be from a runner’s point of view. Because after all, trail running is what I pretend I do best. That’s right, in my head I’m right on Anton Krupicka’s heels. Watch out.
The Hulk is perched on a piece of property that resembles absolutely nothing else here in Myrtle Beach. The terrain is actually quite hilly. I’m told this is because back when the Intracoastal waterway was built in this area (approximately 1936) this particular area of land was essentially a dumping ground for all of the sand/soil/sediment that was dug up to create the waterway. Proof of this are the countless seashells found along the trail, bleached nearly pure white from more than half a century of sunlight. So while these hills are essentially manmade, they were “created” inadvertently decades prior.
The scenery is ever changing, as the trail winds through deep forests that remind me of New England, open fields with tall grass that make me wonder if a lion or gazelle might come barreling across the trail, and sandy, small dune areas that remind you that you are indeed close to the beach. Along the way you also catch glimpses of the Intracostal waterway, Frontage road, and a neighboring subdivision.
Most of the trail is single track, with the occasional root or rock. For the most part, however, the actual trail is hard packed sand, as well as the occasional wooden bridge, feature, or carpet and Astroturf mix, reminding you that this was indeed built for the bikes. Nothing, from a running point of view, is overly technical.
ADVENTURE REPORT CARD:
Adrenaline Rating: 6/10 Again, this is ranked from a running point of view. If I was riding a bike, I’d probably hit my fair share of trees and perhaps that would affect my rating. As far as running goes, there are enough twists, turns, and drops to give you an adrenaline rush. Obviously, we aren’t dealing with any amazing mountain peak views…but the trail has it’s own unique beauty.
Athletic Ability: ?/10 I think this depends on what you want to do. The trail is split up into three main sections, but has a number of other bypasses and “bail-out” sections where you can meet back up with the main fireroad. This means that you don’t commit to the entire 7 miles the second you hit the trail, making it beginner friendly. The trail itself isn’t too difficult. Again, there are some more technical footing sections, and a few steep hills, so tripping is not entirely out of the question.
As far as mountain biking goes, the website ranks this trail as “intermediate”. There are a number of steep drops and climbs, sharp turns, and even a pump track.
Runability: (because this matters to my family) 8/10 Again, this trail was originally created to be a mountain bike trail, and you can feel it in all of the switchbacks, twists, and turns. While these can be incredibly fun to run, they can also become pretty harsh on your legs if you are trying to put in longer distance, leaving you yearning for a stretch of straight path.
In the Elements: 10/10. Now is the time I feel I should share a disclaimer for all of these Myrtle Beach Outdoor Adventure posts. My 10 point rating here is based on Myrtle Beach. This place will NEVER be the Rocky Mountains, Frozen Head State Park, the Sahara Desert, Mont Blanc, or anything completely wild like that. Could you still get lost? Yes. But no matter where you are in Myrtle Beach, you can almost always at least HEAR traffic on one side of you. Just keep walking towards it, you’ll find your way out. Obviously the Hulk is no exception. So, as far as Myrtle Beach ratings go, this place gets a 10 out of 10. You’ve got one picnic shelter and one port-a-potty. The rest is mother nature.
Speaking of mother nature, here’s a brief list of the critters I’ve seen out there: Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, anoles, skinks, green snake, corn snake, king snake, hawks, turkey vultures, fish (in the ponds), crayfish, field mice, some sort of bird that ran along the trail with me at night, spiders (and their webs, to my face) and every kind of bug you can imagine. Also reported by others: deer, copperhead snakes, and alligators (in the waterway).
Kid Friendly: Here’s the thing, as I’ve mentioned what feels like a hundred times by now, this is a mountain bike trail. Yes, runners and walkers are more than welcome on the trail, but at the end of the day it was designed to be a mountain bike trail, and mountain bikers use it as such. Often times they come barreling around corners at full speed, and this could quickly cause a collision with an unsuspecting little kids. Or even adults for that matter.
Now, I do take my kids on this trail, weekly, but I have drilled both trail safety and trail etiquette into their little heads. They know to pay attention. They know to immediately hop off of the right side of the trail to give a cyclist the right of way.
If your kids are runners or mountain bikers, and know the “law of the land” so to speak, then I’ll give this trail an 8 out of 10. Nothing is too complicated, none of the hills overly steep. If your kids are much smaller (toddling age?) or newbies on the bike or run, then perhaps this would be better visited during non crowded times or skipped all together. I truly don’t want to discourage people from getting their kids outdoors, but more so, just want to emphasize the number of blind corners and potential for collisions on this trail. As long as you stay alert and vigilant, there should be no problems.
IF YOU GO:
- PLEASE adhere to all trail rules and traffic directions. Ride and run against traffic (i.e. cyclists go in one direction, runners/walkers go in the opposite direction). There are signs at either end of the trail to let you know which way to go. If it’s your first time trail running, check out these posts on Trail Running Etiquette and Trail Running Safety tips.
- Bring water. There are zero water facilities on site, and some of the trail is wide open to the brutal summer (and sometimes spring, fall, and winter, you never know here in SC) sun.
- Weekday mornings and early afternoons tend to be the least crowded times. After 4:00 pm on weekdays, and all day weekends, tend to be the busiest (especially for mountain bikes
I simply adore this trail. Is it the most beautiful trail I’ve ever been on? Mmmm…no. But this is not a trail funded and created by the state or park service. This trail is a work of love from a dedicated group of athletes who recognized the need for a trail like this here in Myrtle Beach, and they made it happen. And it continues to improve and grow daily thanks to a number of volunteers. To those who had the foresight to create this slice of trail heaven: thank you. You’ve truly made Myrtle Beach significantly more enjoyable for this mountain girl.