Located along the North Carolina and South Carolina state line in Polk and Spartanburg counties, the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) offers 384 acres of varied terrain for hikers, birdwatchers, equestrians, and astronomers. This property includes hardwood forests, meadows, wetlands, and a pond. The entire property is protected by a conservation easement held by Conserving Carolina, to ensure that this special landscape will always be available for future generations. FENCE offers six miles of hiking trails, including a 0.3 mile hard-paved trail, the Wildwoods Trail, accessible to people of all abilities.

As you explore the trails at FENCE you’ll get to know a natural area that is home to field trips and nature camps for thousands of children each year, as well as a therapeutic riding program, and state of the art equestrian facilities. Although the equestrian trails are members-only, the hiking trails are free and open to the public. We encourage you to explore FENCE in your own way, whether you join a nature program, come to watch birds, or just take a hike!

This hike is part of Conserving Carolina’s and WPA’s White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 7, which takes you to 8 amazing hikes on protected land. Take the challenge to discover some great places!

Location: Tryon, NC

Length: Hiker’s choice – up to six miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Great For: Wildflowers, Wildlife, Views

Trail Map for Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE)

FENCE provides this trail map, which you can download or print before your hike. Take your pick of the trails you want to explore!

How to Get to Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE)

The address of the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center is 3381 Hunting Country Rd in Tryon, NC.

GPS users may enter N35.200836, W-82.174712 in their units.

To access the main hiking area, you can park to the right, just as you enter the nature center side of the property, northeast of I-26 off of Hunting Country Road, or you can continue to the Nature Center and park at the Wildwoods trail parking lot, on the left across from the Nature Center.  Please note, Harwood Lane (shown on the map below) is a private road and does not provide access to FENCE. Please proceed to the official entrance a bit further south on Hunting Country Road.

Here is a map of the location in Google Maps.

Click on the map for a link to Google Maps

The History of FENCE

In 1984, FENCE became a non-profit nature education and outdoor recreation center. It started with the gift of 112 acres generously contributed by the Mahler family, who had come to Tryon in 1933. When they made this gift, the Mahlers included stipulations to ensure that FENCE would meet broader goals for conservation and nature education.

It was agreed that FENCE would be a nonprofit organization; that it would include nature programs to educate children both on the site and in schools; that it would offer summer camps and ongoing educational and entertainment programs; and that the land would be protected in perpetuity, never to be developed. Conserving Carolina has helped to fulfill this vision by holding a conservation easement on the property, thus taking responsibility to ensure that the land is forever protected.

Since then, FENCE has grown to approximately 384 acres, straddling Interstate 26, with approximately 359 acres in Polk County, NC and approximately 25 acres in Spartanburg County, SC. The original 112 acres the Mahler’s donated became the site of a steeplechase course and horse show grounds and riding trails. FENCE’s Sandlin Track, named for its builder, measures seven furlongs (just under a mile) and features rolling hills that give spectators a sweeping view of the horses as they gallop over the fences. The Blockhouse Steeplechase moved from the historic Blockhouse to the new facility at FENCE in 1988 and was the home of the event from 1988 to 2016.

FENCE serves thousands of people each year with programs in nature study, outdoor recreation and equestrian competition. Go to their website to learn more.


Take the White Squirrel Hiking Challenge!

This hike is part of White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 7—an opportunity to explore eight great hikes, all in places that Conserving Carolina has helped to protect. Take all eight hikes and earn your White Squirrel patch!