Carolina Thread Trail
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The Carolina Thread Trail is a regional trail network across 15 counties. Made up of natural trails, greenways and blue ways, the system links a variety of municipalities, from Charlotte, the largest city in the Carolinas, to small cities and quaint towns and villages. A work in progress, the Carolina Thread Trail currently has more than 280 miles of trails and 170 miles of blue way.
Once complete, the system will total 1,600 miles. Hikers, bikers, runners and paddlers access trails daily, whether for an alternative work commute or recreational pursuit. Gaston County’s 13 distinct towns and its proximity to the Catawba River make it ripe for exploring via footpath or waterway. Although trails pass through urban areas, many paths lead to untouched forests and streams that offer quiet places for reflection. In addition to providing connectivity, the Carolina Thread Trail instills an appreciation for natural resources and boosts conservation awareness.
Get Going in Gaston
Located near the center of the Carolina Thread Trail network, Gaston County contains more than 25 miles of completed trails, with plans for 115 miles total. South Fork Trail is a particularly beautiful stretch, connecting the towns of McAdenville and Lowell. The natural-surface trail is two miles long, four miles roundtrip, and surrounded by the 95-acre Pharr Yarns Preserve. Keep an eye out for butterflies along the way. The trail is part of the Butterfly Highway, an effort to restore native pollinator habitats.
Highland Rail Trail follows the historic Carolina and Northwestern Railway, linking downtown Gastonia with Sims Legion Park, home of the Gastonia Grizzlies Coastal Plain League baseball team. The 1.5-mile trail, three miles roundtrip, offers a smooth, paved surface. Birdwatchers enjoy Avon/Catawba Creeks Greenway. Along the 2.4-mile paved trail, informational markers describe common bird species and benches provide views of Catawba and Avon creeks.
The Carolina Thread Trail incorporates sidewalks, natural-surface and paved trails, rivers and creeks to provide opportunities for walking, hiking, running, biking and paddling. Some trails even allow horseback riding. Different routes accommodate all ages and skill levels, even furry family members on leashes.
For those who enjoy paddling, blue ways, such as South Fork River trail, provide easy access to flat water for kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding. Catawba River’s South Fork includes 8.5 miles of natural landscapes filled with wildlife, such as blue herons, osprey, bald eagles and deer. Search the interactive trail map online to pick a route. Once on the trail, access the mobile-friendly GPS-enabled trail map via smartphone. Create an account to log completed trails and make a wish list for future trips.
What's in a Name?
The Carolina Thread Trail’s name pays homage to the large concentration of textile mills once located in this portion of North Carolina. Gaston County in particular operated as a textile-manufacturing hub for decades. In the first quarter of the 20th century, Gaston was known as the combed-yarn capital of the world.
Jobs in the textile industry drew people to the region, and mill towns and communities grew up around the factories. Members of these tight-knit neighborhoods not only worked together, but also shared meals, played on the same ball teams, built homes and raised children. The Carolina Thread Trail honors that mill heritage and creates those same community bonds by connecting municipalities through a trail network. The Carolina Thread Trail logo comes from an old quilt pattern known as the eight-pointed star. A compass-like design represents the coming together of North Carolina and South Carolina for the project and the quest for adventure shared by trail users.