Paddle sports enthusiasts are discovering Gaston County as a premier destination in the Southeast. Miles of blue way trails meander through urban forests not far from the bustling downtowns of Gastonia, Belmont and Mount Holly. Bring a kayak, canoe or paddleboard, or rent from an array of outfitters. Our blue ways are scenic, peaceful and not too
The newly designated 11 Mills Blueway showcases the long-hidden South Fork River as it flows through Gaston County on its way to Lake Wylie. This river that once powered textile mills now powers healthy outdoor activity. The Catawba River features outfitters and launches from Mount Holly down to Belmont. The U.S. National Whitewater Center offers man-made rapids and thrills, as well as less adventurous paddling on the Charlotte side of the Catawba. Kayak and canoe rentals are also available at Crowders Mountain State Park and Rankin Lake Park.
Crowders Mountain State Park: The centerpiece of outdoor adventure in our region is this 5,210-acre sanctuary located just west of Gastonia near the town of Kings Mountain. The defining aspect of the park is 1,625-foot Crowders Mountain, which is visible for miles with sheer rock cliffs near the summit that are 150 feet high. An equally impressive companion peak, King’s Pinnacle, is tucked away to the southwest of Crowders Mountain near the South Carolina state line.
The park includes a lake for paddling and fishing, as well as rock climbing and bouldering opportunities by park permit only. Eleven trails range from easy to strenuous, and vary in length from an .8-mile easy loop to a 12-mile (out and back) ridgeline trail of moderate difficulty. The most popular trail is the 1.4-mile Rocktop Trail, a strenuous and rocky climb to the summit of Crowders Mountain, where long-range views of the gleaming Charlotte skyline are visible.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
The thrill of mountain whitewater rafting can be enjoyed on the eastern edge of Gaston County at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Made by humans, not Mother Nature, the center is home to the world’s largest artificial whitewater river. Thousands of outdoor adventurers, from novice to expert, visit each year to enjoy a guided raft trip around the circuit or go solo in a kayak.
The whitewater center offers many other challenging activities, such as zip-lining, mountain biking, ropes climbing, free-fall jumping, flat-water paddling and climbingon a rock wall leaning out over a pool of water. When the adventure wraps, unwind in the riverside cafe with full food and beverage service, including craft beer. Live music is available several evenings a month.
George Poston Park & Pump Track
Mountain-bike enthusiasts from across the Southeast love to ride rad at the pump track at Gastonia’s George Poston Park. The asphalt pump track is the first of its kind in North Carolina and one of a limited number nationally. The 10,000 square-foot circuit features momentum-building berms and rollers to excite beginning, intermediate and advanced riders.
The pump track also accommodates skateboards, scooters and in-line skates. Once riders finish warming up and perfecting their skills on the track, it’s time to ride. George Poston Park has nearly 13 miles of beautiful single-track trails built and maintained by Piedmont Area Singletrack Alliance (PASA). The trails have a GPS numbering system and varied terrain, including a mountain climb.
Carolina Thread Trail
One of the most ambitious trail projects in North Carolina is the multicounty Carolina Thread Trail, which has an extensive 17-trail network in Gaston County. Everyone from casual trail walkers to big-time hikers find their pathways in and around our towns of Belmont, Bessemer City, Dallas, Gastonia, High Shoals, Kings Mountain, Lowell, Mount Holly, Ranlo and Stanley.
Conserving open spaces is the mission of the Thread Trail network. In Gaston County, the trails showcase such places as the Catawba River, Goat Island, Mount Holly’s Linear Park, Crowders Mountain and Kings Pinnacle, the South Fork River Blueway, and Seven Oaks Preserve.
Gaston County is blessed with some of the best parks and recreational spaces in the Charlotte area. Conservation of green spaces and managed growth has resulted in a network of parks throughout our cities and towns, with many of these parks connected by the Carolina Thread Trail.
Belmont and Mount Holly, on the Catawba River just west of Charlotte, offer waterside parks featuring boat launches, green spaces, fishing piers and trails. A nationally recognized mountain-bike trail system is a highlight at George Poston Park beside Spencer Mountain, and an 80-acre lake is the centerpiece of Gastonia’s Rankin Park. The lake has a 1.5-mile paved walking trail, as well as canoe, kayak, johnboat and pedal boat rentals.