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Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Get your adrenaline pumping, learn something new or escape to a quiet place — you can do it all here. We have some of the best places to hike, bike and paddle in the area. Marvel at orchids and tropical plants, and discover holiday magic in Christmas Town USA®. These are some of the best things to do when visiting Gaston County.


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 Crowders Mountain, which is visible for miles. Sheer rock cliffs near the summit soar 150 feet high and 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 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.


Explore Catawba River and its South Fork

Gaston County’s waterways were once overlooked. Not anymore! Environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts joined together to transform the Catawba and South Fork Catawba River into one of the top blueways in North Carolina.

The slow-flowing Catawba River, which forms the county’s eastern edge beside Mount Holly and Belmont, has come to the forefront with marinas, launches and places to paddle and dock from the county’s northeastern edge at Mount Holly’s River Street Park to the southeastern edge where the river becomes Lake Wylie.

Simplify your day on the water by renting all the equipment you need located just a few steps from where you plan to paddle. No need to haul it in when the gear is already here. The following places on the Catawba River provide rentals: Tailrace Marina in Mount Holly, U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte and Riverside Marina in Belmont. On the South Fork Catawba River, waterside rentals are available at The Floating Goat in Cramerton and Sun’s Up Scuba in Belmont.


Hike and Bike Our Trails

The Carolina Thread Trail (CTT) is a nonprofit focused on connecting people with these special places. The organization has aided communities all over the region in building and designating hundreds of miles of trail in North and South Carolina. Locally, in Gaston, a new section of Thread Trail, which will link Belmont Abby College to downtown Belmont, is in the early design stages.

But there’s no need to wait for the new trail to be completed. The CTT have already left their mark with dozens of miles of completed trails in Gaston that are ready to explore. Here are five interesting stretches of the Carolina Thread Trail perfect for an afternoon run or Sunday morning family stroll.


Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

is the Carolinas’ Garden for all seasons, providing guests a chance to reconnect with nature and to create lifelong memories with friends and family. Located on 380 acres along the banks of Lake Wylie, spectacular gardens, sparkling fountains, a conservatory dedicated to the display of tropical plants and orchids, a visitor pavilion, a garden store and nature trails await the visitor.

Visitors enter Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden through the Visitor Pavilion featuring a breathtaking stained-glass dome, as well as perennial and annual gardens. Your

visit will include a walk through nine theme gardens: Four Seasons Garden, a tropically-themed Canal Garden, four perennial gardens, the charming Cottage Garden, fragrant Conifer Garden and the stately West Garden.

Don’t miss the Orchid Conservatory, Lost Hollow, The Kimbrell Children’s Garden, striking water fountains and canals with a collection of plants from around the globe. Hike Meadowood Walk a 1-mile nature trail that continues through field and forest. Before you leave check out the gift shop