Two isolated peaks rising abruptly from the otherwise rolling landscape give Gaston County something no other destination in the North Carolina Piedmont has—rocky, challenging hiking trails within sight of a major city skyline. Gaston’s quartzite monadnocks have resisted the erosive forces of nature to become a hiker’s playground, with everything from crushing climbs and marathon distances to kid-friendly strolls along the water. For some of the best trail time in the region, tackle our list of top treks, then toast your adventure at one of Gaston’s historic restaurants or cozy pubs.
Going the Distance
Start at the Pinnacle trailhead in Crowders Mountain State Park for a daylong endurance hike on the Ridgeline Trail. A rolling, 12.4-mile out-and-back trek through mature climax forest takes you across the South Carolina state line to Kings Mountain. Rocky and rooty sections alternate with non-technical stretches along creek beds, where you’re likely to see the abundant salamanders and turtles that are common to the area. Finish your day in downtown Belmont with a draft beer and cooked-to-order entree from the butcher counter at The String Bean Cafe and Market.
From Pond to Peak
Hug the boggy edge of the pond at the base of Crowders Mountain before climbing to the highest point in the county, King’s Pinnacle. Keep an eye out for snakes and salamanders hiding in the thick stands of trailside vegetation at the beginning of the trail, then tackle the steep climb to the rocky knob at the summit. Celebrate your peak-bagging hike in southern comfort with chicken and gravy, shrimp and grits, and pulled pork at Nellie’s Southern Kitchen in Belmont.
A 16-mile loop over gently rolling terrain takes you through the meadows and forests of Kings Mountain State Park andKings Mountain National Military Park. The trail winds through shady hardwoods and runs along the banks of Long Branch Creek over this Revolutionary War battlefield, where a pivotal patriot victory turned the tide of the war after the British invasion of Charleston. Start at the visitor center for a better understanding of the land’s storied past, and finish your day with craft cocktails and dinner on the balcony of the restored movie theater-turned-restaurants, Webb Custom Kitchen in Gastonia. Enjoy the historic Art Deco ambiance and signature specialties like slow-roasted short ribs, lobster corn risotto, and coconut cake.
Family Trail Time
The wide and flat Seven Oaks Preserve Trail winds its way around the Lake Wylie shoreline, connecting with Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden footpaths for an easy five-mile loop. Kids will love the wildflowers, shorebirds, and butterflies that frequent the 2.8-mile lakeside portion of the hike. The Persimmon Trail leads to the formal gardens, worth a stroll to see colorful orchid cascades in the Conservatory, the seasonal symmetry of the Canal Garden, and the fairy tale land of Lost Hollow. End the day on a sweet note at Tony’s Ice Cream, a family owned Gastonia institution since 1915 serving 28 flavors that are made right next door. Tony’s is the place to order traditional southern fare like gravy biscuits, pimento cheese sandwiches, and grits, served alongside diner classics like burgers, dogs, and chili cheese fries.
Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with Gaston County Gov.