Gaston County is full of natural places. From the shores of the Catawba River—where stoic herons stand in wait for their next meal—to the rugged peaks of Crowders Mountain State Park—where a clear day offers views all the way to the Charlotte skyline and beyond. The opportunities to ditch the city and duck into the woods are numerous.
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.
1. Ridgeline Trail
Rambling over rocky hills, diving into shady hallows, and cruising through dense hardwood forest, the Ridgeline Trail is one of the most interesting and diverse trails in the Thread Trail system. And, at 8.7 miles, it’s certainly the longest.
This beautiful stretch of mostly singletrack, with a few short sections of old roadbed, connects the sweeping views of Pinnacle Mountain in Crowders Mountain State Park with the trail system at Kings Mountain Military Park. Frequent elevation changes, dozens of miles of contiguous trail, and great variety make this a favorite training ground for area trail runners and hikers.
To reach the Ridgeline Trail, begin at the Sparrow Springs Access at Crowders Mountain State Park and hike approximately 1.5 miles up the Pinnacle Trail. A trail sign at the juncture indicates the beginning of the Ridgeline Trail.
2. Seven Oaks Preserve
Following the jagged shoreline of Lake Wylie, and connecting to paths at Danial Stowe Botanical Garden, the Seven Oaks Preserve Trail offers all sorts of diversions along its 2.8 miles. Towering poplars and huge swamp chestnut oaks line the natural surface trail. Kingfishers and osprey nest nearby, nabbing snacks out of the lake. And the manicured grounds at Danial Stowe are beautiful in every season. The trail takes advantage of the naturally rolling topography near the lake, providing enough variation to keep an afternoon run interesting but mild enough for a family hike.
The parking lot at 6900 South New Hope Road has plenty of space even on busy days. There is a bike rack at the trailhead and an information kiosk to help show the way.
3. South Fork Trail
One of the greatest attributes of Gaston is the abundance of green spaces scattered throughout the county, offering opportunities for a quick rural escape from urban life. An excellent example of such a natural retreat is the 95-acre Pharr Yarns Preserve—a swath of land protected through the Catawba Lands Conservancy. Along the eastern edge of the property, following the curves of its namesake river, the South Fork Trail is a natural surface conduit to the preserve.
The Trail, mostly singletrack with a bit of dualtrack road, is designed for both foot and bike traffic. Its shady, wooded two miles offer several river views, making it an excellent choice for a summer workout when city streets are sweltering. As a bonus, there is a hand-carry, boat put-in at the south end of the trail, should you want to continue your adventure on the water.
While there is a trailhead on either end of the path, the north end does not have visitor parking available. The parking address is 119 Willow Drive, McAdenville NC. The familiar blue star that symbolizes the Carolina Thread Trail marks the way.
4. Avon and Catawba Creek
A safe place for training-wheeled toddlers to practice peddling or for a fast afternoon jog, the Avon/Catawba Creeks Greenway can’t be topped. For roughly two miles, this paved path mirrors the small creeks that run through the southern edge of Gastonia. Dipping under busy roadways and ducking in and out of quintessential Carolina forest, the Greenway keeps visitors from the many dangers of traveling on the city sidewalks while offering a smooth, paved path.
Parking is available at either end of the Avon/Catawba Creeks Greenway. To the east, the trailhead is near the Army National Guard facility (2100 Robinwood Road). To the west, and perhaps a better spot to begin, Ferguson Park (1401 Golf Course Drive) offers ample parking and other amenities such as ballfields and tennis courts.
5. Stuart Carmer H.S., Goat Island Greenway, River Side Greenway
The CTT has connected pieces of trail throughout the region. One of the finest examples of their work in bringing trails and, in turn, communities together is the confluence of the Stuart Cramer H.S., Goat Island, and Riverside Greenways. Together, these paths connect for more than three miles of varied surfaces, linking neighborhoods and town centers in Belmont and Cramerton. Sometimes pavement, sometimes boardwalk, and sometimes natural surface, the three greenways offer a range of experiences. One section skirts a high school athletic field, one offers views of the South Fork River (and the fauna that call it home), and another section heads through Cramerton in close proximity to coffee, dining, and ice cream.
Each greenway has parking options. One of the best places to begin or end your ride is in downtown Cramerton. Park at 141 8th Avenue. When you’re finished, you’ll be conveniently adjacent to lunch and coffee options.
You can check out this interactive map to learn more about these greenways, and to search for all the Thread Trail segments in Gaston County.
This content was originally published on RootsRated.com.