The next in our series of hikes is South Fork Trail. This is an easy, flat hike on a natural surface. It’s an out-and-back trail, 2 miles each way. It goes along the South Fork of the Catawba River the whole way, and one of the most enjoyable parts of the hike is seeing how the river changes in just that short distance, from wide and placid to rocky and choppy. There’s even a little sand beach.
Please check out the rest of our hikes and walks in the Charlotte area.
Keep in mind that the trail gets muddy after a lot of rain and is subject to flooding. Mountain biking is allowed on this trail when it’s completely dry.
Park at 119 Willow Drive, McAdenville. (Some mapping software might say Gastonia.) This is about 18 miles west of the very center of Charlotte.
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation’s boathouse, which just opened in 2021, is right there. When it’s open, you can fill up your water bottle, use the restroom, and buy drinks, snacks, sunscreen, and other sundries. It’s also the meeting point for their half-day guided tour kayak program.
Check with The Boathouse on their opening days and hours.
South Fork Trail starts right past the Boathouse, to your left. You’ll walk under I-85, but, thankfully, as you proceed on the trail, the traffic noise will diminish and it becomes a very quiet, peaceful walk.
South Fork Trail is part of the Carolina Thread Trail, and is also part of the Butterfly Highway, a statewide conservation restoration initiate. Be on the lookout for butterflies and other pollinators. You might also spot some turtles sunning themselves on branches in the river.
South Fork Trail is a historic trail, first used by Native Americans and then by settlers. There were two textile mills here, the Ferguson Mill and the Pinhook.
About a mile into the walk, there’s an overlook that offers a view of the ruins of a stone bridge in the river. This is a piece of Civil War history. During the war, some Union soldiers were sent to burn down the Pinhook Mill, which was supplying cloth for the Confederacy. Williams Sahms, the mill superintendent, discovered that the soldiers were led by his childhood neighbor, from Pennsylvania, and he convinced him to just burn down the bridge, rather than the mill. The stone pillars are still there.
The trail meanders through the woods and eventually ends at the cul-de-sac of a neighborhood. There’s no public parking on this end of the trail, but there’s plenty back at the trailhead.
Enjoy some more pictures from the South Fork Trail, and make sure to check out all the other hikes.