Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Rocky Branch Park Revisited

In the short time since I first wrote about Rocky Branch Park, located about 25 minutes west of Uptown in Belmont, NC., this recreational destination -- already remarkable for a number of reasons -- has been renovated and transformed, making it even cooler and all the more worth a visit, especially if you enjoy trail riding. 

Last spring, the City of Belmont, the Town of Cramerton, Carolina Thread Trail, the Tarheel Traiblazers and Gaston County Schools created a remarkable partnership to develop the first inter-municipal park in our region. The result: An evolution of the 55-acre Rocky Branch Park, which now connects the Town of Cramerton and the City of Belmont and offers a beautiful, dynamic urban trail system (good for hikers, bikers, runners and walkers) in between. (Here's a park map.) 

The centerpiece of the newly designed park is a 1.25-mile natural surface greenway (part of the Carolina Thread Trail system), which runs from one end to the other. This hiker-prioritized gravel trail is easy and accessible to folks of all skill levels. 

Off to either side of the greenway trail are a number of biker-prioritized, single-track mountain biking trails of varying lengths and difficulty. Our favorite is the Canopy Trail (green blazes), a 1.15-mile loop featuring jumps, boardwalks, berms and other relatively simple technical options. This loop is good for beginners, but fun for all ages. 

The entire park is shaded and, (bonus!) trailheads at either end are located near other fun destinations. In Belmont, you're a mile from historic downtown, full of fun shops and restaurants (including the Cotton Candy factory!). In Cramerton, it's a short hop to visit Goat Island, the River Link Greenway, Riverside Greenway and South Fork Catawba River Blueway. You could easily make a day of exploring your way from Cramerton to Belmont and back with plenty to do (and no driving!) in between. 

If it's been a while since you visited Rocky Branch Park, you'll be impressed by its transformation. And if you're visiting for the first time, I think you'll enjoy discovering a fun new place to play. 

Note: Before you go, please check the trail status on the Tarheel Trailblazers website and observe the open/closed entrance signs. Some of the trails within Rocky Branch Park are all-weather, but not all of them. Please be a good steward and don't damage the trails by riding on them when they are wet. 

How to get there:
The Belmont trailhead is located at 103 Sacco St, Belmont, NC 28012. The Cramerton trailhead is located at the Gaston County EMS Station (700 Eagle Rd, Belmont, NC 28012). Note: There are no restrooms at the trailhead; plan accordingly.