Friday, March 20, 2020

Rocky Branch Park

We recently discovered Rocky Branch Park in Belmont, about 25 minutes west of uptown, and I love it for both it’s simplicity and everything it has to offer.

Tucked in a neighborhood just off Main St., the entrance to the park is a small, unassuming gated gravel lot, outfitted with a porta-potty. But just beyond the gates are a host of recreation options. Depending on what you want from an outing, it’s as much or as little as you need it to be.

The main feature of Rocky Branch Park is the trail system, which is very well maintained and impressively marked by the Tarheel Trailblazers. The main trail is just under four miles, with the option to add another loop to make it five. There are additional smaller loops (like the “Fun Loop”) you can tack on to make it longer and shortcuts you can take to get you back to the parking lot sooner.

There’s a detailed map at the entrance and plenty of directional signs throughout the course.

The natural-surface, single-track terrain is rolling and offers just enough technical challenges to put it squarely into intermediate-to-advanced range for the mountain bikers it was built for (that said, the kids took bikes, walked the hard parts, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride). But it also makes for a lovely, invigorating hike. Note: Walkers should hike the opposite direction of riders and be prepared to give right-of-way to fast-moving cyclists.

The trail is packed into a relatively compact space, but with winding switchbacks, bridge crossings, blind bends, climbs and drops, it never feels like you’re chasing your own tail.

There’s no playground at Rocky Branch, but a surprising and delightful discovery for us was a dirt pump track at the entrance of the park. It’s simple, but fun, and will likely be one of the reasons we visit again very soon.

Go to ride. Go to hike. Go to wander creek-side in the woods. Rocky Branch is the perfect choose-your-own-adventure park.

How to get there: Rocky Branch Park is located at 103 Sacco St., Belmont, NC, 28012.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Something supportive will do.
  • Bikes and helmets: Optional, but fun!
  • Water: Note, there are no facilities for refills.
  • Snacks or a picnic lunch: Find a shady spot by the creek for a break.
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: The park is mostly shaded, but there are some open spaces.
  • Bugspray: For the warmer months.  

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