Happy New Year, y'all. And may we all resolve to appreciate and enjoy nature a little (or a lot!) bit more in 2022. There's so much goodness to be found in the great outdoors. Let us delight in it.
Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast or just toying with the idea of trying a hike, consider kicking off the new year with an outing to South Fork River Park
, located near McAdenville, N.C., about 30 minutes west of Uptown. This 44-acre nature preserve is accessible, peaceful, and a little bit off the beaten path.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., South Fork River Park offers a 1.25-mile gravel figure-eight loop trail and 800 feet of river frontage with access points for canoeing, kayaking and fishing. There are also a handful of benches and tables for a picnic along the banks.
The trail is wide and flat, largely free of roots and rocks, making it good for a leisurely stroll, brisk hike or quick jog. It's worth noting that there are some steep stretches as the path winds its way down to the river and back up again, but the undulations are a pleasant challenge on an otherwise tranquil excursion.
I couldn't find a map online, but there is one posted at the trailhead. You'll see that the river stretch is along the northern loop of the trail. The most direct route to the water is to veer right/straight at the first split from the trailhead, but going either direction will get you there from the parking lot.
When we went, we took snacks and enjoyed a break on the riverbank, watching wildlife and listening to the river tumble over the rocky shoals. We had the place to ourselves, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's often similarly unpopulated. Next time, we'll take fishing gear and stay a while longer.
There's a spacious paved parking lot at the park entrance, but no restroom facilities, so plan accordingly.
South Fork River Park offers a simple, but pleasant option for an active outdoor adventure to kick off the new year on a positive foot. Go ahead and make this the first of many opportunities to delight in nature in 2022.
FYI, South Fork River Park is different than the South Fork Rail Trail and the nearby South Fork Trail, both of which are also good recreation options. How to get there:
South Fork River Park is located at 4185 Mountain View Street, Gastonia, N.C., 28056.