Catawba Lands Conservancy. It runs along the South Fork of the Catawba River and is relatively flat, making it an excellent option for an easy hike or beginner mountain-biking outing. There's one street crossing where Southfork Rd. bridges the river, but the trail is otherwise protected and traffic-free.
This is a beautiful area, featuring views of the river and rock outcrops, a bald cypress swamp, a shady mature forest canopy, and lots of wildlife. (South Fork Rail Trail is a part of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation Butterfly Highway.)
Another point of interest is the historic Laboratory Mill, located just across the river from the trail. You can see it about a quarter-mile into your hike. (You'll also pass it on your drive to the trailhead parking lot.)
mill's history here. The preserved building is now an event venue.
If you're looking for new territory to explore, grab a friend and check it out. I think you'll be glad you did.
Note: The South Fork Rail Trail is different from another of our favorites, the South Fork Trail. Similar names, both situated along the same river about 20 miles apart, and each excellent options for outdoor exploration.
How to get there:
The South Fork Rail Trail trailhead parking lot is located at 2677 Laboratory Rd., Lincolnton, NC, 28092.