Charlotte’s Whitewater Center is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. Located only 10 miles West of Uptown, the WWC feels worlds apart. The non-profit organization officially opened its doors to the public on November 4, 2006. However, according to the Tarheel Trailblazers, many people have been exploring the trails long before this official opening date. In fact, some of the original trails were built where the current river channels are located today.
Within the official boundaries of the WWC, are activities for the whole family. On any given day, you have your choice of rafting, kayaking, or paddle boarding. On land, there are areas designated for rock climbing, hiking, biking, and zip lining that cater to thrill seekers of all ages. All of the activities are suitable for most patrons and the staff makes sure that you know what to expect from each activity. When you are looking to relax after a long day of exploring, there is also a restaurant, bar, gift shop, and concert venue.
In the woods surrounding the main entrance there are rope courses, canopy tours, and over 30 miles of trails spread out over 1300 acres. What began as two trails that are simply called “North Main” and “South Main”, the system has expanded to include four distinct loops and as well as numerous trail spurs. Following the development of these two trails, the Lake Loop was constructed. It is a beginner trail that is 3.2 miles and is suitable for first timers. The most recently constructed of the four loop system is “East Main”. This trail would be considered of moderate difficulty due to the elevation gain and quick switchback turns. Within these four loops there is a variety of terrain, soil, and technical features.
Lately the Whitewater staff and Tarheel Trailblazers have been building trails at a frenzied pace. Within the past year, the Carolina Thread Trail has been extended. Along with this extension, the Academy and Parkway trails have been established. Academy is of moderate difficulty and adds about three miles to the overall mileage. Parkway Trail is probably the most family friendly of all the trails. Running parallel to the entrance to the park, the trail is at least 3 feet wide throughout and doesn’t have much elevation change.
With 30 plus miles of trails, the WWC has grown from a local day trip spot to a national destination in a relatively short period of time. Although the Whitewater Center is geared toward athletes, there is truly something for everyone. Check out their concerts, expos, and racing events that take place all year round. The WWC is open 365 days a year. Parking passes are $5 for the day and $40 for a yearly pass. Annual full access activity passes are available and there are also individual daily passes. Rental equipment is available for all activities. For more information visit usnwc.org/
During the winter months, most of the local trails are closed for extended periods of time due to wet conditions. The George Poston Trail at Spencer Mountain is one exception to this rule. Due to its rocky terrain, the trail drains well and never closes due to wet conditions. Located in Gastonia, George Poston Park is home to one of the oldest trails in the Charlotte metro area. The seven miles of trails would be considered intermediate or difficult for most. Although the first two miles are pretty tame, the Poston Trail gets progressively harder as you approach the Spencer Mountain Loop. Throughout the trail, you encounter everything from rolling smooth sections to rocky, rooty uphill sections. It is the kind of trail that you might find yourself hiking on the more difficult areas. As you wind your way up Spencer Mountain, you are rewarded with a full view of the Charlotte skyline at the half way point. As you start back down Spencer Mountain, there are a number of extended fast, open downhill sections. The Poston Trail may be a little bit on the tougher side, but the rewarding views make it worth the effort.
The Poston Trails are one of the less traveled trails in the area and it is located only fifteen minutes from the Whitewater Center. So when the WWC’s trails are closed, we recommend that you mix it up and check out the George Poston Trail. A job well done by the city Gastonia on this gem. Within the past year they have extended the parking lot and improved the trail markers.
Background and the Trailhead
Tucked away in the town of Belmont, Rocky Branch Trail is the latest creation from the Tarheel Trailblazers. Just 15 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, Rocky Branch is approximately 4.5 miles. The trail had its origins on the Tarheel Trailblazers website forums this past year. Belmont’s city manager reached out to the mountain bike club looking for assistance on building their first mountain bike trail. In less than a year, the trail has evolved from concept to singletrack. The trailhead has a brand new parking lot located in a quaint neighborhood. Next the parking lot is a kiosk that has a map of the current trail (the master plan calls for 20 miles). The trail starts innocently enough as you head past the first gate and into a clearing. The trail then bends off into woods and begins winding between the trees. The first thing I notice is the attention to detail in building this trail. Every sign for an extension or loop has the exact mileage and is clearly marked. It has the best signage of any trail located in Charlotte metro hands down.
It is a mix of intermediate to expert singletrack. The soil is clay based which is consistent with most trails in the area. There are occasional rocky and rooty sections that will challenge even the most seasoned rider. Along with the technical terrain, the trail has some wide open areas as well as some tight corners. I wouldn’t consider this a beginner trail, but there are plenty of other options for the first timer in Charlotte. As a long time mountain biker I was thoroughly impressed with the trail. While riding, I stopped and spoke to another rider who lives in the neighborhood and rides it a couple times of week. In our exchange, he summed up my thought, “I can’t believe this gem is in my backyard”. As a resident of Charlotte, I couldn’t agree more.
A big thank you to the city of Belmont and the Tarheel Trailblazers