South Fork Trail

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Trail Tips

Conscious Crossing

Make eye contact with oncoming drivers before crossing a street, even at a crosswalk. Use crossing signals when available.


Parking Address: 149 Willow Drive, McAdenville, NC 28101 (Google Maps says Gastonia) MAP

Trailhead Location: MAP

Canoe/Kayak Launch: MAP


The South Fork River trail is a 2 mile natural surface trail adjacent to the South Fork of the Catawba River and suitable for hiking and mountain biking. This is an out-and-back trail, totaling 4 miles round trip. Heading north from the trailhead, the trail sneaks under the I-85 bridge and quickly meanders through a quiet section of woods along the river. The trail is marked at the 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 mile points, ending near the cul-de-sac of a residential neighborhood. While no parking is available at this end of the trail, there is pedestrian access for neighborhood residents. The land surrounding this trail is on the Pharr Yarns Preserve, a 94.8-acre preserve protected through the Catawba lands Conservancy.

Consisting of a mix of singletrack and doubletrack, this 2.2-mile out-and-back trail makes for a relaxing ride on a recovery day for seasoned riders or a great first time trail ride for the beginner wanting to get their feet wet in the sport of mountain biking. This trail is also an excellent place to teach a kid how to ride off-road, or just enjoy an nice hike along the river. The trail is located on the Pharr Yarns Preserve, a preserve home to many interesting wildlife and unique plants. Big leaf magnolias, which produce the largest leaf of any tree in North America and were first described in Gaston County in 1789, can be found in this preserve. Silverbell grow along the riverbanks of the preserve and produce white, fragrant flowers in April and May.

This is a historic trail that was originally used by the Native Americans and then utilized by settlers for textile mills. There were two mills in the woods along the trail. One was the Ferguson Mill and the other one was nicknamed Pinhook. Opened in August 1852, the Pinhook Mill was the second mill to operate along the South Fork River. According to Gaston County historian Robert Ragan, the mill received its name because mill workers’ would use bent textile pins to fish for lunch outside the building’s windows. During the Civil War, a small detachment of Union soldiers were sent to burn down Pinhook Mill, which was producing cloth for the Confederacy. Upon hearing the soldiers coming, mill superintendent William Sahms ran out to meet the Union troop, only to find them led by his Pennsylvanian childhood neighbor. Sahms convinced the soldiers to spare the mill and the soldiers burnt the bridge instead.The stone pillars of the bridge are still in the river.

Other Information

South Fork Trail is a part of the Butterfly Highway. "The Butterfly Highway is a statewide conservation restoration initiative that aims to restore native pollinator habitats to areas impacted by urbanization, land use change and agriculture across North Carolina. From backyard Pollinator Pitstops to large-scale roadside habitat restoration, the project is creating a network of native flowering plants to support butterflies, bees, birds and other pollen and nectar dependent wildlife." NC Wildlife Federation-Butterfly Highway Website


Special Note: While the trail is relatively flat, there are a number of areas that have the potential for flooding during heavy rainfall. Hikers, mountain bikers, and runners should take caution on this trail after heavy rainfalls.

Trail Manager

Visit Catawba Lands Conservancy website for more information or contact:

Catawba Lands Conservancy
Land Stewardship Director
4530 Park Road, Suite 420
Charlotte, NC 28209
Phone: 704-342-3330 x209


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The South Fork Trail is a natural surface trail running along the bank of the South Fork of the Catawba River and connecting the quaint towns of McAdenville and Lowell.The 2-mile trail is suitable for hiking and biking. The trailhead is also adjacent to the R.Y. McAden River Access.

Quick Facts

Trail Uses Walking / Hiking / Running
Mountain Biking
Location Gastonia (NC)
Lowell (NC)
McAdenville (NC)
Difficulty Moderate
Length2.0 miles, One Way
Surface Natural surface
Fees No
PetsPermitted on leash
Motorized vehiclesNot Permitted
ADA CompliantNo
Number of parking spaces18
Hours of operationDawn - Dusk

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Trail Tips

Slippery When Wet

Some trails will be slippery after a rain or if they are covered in fallen leaves. Watch your step!

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Nearby Geocaches

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