South Fork Rail-Trail


The South Fork Rail Trail is a combination of natural surface and crushed gravel trail providing nice terraced views of the South Fork of the Catawba River. The trail begins directly to the left of the parking lot access off of Laboratory Road and extends for approximately 0.8 miles of flat hiking. 

Directions and Parking

A gravel parking lot is located directly in front of the main trailhead and can be accessed at 7677 Laboratory Road in Lincolnton, NC. Also see our map of the trail.

From I-85 in Gastonia, take exit #17 to U.S. 321 North.  Take U.S. 321 North approximately 9 miles to Exit #20 (Lincolnton and High Shoals).  Turn left (west) at the bottom of the ramp onto SR 155/Business 321 North (Gastonia Hwy.) and follow it approximately 2.7 miles to Southside Road (you will pass the large Covenant Baptist Church on the left prior to turning left).  Turn left onto Southside Road and travel about 0.3 miles until it turns into South Fork Road (Southside Rd. actually turns to the left).  Go straight on South Fork Road until reaching a stop sign at Laboratory Road.  Turn right onto Laboratory Road and cross the South Fork River.  The trail parking lot is on the right, immediately after crossing the river.

Trail Description

This public trail within a 324-acre privately owned preserve is protected by a conservation easement with Catawba Lands Conservancy. The trail follows the South Fork of the Catawba River with scenic views of the river, rock outcrops, and an historic mill dam. A bald cypress swamp borders the trail for a short distance.

Visitors use this trail for walking, running, hiking, and mountain biking. Pets on a leash are also allowed to enjoy this scenic route! Spring wildflowers and mountain laurels peak mid-April to mid-May. Habitats in this area include floodplain forest, upland forest, and wetland.

Historic downtown Lincolnton (established in 1785) five minutes north of the South Fork Rail Trail. Visit the Lincoln County’s site for information on events and local attractions!

Trail Photos


Lincolnton Ladies Hiking Club holding new NCRT sign. Photos courtesy of Nancy Pierce.