Thermal Belt Rail Trail


The Thermal Belt rail trail is a perfect ride for bicycling and rail-trail enthusiasts alike. The 8 mile ride (16 miles total!) offers a challenging length and the railway tracks that peek out beneath the packed-gravel trail provide a small taste of railway history. The scenery throughout the trail ranges from expansive fields to hilly gorges, passing behind commercial parking lots and active milling operations. This trail is sure to satisfy all railtrail seekers!

Directions and Parking

The parking lot for the trail is located right off of the intersection of W. Main St. and Kentucky St. Please see our new map.  From Asheville: (1 hour) Take I-40 E toward Statesville. Take exit 85 for US-221 S/ US-221. Turn right onto US-221S. Turn left on Charlotte Rd. Continue onto W. Main St. The gravel parking lot will be on your left. From Charlotte: (1.5 hours) Take US-74 W. Turn left onto the Interstate 485 Inner N ramp. Take exit 10B to merge onto I-85 S toward Gastonia/ Spartanburg. Take exit 10 B to merge onto US-74W/ Andrew Jackson Hwy towards Kings Mountain/Shelby. Continue to follow US-74 W. Take exit 181 toward US-64/Forest City/Spindale. Merge onto US-74 Alt W. Turn right onto W. Main St. Parking lot will be on your left.  

Trail Information

The trail can be accessed either in the downtown district of Spindale or alongside US 221 off of Oak Springs Rd. The access to the trail will be immediately on the right, directly across from a lumber yard. The Thermal Belt Rail trail is a quintessential converted rail trail, with old tracks peeking out from under the crushed gravel trailway in several places and above and below grade sections generating a real feel for railway passage. The beginning of the trail at the Oak Springs Rd. entrance offers a perfectly shaded, tree-lined pathway. As you cross over some of the residential streets, the tracks become more visible below, offering a slight pathway of their own, gently guiding you past residential houses and rolling farm landscapes. At one point the trail passes right in front of a quaint little church, creating an entrance that dares the faithful to cross over the once present railroad tracks! The trail continues on, under bridges and alongside small valleys, providing rail-trail enthusiasts with spectacular views of the rolling farmland and even the South Mountains State Park off in the distance. There is a slight upward grade to the trail, and at times this can be challenging, particularly where the trail is not covered by adjacent trees offering little shade from that hot summertime sun! However, the gentle rolling of this trail would be the perfect place to train for longer athletic ventures in the form of half or full marathons, bike races, and the like. For those of us that simply love to enjoy all that the great North Carolina landscape has to offer, this trail offers many vantage points, from a small town perspective as one travels by the backyards of Rutherfordton and Ruth, to breezing by the backdoor loading dock of Yeltin’s Best Flour company operations. The trail also gives one the opportunity to witness some of the growing pains of city expansion as large swaths of land are being cleared for new development right in view of the trailway, leaving a gaping hole in the otherwise forested scenery. All along the trail there are old railway markers and railroad crossing signs, little reminders of the history hidden below. As you near the end of the trail in Spindale, idyllic Main St. comes into view; with its restaurants and Mom and Pop shops it is a perfect ending to an enduring North Carolina treasure. For a recent perspective of the trail please see this October 2014 article from the Daily Courier.

View Area Attractions

Trail Photos

photos courtesy of Nancy Pierce