There are currently over 20 miles of trail weaving through the forested property around the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Offering some of the greatest variety around Charlotte, the trail system at the USNWC has miles of beginner (marked green), intermediate (marked blue), and advanced (marked black) options.
The system is made up of four main trails of three miles each: South, North, East, and the Lake Loop. The South, North, and East Main Trails also include optional loops, each one adding a half to a full mile. This makes it easy to create just the right distance for your workout.
What Makes It Great
The South Main Trail begins at on the backside of the large parking lot, just past the adventure pavilion. The intermediate trail has a few technical areas and a one longish hill but is mostly moderate. There are several side loops which, if all are included, make the total distance of the south trails over six miles.
The North Main trailhead is adjacent to South Main, just beyond the Adventure Center. This three mile loop is a little more technical and includes more assents and dissents as it leaves and returns to the banks of the Catawba River. To get the full four miles, add the advanced rated Figure Eight Trail.
Note that after the first mile, the trail leaves the forest and runs adjacent to the man-made river. Never fear, it soon dives back into tree cover and becomes technical once again.
East Main is one of the best flowing trails with only a few technical areas. Quick descents are paid for by equal ascents, making this a good all-around training trail. The East Main Trail sits on its own, near the entrance to the USNWC. As it’s not directly connected to the other trails it tends to be less populated. The recent addition of an optional one-mile loop makes this stand-alone trail a worthy effort. To find the trailhead, park along the left side of the parking lot and look for the rutted, dirt road. Follow it to the left as it drops down the hill. The trailhead is well marked on the right.
The Lake Loop sees the most traffic as experienced bikers like the speed of a non-technical trail and beginners find a more forgiving place to practice new skills. The can find the trailhead to the three mile lake loop by heading to the back of the main parking lot and riding the gravel road to the left (past the entrances to South and North Main).
Who is Going to Love It
There are options for every level of rider. While the advanced sections don’t have as many tricks as the Backyard Trail or Fisher Farm, the incline and fast descent of the Goat Hill Loop (off of South Main) will challenge experienced riders.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There is no charge at the USNCW to run or ride the trails. There is, however, a fee for parking – either $5 for one time or $40 for a yearly pass. Trail etiquette, and safety, on multi-use trails dictate slower movers yield the trail to faster movers and faster movers announce their approach. A common phrase is “rider back” to let people ahead know that someone faster is coming.
The trails are usually closed for 24 hours after significant rainfall. This is to protect the rider but also to protect the trail. Knobby, aggressive mountain bike tires tare up rain soaked dirt trails, making the work of volunteers who maintain them much more difficult. You can find trail status here.