U.S. National Whitewater Center - Trail Running

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The ever growing, dual purpose trail system at the USNWC is well shaded and includes a great range of difficulty. From nearly flat and smooth to steep runs up the banks of the Catawba there's a trail for every type of training at the USNWC

Written by

Rob Glover


6.0 miles

Running the South Main Trail plus all attached loops equals roughly 6 miles. There are many other options to create longer or shorter trail runs.

Destination Distance From Downtown

18.9 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

There are a few steep, but not terribly long hills. There are some technical spots on the trail and the possible distance adds a little difficulty

Time To Complete

1 hours

The mostly interconnected trails at the USNWC, with all their optional loops, provides the makings of a short jog or multi-hour training session.


All Seasons

The trail remain open year round. During summer the center offers weekly opportunities for free concerts and other events.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

The USNWC is a very dog friendly place.

Fees Permits


$5 Parking fee per visit or $40 yearly parking pass. There are no costs to run the trails. Other activities do have associated costs.



The ever growing multi-use trail system at the U.S. National Whitewater center is a versatile place to get in some long trail miles, a quick workout, or a tough set of hill repeats.  The system is made up of a few main loops with optional loop trails attached. This makes it easy to create the perfect distance for your workout on the dual-purpose single track trail. 

What Makes It Great

There are currently around 30 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, each roughly three miles. The South, North, and East Main Trails also include optional loops which add between a half to a full mile each. This makes it easy to create just the right distance for your workout.

For a longer run or hill repeats: 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.

If you’re angry at your quads and want to show them whose boss, repeats on the Goat Hill Trail will keep them in line. Note, the top of goat hill can be confusing. Once you’ve climbed to the top, a sharp left turn takes you down and then up the Gasline trail, sometimes refered to as the back of Goat Hill. A right turn will drop you back down to the main trail without the extra up and down.

A more technical hilly route: 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.

A less populated trail with flow: The East Main Trail sits on its own, near the entrance to the USNWC. 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.

East Main is one of the best flowing trails with only a few technical areas. But quick decents are paid for by equal ascents, making this trail great for all around training. The recent addition of an optional one-mile extension has made East Main a great after work training run.

A less challenging route: 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. For runners, the Lake Trail is a great place to finish a long run on less hilly paths.

Who is Going to Love It

Trail runners of all shapes, sizes, and abilities can find something to challenge, or relax them at the USNWC. Beginners can hit the Lake Loop for its pleasant views and gentle grade. The most serious trainers will take advantage of the sharp climb up Goat Hill. 

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. 

Dogs are allowed on the trails but it is good form to keep them leashed. Even the most well-meaning pup can wreak havoc on a mountain bike trail. 

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. 


US National Whitewater Center - Running & Hiking

5000 whitewater Center Pkwy
charlotte, NC, 28214
35.476294, -80.892098

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