Both history buffs and nature lovers will love this easy hike near Rutherfordton and Columbus. At Alexander's Ford, walk a section of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which traces the route used by 1,800 patriot militia during the Revolutionary War on October 5, 1780. They led a stunning victory over the British two days later. This 1.5-mile easy hiking trail follows the old road bed and ends at the Green River.
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail stretches 330 miles through four states (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina), ending at the site of the pivotal Kings Mountain battle. About 87 miles is now open to walk. This 1.5-mile section was saved from development in 2006 thanks to multiple grants and grassroots effort by organizations like Conserving Carolina. It opened as a park and trail in 2012. Bradley Nature Preserve at Alexander's Ford is now part of Polk County Recreation.
The first part of the unpaved trail meets Americans with Disabilities Act requirements with a gentle enough slope that is easily walked. Some muddy sections create a challenge for wheelchairs and scooters. The entire trail is mostly level with some slightly uphill sections. In addition to the picnic shelter at the trailhead, find benches and picnic tables along the hike. The trail ends at the camp site, just before the ford in the Green River where soldiers crossed on their way to King’s Mountain. There is no access to the river to protect that fragile area.
Take a peek at the ford in the river, created by a swallow area with many river rocks. Then enjoy the stroll back to your car. There is no visitor center or restrooms. It's open every day, sunrise to sunset. No camping.
There are no directional signs. GPS address is 500 Grays Chapel Church Rd, Rutherfordton, NC 28139. The road ends at the historic Grays Chapel United Methodist Church. Turn right just before the church and drive a short distance to the picnic shelter, parking and trail access. Located 1.5 miles off NC 105 between Columbus (13 miles away) and Rutherford (7.5 miles). It's 52 miles from downtown Asheville via I-26 East.
History of the Overmountain Men
This group of 1,800 farmers and hunters turned militia made one of the most stunning victories of the Revolutionary War. They crossed over the Blue Ridge Mountains from present day Tennessee and Virginia into North Carolina and marched towards South Carolina. Their target was British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army, who threatened to come to their rural areas to wipe out anyone who didn’t pledge allegiance to England. On October 5 while encamped on Green River bottomlands at Alexander’s Ford, the men heard that Ferguson’s army had retreated toward the main British army in Charlotte. So they decided to track him down. Just two days later, 900 of the best riflemen of the patriots met the loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The Overmountain Men defeated them and forced a retreat of the main army to South Carolina. Among the dead after that battle was Ferguson. Every year from September 24 to October 7, a group of reenactors travels the route, stopping and camping along the way. They also educate through their reenactments at several historic sites. There are usually encampments at the Gray's Chapel Church on October 4 or 5.
More WNC Sections of Overmountain Victory Trail
- Overmountain Vineyards (9 miles away), 2 miles of trail
- Glllespie Gap, Blue Ridge Parkway (Museum of NC Minerals), 5.75 miles
- Rose Creek Trail, West Side of Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 326, 1.4 miles
- Lake James State Park: Paddy's Creek Trail 2.3 miles
- Catawba River Greenway, Morganton, 5 miles
- Overmountain Victory NHT, Rutherfordton, 3 miles