For the longest paved greenway for biking, jogging and walking near Asheville, head to Rutherford County to explore the 13.5-mile Thermal Belt Rail Trail. The converted rail line was completed in 2019 with a 12-foot wide trail connecting the towns of Ruth, Rutherfordton, Spindale and Forest City - with plenty to see along the way. Stop for shopping, restaurants and historic sites.
Pick a section perfect for your outing. The Northern Section (Mile 0 to 5) is more rural with long stretches between cross streets - making it the best for nonstop biking. The Southern Section (Mile 5 to 13.5) takes you through the towns with more stops, dining and things to do. Elevation changes are gentle, so it's great for the entire family. The natural forest canopy provides shade on much of the route. Dogs are welcome on a leash.
Find seven parking areas along the Thermal Belt Rail Trail:
- Gilkey - Oak Springs Road (Mile 0)
- Bechtler Mint Historic Site - 342 Gilboa Church Rd, Rutherfordton (Mile 2)
- Ruth at 1006 Railroad Ave, Rutherfordton (Mile 4.8)
- Downtown Spindale (Mile 7)
- Downtown Forest City and POPS, 172 Park Square, Forest City (Mile 11.2)
- Pine and Broadway Street, Forest City (Mile 12.5)
- Forrest Hunt Elementary, 100 Forrest Hunt Dr, Forest City (Mile 13.5)
Thermal Belt Rail Trail Tips
- Rail Trail is open from dawn until dusk.
- Speed limit is 15 miles per hour.
- Any child under the age of 16 riding a bicycle shall wear a helmet
- Stop at all street crossings.
- Pets other than dogs and cats are prohibited. Dogs and cats must be on leash no longer than 6 ft.
- Hunting is prohibited.
- No motorized vehicles allowed except for motorized wheelchairs, electric pedal- assisted bikes and electric scooters.
- If you need to rent a bike, go to OpenBox Bikes & Fitness Wholesale Store (153 W. Main Street, Spindale) or Pedals Bike Rentals & Snack Shop (141 Mill Street, Forest City)
The name "thermal belt" (also called isothermal) refers to the unique local geographical setting that creates warmer temperatures along the southern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The milder temperature contributes to longer growing seasons than in the immediate surrounding region thanks to protection from the nearby higher peaks.
Go to the Thermal Belt Rail Trail website for more details and updates.