Thermal Belt Rail Trail is a 13.6 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Rutherfordton, North Carolina that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for walking, running, and road biking and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length13.6 miElevation gain269 ftRoute typePoint to point
Dogs on leashWheelchair friendlyKid friendlyStroller friendlyRoad bikingWalkingRunningForestPavedRails trailsWildlifeCity walk
Description
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This trail is a paved rail-trail from Gilkey to Forest City. It is clean, well maintained, great for biking, walking, and running. It is family-friendly and connects five communities. There are no lights, so it is recommended to do this trail during daylight hours. At mile marker 11 you are in the town of Forest City and within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and the Pavilion for outdoor entertainment. Also at this mile marker, there are picnic tables, slides for kids, and an adult exercise area complete with a dog park set to open soon. The Forest City end of the trail seems more crowded in the late afternoons with families out exercising. The Gilkey end is usually more peaceful in a less populated area. Accessibility: There are 2 designated handicapped-accessible spaces in the paved parking lot off of Oak Springs Road. Both of them are van-accessible with striped access aisles. At the endpoint, there are also 2 designated handicapped-accessible spaces in the paved parking lot off of US Highway 221A. Both of them are van-accessible with striped access aisles. The trail surface is paved, smooth, and typically at least 10 feet wide. The estimated grade is gentle (all 3% or less), except for a moderately steep uphill section at 4.1 miles when going south. This trail will likely be navigable for most wheelchairs/mobility equipment or strollers.

Weather
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Daylight
Reviews (102)
Photos (42)
Activities (94)
Completed (117)
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Lindsay Horne
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 11, 2021
Road biking

this trail was nice! started at Gilkey side and went down to Forest Hill Elementary - 13.58 total miles one way. there are many mile markers along the way! stops, bathrooms, bike tool stations. very nice and will be back.

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James Williams
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Road biking

Always good.

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James Williams
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Hiking

What a great project for these small towns. Thank you for the effort.

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Jon Coles
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Hiking
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M Zollinger
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Bike touringGreat!

Great and easy Bike trail for my Grand kids and us as grand parents. Rented bikes at Open box in Spindale across from trail and biked 5 miles to Bechtler Gold Mine Park. It was an easy ride 1/2 the ride was a gentle downward roll no peddling needed. On the way back stoped at Jessy James railroad restaurant. They have the best Chile for their hotdogs and Hamburgers. They also have donut buns. What is that? you will need to go to find out. The whole trip was 4 hours from selecting the bikes, stoping at the gold mine park and eating mid lunch and taking our time. We all had a great time. Along the way we spotted 2 groundhogs on a hillside next to the trail.

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Taryn Harris
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Road biking
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Jason Chesnutt
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Bike touring

Simple and straight forward. Smooth ride or walk. Great for exercising or just enjoying a sunny day.

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Melissa Riegel
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Road biking

Trail is wide, paved, and mostly flat. There don’t seem to be any lights. It could use some police presence as we were harassed by several crack heads, saw a guy taking a crap on the side of the trail, and actually saw a guy light up his pipe. I would not feel safe doing this by myself and in fact my husband and I didn’t do the whole trail bc we didn’t want to be on the trail when the sun went down.

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Lynn Telford
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Road bikingGreat!

Great trail, wonderful at the Gilkey end, gets a little sketchy in Forest City. Is there a halfway house or something right on the trail? Some homeless looking people hang out right behind a run down motel there. Otherwise it was well maintained, lots of friendly folks using the trail. Parking areas are through out the length of the trail. You can choose a length you want to do.

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Carter Wood
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Hiking
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Walter Smith
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Road biking

A lovely, relaxing trail.

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Christine Hodgson
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Mountain biking

Great newly paved trail. Good for beginners; flat and easy or great out and back for training on road bike. Suggest stop in Rutherfordton for coffee or lunch.

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tony toms
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2020
Road biking

This is the best thing to happen around here in a while ! They should have done this year’s ago ! I haven’t biked the hole trail but I’m going to ! A lot of people use this trail !

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Joe Piesco
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Hiking

Very nice, spacious. Plenty of room for everyone. Close to old town which was also a nice stroll along Main Street.

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Mark Smith
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Hiking
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Kim Thorsen
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Road bikingGreat!
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Kristie Cantrell Holbert
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Road bikingGreat!

My husband and I loved this trail. He has rode bikes for years and this was my 2nd bike ride. It was easy for a first timer and really helps to improve your endurance.

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Matt Lucarelli
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Road biking

Great ride for the whole family from Gilkey down to Rutherfordton and back. Looking forward to checking out the rest one day.

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John Tolin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 25, 2020
Road biking

First time riding this trail. Very well maintained. Super clean. Very wide, room for everyone. We made the drive from almost an hour and and a half away and glad we did.

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Brooke Ledbetter
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Hiking

I bike and run this trail almost daily. From the start in Gilkey to the end at Forrest Hunt Elementary it is 13.58 miles. The entire length of the trail is paved and 12ft wide. There are many places to access the trail and park along the way. At mile marker 11 you are in the town of Forest City and within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and the Pavilion for outdoor entertainment. Also at this mile marker there are picnic tables, slides for kids and an adult exercise area completed, with a dog park set to open soon. The Forest City end of the trail seems more crowded in the late afternoons with families out exercising. The Gilkey end is usually a more peaceful ride in a less populated area. I really enjoy seeing so many people out enjoying this trail connecting all of these small towns.

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Kailee Guth
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Hiking

Great ride for the bikes! Thank you for not closing due to the virus.

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Stephen Williams
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Walking

This trail is now complete, a new and beautifully paved 13.1 mile stretch which offers easy, level walking, running or biking through three communities and some rural, wooded areas. High points include access to Forest City's new dog park and excellent entertainment amphitheater, lot's of dining choices, several bike repair stations, exercise station, water fountain/refill kiosk and even the historic Bechtler gold mine site. There are several parking areas, road crossings are well marked, several shady stretches and nicely done bridges enhance the experience. Bring the kids. this one is super family friendly, uncrowded and effortless.

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Michele Patterson
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Road biking

Great bike trail

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Lisa Jenkins
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Mountain biking

Very nice, easy riding trail. There are multiple street crossings on this section. Great trail.

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Sheree Crosby
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 29, 2019
Road biking

enjoyable easy ride. we accessed the trail at mile marker 7 in Spindale and headed south until pavement ends at the 13 mile marker. then trail becomes large gravel. we recommend accessing this trail at the northern end (more picturesque and woodsy) in Gilkey at the corner of US221 and Oak Springs Road. if you map the Gilkey Church of God, 255 Oak Springs Road, Rutherfordton, NC 28139 you will see parking on corner.

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Terry Blake
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 25, 2019
Road biking

Very good track for endurance training and patience when you consider the trail crosses several main roads and there could be considerable wait time

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Ronald Cooper
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I have ridden this trail several times, rode it out and back once. it is a bit over 13 miles in one direction. most of it is paved in blacktop. the trail had a lot of tree cover. there is a punt of interest about 2.5 miles from the start of the trail at Gilkey lumber, there is a gold mine called Bechtler Mint Site gold mine. it's pretty interesting it's a self guided site there is no fee, it only takes a few minutes to walk the site.

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Steven Andrews
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 3, 2018
Hiking

Walk was straight out and back. GPS read 1.5 miles and we turned around and came back. GPS read 2.5 miles, must have been a case of alien abduction

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Andrew Cox
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 13, 2018

When last I did it it was from spindale to the lumber mill in Gilkey, so about what this shows. very fun trail for biking. Pretty good amount of traffic but nice serene environment in some points and a small town historic feel through others. It's a good walk if you're looking for a walking trail, but if you want real hiking you might be a bit bored

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Mark Snyder
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 26, 2017
Running

Not sure why this is a moderate trail. The trail is flat with some gain as you head N out of Ruth into Rutherfordton! By the fall of 2018, the trail will measure around 13.1+ one way. Start in Spindale and head north to access the best sections of the trail.

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