Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina has recently received a $243,700 grant from the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation Recreational Trails Program (RTP) to build the first segment of the Wilderness Gateway State Trail in McDowell County.
Designed for multiple uses, the Wilderness Gateway State Trail will be a long-distance backcountry trail spanning a proposed east/west route through the South Mountains, passing through four Western North Carolina counties. The entire WGST is broken into 10 segments, each of which are intended to connect local urban areas with regional natural spaces.
The RTP grant funds will be used specifically to construct a 6.8-mile portion of Segment 3, a planned 30-mile-total section of trail that lies largely within McDowell County and dips into Rutherford County. Its route is located in the 7,000-plus acre Box Creek Wilderness, protected since 2016 by a conservation easement held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Winding between U.S. 221 and U.S. 64, the trail presents a unique opportunity to eventually connect this wilderness to local businesses and downtown areas through links with other regional trail networks.