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If you enjoy rail-trails that flaunt their railroading past, you're sure to love the Thermal Belt Rail-Trail. The trail begins in Gilkey, and a recent extension takes it over 13 miles southeast to Forrest Hunt Elementary in Forest City. The trail is also newly paved from point-to-point.
Along the way, the trail passes through the charming small towns of Spindale, Rutherfordton, and Ruth. A highlight of the route is its passage by the Bechtler Mint Site Historic Park, where gold was mined and gold coins were minted in the mid-1800s.
In Gilkey, the Thermal Belt Rail-Trail merges with the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. The latter follows the route Colonial Patriots took from Virginia to join the battle at South Carolina's Kings Mountain. According to the National Park Service, 57 miles of this 330-mile trail system are open and signed. (Look for the white or brown-and-white triangular signs depicting a soldier in profile.) If you're visiting in October, you may want to check out the annual Overmountain Victory Trail March along this route.
In Spindale, take Oakland Road to East Main Street. The trailhead is at the intersection of East Main and Kentucky Street. Park along the road.
In Rutherfordton, parking is available at Bechtler Mint Site Historic Park (342 Gilboa Church Road) and at Fashion Circle, just north of Rock Road.
In Forrest City, you can park at Forrest Hunt Elementary School (100 Forrest W Hunt Dr, Forest City).
Additional parking can be viewed on the map.
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