About the State Trail

The vision for the Wilderness Gateway State Trail rests on three pillars: conservation, recreation, and tourism. The trail will protect and conserve riparian and other important habitats and serve as an ecological corridor between larger tracts of natural lands. It will create pathways and walkable downtowns in more urban areas to provide safe and pleasant recreation and exercise opportunities where people live and work. Finally, by creating recreational opportunities with access to scenic wilderness and connections to multiple downtowns, the trail will attract visitors from all areas of North Carolina and beyond.

Trail blaze for Wilderness Gateway State Trail

The turtle blaze pays homage to the Catawba tribe, since much of the trail traverses lands that were — and are — home to the Catawba. The Catawba people view turtles as protectors of the land, making the symbol even more appropriate.


Trail Use


Some Sections Open to Biking

Some Sections Open to Horseback Riding

Some Sections Open to Paddling



While section sponsors build, maintain, and manage their section of a state trail — deciding on location, design, surface, permitted uses and amenities — N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation staff are responsible for the overall corridor planning and coordination, as well as providing guidance and assistance to all section sponsors.

All State Trail Plans

Partner Organization

Tab/Accordion Items

The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina inspires conservation in western North Carolina by permanently protecting land and water for the benefit of people and all living things. Foothills Conservancy began as the South Mountains Coalition, a group of volunteers who were determined to protect the 35,000-acre "heart" of the South Mountains in the early 1990s. It was renamed Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina in 1997 as its mission expanded beyond South Mountains.

Today, the Foothills Conservancy envisions a thriving region to live and visit, with clean water, healthy forests, productive farmland, diverse wildlife, access to outdoor recreation, and communities that value conservation.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the conservancy serves eight counties — Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell, and Rutherford — in three major river basins: the Broad, the Catawba, and the Yadkin.

About Partner Organizations

The legislation that created the Complete the Trails program requires that funds be distributed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation to a nonprofit partner for each trail. To be the recognized partner, an organization must have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Division and an approved 3- to 5-year plan for deploying the funds to develop the state trail.

As part of the Complete the Trail Program, each state trail partner organization was required to submit a five-year plan, outlining priorities and goals until 2027 for their trail. Excerpts from the plan are outlined below.

Download the Plan (PDF)


Capacity Building Fund Projects:

  • Hire full-time WGST trail program manager by the fourth quarter in 2022 to oversee trail planning, alignment, and construction projects
    • Develop and maintain relationships and partnerships with stakeholder and volunteers / volunteer groups
  • Grow FCNC Volunteer Program
    • Recruit 1 volunteer per mile of trail built
    • Host monthly volunteer workdays to maintain the trail starting in 2023
    • Train lead volunteers

Priority CTP Projects:

  • Segment 2: Land acquisition – Pinnacle Mountains West
    • Other funds: N.C. Land and Water Fund; donated land value
  • Segment 6: Land acquisition – Prospect Ridge property
    • Other funds: donated land value; possible NCLWF
  • Segment 6: Trail planning and alignment – FCNC Henry Fork River Preserve
  • Segment 6: Trail construction – around 8 miles of trail on FCNC Smiths Cliffs / Henry Fork River Preserve
    • Other funds: RTP; private funds
  • Segment 2: Trail planning and alignment Pinnacles East and West
    • Other funds: Rutherford County Trails Collaborative


Estimated cost for all WGST priority projects $1,400,000
Estimated cost for all WGST projects $10,200,000
CTP allocation for WGST $1,219,506



Banner photo by N.C. DPR Staff: View from Cedar Knob in the planning corridor for Wilderness Gateway State Trail