Photo Credit @northgateresorts

South Mountain Scenery By-Way

Route Type: Driving

This beautiful journey through the Golden Valley area of Rutherford County is a nature lover's treat for the eyes. Winding through low rolling foothills, rustic farmlands, and picturesque orchards; the South Mountain Scenery By-Way travels across Golden Valley flanked by distant mountains on either side. For anyone who enjoys the beauty of the mountains, but not the high altitudes and hairpin curves, this is the perfect drive to view nature at its loveliest.

Places to Stay:
Choose from one of the many secluded Golden Valley cabins with incredible panoramic views, and bask in the beauty of the season from your very own porch rocking chair. Enjoy the family-friendly Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Campground which offers both tent and RV sites, as well as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing on-site. There are even cabin options available for those who like their camping a little more indoor-friendly.

Places to Eat:
Becky's Country Store & Grill is a popular local spot housed in a converted gas station, featuring home-cooked meals, local BBQ, and daily specials for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have a sweet tooth, there's no better stopping spot in Golden Valley than The Whistle Stop Bakery & Farm Store. It's the perfect place to grab some freshly baked bread and home-baked goodies to take along on the ride. If browsing while munching is more your style, don't miss Washburn's General Store. Located in Bostic and originally opened in 1831, it's the region's oldest establishment. Grab a bite at the lunch counter then lose yourself in the incredible array of locally crafted jams and cheeses, antiques, clothing, and old-fashioned candy.

Photo Worthy Points of Interest:
Besides the wonderfully picturesque orchards framed by distant mountains and nearby forested foothills, be sure to take a moment or two to stop and appreciate the region's patriotic history. Cane Creek is a Revolutionary War battle site that was influential when it came to the tactical decisions made for the well-known battle of Kings Mountain. Tour the veterans cemetery in the historic community of Hollis and view the WWI Memorial. It's sure to send chills of pride down your spine.

The Thermal Belt Rail Trail

Route Type: Walking / Biking

If leisurely walking and cycling sound far better than viewing the great outdoors through a tempered glass window, The Thermal Belt Rail Trail is for you. This 13.5-mile trail is a converted railroad corridor linking the towns of Spindale, Rutherfordton, & Forest City. With multiple access points and a combination of paved trail and conditioned gravel that's great for hikers and cyclists alike, it's the perfect outdoor option for a family or group scenic trip.

Places to Stay:
This trail's numerous access points make lodging nearby easy. Looking for someplace uniquely rural? Try Cherry Mountain Farm. Located in Rutherfordton, NC, this adorable vacation rental option is not only picturesque, it offers the opportunity to interact with the farm's horses and goats, as well as the resident dogs and cats. The Firehouse Inn is a bed-and-breakfast style hotel located in downtown Rutherfordton's original 1925 city hall and firehouse, and its combination of elegant European decor and quaint southern charm is sure to thrill the eyes and the senses. Orchard Park Campground is the perfect option if you're searching for something a bit more rustic. Located just outside of historic downtown Forest City, this campground offers sites from primitive to RV and even includes onsite horseshoes and panning for gold in Hollands Creek.

Places to Eat:
Spindale's 1 Chef Kitchen is a local food truck that serves fantastic, creative culinary options for lunch or an early dinner, full of classic American fare served hot and fresh. In Forest City, The Pie Safe Baking Company is a local favorite for coffee and goodies, offering a wide variety of homemade breads, pies, and pastries. With locations in Rutherfordton and Forest City, the Copper Penny Grill is an easy favorite serving a wide variety of steaks, burgers, salads, and sandwiches, all wonderfully seasoned and easy on the wallet.

Photo Worthy Points of Interest:
The Thermal Belt Rail Trail has many beautiful areas of tree-canopied path, in addition to stretches that flank farmlands, and a few points that wind through more industrialized areas. While traveling the trail, be sure to stop and take advantage of the Bechtler Mint Site Historic Park. It includes a short loop walking path with information boards that explain the history of local gold mining and features the original Bechtler mint and mine shaft. It's definitely a "golden" opportunity for a side excursion on your trail adventure!

Chimney Rock State Park

Route Type: Walking / Hiking

Chimney Rock State Park is well-known for its hiking trails, beautiful rock formations, and incredible waterfalls. The park offers a number of trail options for every age and ability level, including an elevator to the top of the Rock for those who want to experience the view without the effort to get there. Try the Hickory Nut Falls Trail. It's only 1.4 miles round trip, is easy enough to be kid-friendly, and leads to the base of the park's awe-inspiring 404-foot waterfall. If you're feeling energetically adventurous, take on the Skyline Trail. This 2.2-mile round trip trail winds through ridge-top forests, past sheer cliffs, and leads to one of the most breathtaking gorge overlooks you'll ever experience.

Places to Stay:
If a location that offers river view balconies, onsite fishing, and outdoor picnic areas is your ideal, then The Carter Lodge on the River will be a definite favorite. Located on Main Street in Chimney Rock Village, this quaint 16-room lodge at the base of Chimney Rock Park offers a peaceful, easy-access oasis for any traveler. If someplace a bit more secluded is your style, you'll love A Cabin on the Rocks. This quaint, completely renovated, old schoolhouse sits perfectly nestled by the Rocky Broad River. For those who prefer to relax in a rustic hotel setting, The Esmeralda Inn is the perfect choice. Originally opened in 1892, this small, lovely inn is the epitome of southern hospitality with massive mountain charm.

Places to Eat:
The availability of local establishments offering wonderful cuisine of every form is easy to access in Chimney Rock Village. Have your morning coffee at the Broad River Coffee Shop. Grab a snack and some old-fashioned lemonade at Bayou Billy Homemade Soda Pop. Craft beer lovers will enjoy the Hickory Nut Gorge Craft Brewery, and wine aficionados will adore the Burntshirt Vineyards Tasting Room & Bistro. A relaxing dinner with a fantastic view can easily be found at the Riverwatch Bar & Grill or Medinas Village Bistro, both located on Main Street. You'll quickly discover that any form of dining with a view is easy to find.

Photo Worthy Points of Interest:
Chimney Rock Village and Chimney Rock State Park are the ultimate nature lover's photo opportunities in themselves. In the village, which is flanked by the awe-inspiring beauty of Chimney Rock and nestled beside the Rocky Broad River, you'll have to try harder to not find a picture-perfect background than you will to find one! In the park, make sure to stop for a selfie at Hickory Nut Falls when hiking the trails, and don't forget to get some shots of the view from the Hickory Nut Gorge overlook. You'll find that both the park and the village are photographic memory-making made in heaven.

Scenery at its Finest

Autumn is a season to experience the foothills and mountains of North Carolina in some of their most beautiful finery, and Rutherford County has scenic routes to view it that will take your breath away. From driving to hiking, or even walking or biking, you're sure to find the perfect trail option for your weekend or day trip getaway. Get on the road! The incredible autumnal beauty of nature is only a short car ride away!