Get here from there.
By Hope S. Philbrick
A Yadkin Valley, North Carolina tourist need not thrive on wineries alone: Get moving and hit the trails in and around Elkin.
The Elkin Valley Trails Association is a volunteer group focused on building and promoting walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling, history, birding, and wildflower trails in the greater Elkin Valley area.
On a recent visit to Elkin, I hiked a two-mile trail with three of the group’s volunteers. We started in the Municipal Park, strolled along a wide path past several historic points to reach a new bridge, and headed into the woods to check out a future additional loop. It was a pleasant stroll with great company and an ideal way to start the morning before a day of wine tasting.
Denise Lyon, an enthusiastic Elkin Valley Trails Association volunteer, answered a few questions about the organization, hiking in Elkin, and future plans for the trail system.
What is the Elkin Valley Trails Association and what does it do?
We are an all-volunteer non-profit that formed about five years ago. We’re a group of folks who saw an opportunity to add something positive to the community by building a network of trails. The biggest project we’re taking on is building a segment of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which is an 1,100-mile trail that goes all the way across the state from the mountains to the sea.
How does Elkin fit into the state-wide trail?
The entire trail is probably about half done in terms of making it an off-road trail, though you can walk the entire trail now—we’ve had lots of through-hikers already—but at the moment it’s a combination of trail and roadways. It’s all finished in the mountains, starting on the state line and going toward Elkin. We’re completing the next part from Stone Mountain State Park to Elkin. Our goal is to connect the trail from Elkin to Pilot Mountain State Park. Elkin lies in the middle of those two state parks. The trail from Stone Mountain State Park to Pilot Mountain State Park through Elkin will be about 55 miles, so it’s a pretty big project we’re taking on! Right now the Stone Mountain State Park to Elkin trail is the primary focus.
When will the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail be complete?
I have no clue. It’s something that has been in the works for the last 20 years. It depends on volunteer groups like ours stepping up to the plate and working on sections. There’s been a big revival of interest the last five years; lots of new groups are starting to work on it. There’s a burst of energy to get it done. We’re working on our part and I would say we should be pretty close to done in the next five years.
What are the trail options in Elkin?
Stone Mountain State Park has tons of hiking trails. Within the city limits, before our group formed, Elkin had already built a segment of the Overmountain Victory Trail—that is another long trail and Elkin has a segment of it. The Overmountain Victory Trail is a national historic trail, a federal linear park from Abingdon, Va., to Kings Mountain, N.C., tracing the route of a Revolutionary War march; a portion goes through Elkin. We really pride ourselves on having a short segment of the federal linear park and also the state linear park (the Mountains-to-Sea trail). We’re a confluence of these two really incredible trails plus we also have the Yadkin River coming right through town and so we have a designated river trail. All these trails coming through town are a wonderful backbone and we’re adding side trails like a great “Camino de Vino” trail that will be a hiking and biking loop off our main trail. Then we also have a mountain bike loop adding an extra 3.5 miles. So we’ve got lots of things going simultaneously to build this trail network.
“Camino de Vino” sounds fun! What else is planned?
The new “Camino de Vino” bike and hike trail will connect wineries on a six- to eight-mile loop.
So much depends on landowner agreements. We can really build trails fast; our volunteers are good. The landowner agreements take time. We want to make sure the landowners are happy, they totally determine where the trail is going to go. That’s the time-consuming step. Once they say yes we flag the trail and put it down. We’ve got two miles left to go in the section we’re working on now. Maybe two to three years to fully complete it.
If someone comes into town and wants to hike, what’s the best place to start?
You could plop down on Main Street in Elkin and start right there on the Mountains-to-Sea trail. The town is in the process of building a new Heritage & Trails Visitor Center. It will be a central place with plenty of parking that will have displays showing all the historic trails, river trails, Yadkin Valley wine trails, and so on. You could stop there to pick up information, brochures, maps. It’s not open yet, it’s still in the building phase, but should open sometime next year. In the meantime, you can find all that information at the Town Hall. We’re also in the process of getting kiosks put around town that will make it easier for people to pick up maps. We’re working really hard on getting the infrastructures in place.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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