The small town jewels you will find along the trail
Glen Alpine is the start of the Burke River Trail. From downtown, it is one mile to the the Watermill Kayak Access on the Catawba River. It was once home to the largest hotel in NC. Check out their 4th of July Main Street Parade and Fall Festival. The Glen Alpine Springs Hotel was built in the early 1870’s and was the largest wooden structure in North Carolina. The building was later used as a school until it burned.
Morganton, the county seat, was established in 1784 but not incorporated until 1885. Morganton was named for Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, hero of the American Revolutionary War. Before settling on “Morganton,” the city was named Morgansborough, and Morgantown and then to Morganton. Morganton hosts an annual Christmas Parade and outdoor Festival in September.
Drexel, centrally located in Burke County, is well known for its former furniture plant, Drexel Heritage. Today it is widely known for the Drexel Fair that runs an entire week in August and is the only remaining agricultural fair in the county. Drexel boasts The Drexel Barber Shop, which is nationally known for its Bluegrass jam sessions on Thursday through Saturday. For recreation enthusiasts, options include the RO Huffman Center, with adjoining baseball and football fields for youth and adult activities. The annual Christmas parade, held on the second Saturday in December, is a must-see!
Valdese has a strong heritage with the Waldenses from Italy settling the town in 1893. The town has a 300 acre park on Lake Rhodhiss (parking, restrooms, dog park, kayak launch, fishing pier, trails) and is home to the first two miles of the Burke River Trail. The 10-foot wide crushed cinder trail connects Valdese Lakeside Park with McGalliard Falls Park with a 160-foot suspension bridge. Restaurants and a brewery are located on Main Street
Rutherford College once known for its outstanding seminary school, has a rich history in education. Now if you hear Rutherford College your mind may go straight to BBQ! September brings Kansas City BBQ competitors from all across the country to this small town for cash prizes and bragging rights. Rutherford College has the quaint hometown feel that most desire in a neighborhood. You can stop by Town Hall to stroll in the RC Greenway Park and kids will enjoy the playgrounds. You may even get to see a goat or two!
Connelly Springs will be the midpoint of the Burke River Trail, but the town is not new to being the “center.” Colonel Connelly built a log home and operated a way station where fresh horses could be acquired by the stage coach line which ran from Salisbury to Asheville. The Connelly home was located halfway between those two towns and boarders were also welcomed. In the summer, the town hosts a monthly outdoor concert series. There is a great veterans park and picnic area at town hall where food trucks also make an appearance.
Rhodhiss is located in both in Caldwell and Burke counties, – The material of the US flag that the astronauts erected on the first visit to the Moon in 1969 was woven at Burlington Mills. The Rhodhiss Town Park offers a walking track, picnic shelters, and abundant green space. The Horseshoe Dam Park is built around the remains of a Horseshoe shaped Dam that was constructed in the early 1900s. It offers public fishing access, a kayak/canoe launching point, picnic shelters, and a scenic trail along the river.
Long View is located in both Catawba and Burke Counties. A short drive down 2nd Ave NW from Town Hall located on 1st Ave SW, will take you by Century Furniture, a Hickory Brands Company that provides a variety of Textile jobs to the community, and then on to the Rec Center located at 3107 2nd Av NW. There, you can find a .77 mile walking track, two large fields, playground equipment, and a large covered shelter with picnic tables where you can enjoy your lunch and watch airplanes land from the Hickory Regional Airport.
Hildebran offers a park with playground/fitness equipment, disc golf course, bocce court, a ¼ mile walking trail, and a pavilion and depot for rent. Yearly events include a Farmers Market, Cruise Ins, Fireworks on Memorial Day weekend, Christmas Parade, Craft Show and Festival. Hildebran is also home to a state-of-the-art library and senior center. A new park is under construction that will feature a splash pad, accessible playground equipment, pavilion, covered stage and paved walking trail.