New Adventures In Burke County

Burke County, NC
June 2023

Summer is finally here and it is the perfect time to get out and explore the outdoors. Here in Burke County, we deem ourselves Nature’s Playground due to our fantastic outdoor amenities both new and old. Located just off of 1-40 between Hickory and Asheville, we are one of the best kept secrets for outdoor enthusiasts in North Carolina. 

The Fonta Flora State Trail is one of those secrets that is starting to get out due to 2023 being celebrated as Year of the Trail across the state. This trail will eventually stretch from downtown Morganton to downtown Asheville but currently consists of an approximately 20-mile stretch of natural surface path that goes around Lake James. The most popular place to enter the trail is County Park located on N.C. Highway 126 is just outside of Morganton but there are other accesses that make it easy to section hike different areas. There are currently multiple sections being constructed in McDowell and Burke counties that will eventually all connect together to form the finished long-distance trail, but until then there is plenty to mountain bike or hike around the lake area.

Another hidden gem in Burke County is Valdese Lakeside Park. This new park was opened to the public in 2021 and features 7 miles of hiking and biking trails and a swinging bridge over McGalliard Creek connecting Valdese Lakeside Park to McGalliard Falls Park. McGalliard Falls Park has been managed by Valdese Parks and Recreation since 1982 so it was exciting to be able to join an older established park to a new park. Valdese Lakeside Park also has a dog park at the main entrance on Lake Rhodhiss Drive and will soon have a kayak launch for people wanting to explore the lake via paddle craft.

These two new additions to our outdoor amenities join our multitude of established options like South Mountains State Park, the largest land area state park in North Carolina; Lake James State Park; the Catawba River Greenway; Linville Gorge and more. We keep finding new ways to connect to the outdoors and that is why we are called Nature’s Playground. Come play with us!

The Burke County Tourism Development Authority is located in Morganton, North Carolina, and serves the tourism interests of Burke County, NC.  Morganton is hailed as, “The Trailhead of Western North Carolina”, centrally located in Burke County. Our Visitor’s Center is full of information about unique attractions and activities in the area. Stop by and visit us! or visit

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