User-Friendly State Trail Rings Lake James

One of the most user-friendly trail systems in the state is taking shape along the banks of Lake James in Western North Carolina. The Fonta Flora State Trail is under development by Burke County and will eventually encircle the picturesque lake located about 90 miles northwest of downtown Charlotte.

About 18 miles of the trail are already open and the trail’s popularity lies within its design. The earthen route is wide and gentle, with an average grade of just five percent. That makes it approachable for hiking and mountain biking for people of most all abilities.

“The goal is to make this trail as widely usable as possible,” says Shane Prisby, operations manager for Burke County Community Development. “We have a trail that accommodates both hiking and biking. You can walk a long distance and it doesn’t feel like you have walked the distance that you have. It’s what we call a flow trail … nice and easy and no aggressive drainage features.”

Lake James is a scenic and mostly undisturbed lake near Morganton, where the piedmont transitions to the mountains. Much of the land is in conservations and will never be developed, creating a sustainable natural environment for the trail.

“We have what we call more of a ‘front country’ experience where you can get back to your car comfortably in a couple of miles, but you can get out there, you can see the lake, see the creeks running through and experience the change in the landscape,” Prisby says. “You are looking at undeveloped lakeshore and it will be permanently undeveloped because it is conserved through the state park system.”

Lake James sits at the base of the Linville Gorge and trail designers routed the trail to take advantage of mountain views looking north into the gorge.

“There is one place on the trail that has the best view of Shortoff Mountain that I have ever seen in Burke County,” says Prisby. “It’s incredible.”

For more on outdoor adventure in Burke County, call (888) 462-2921, or go online to:

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