You're Invited: Join the movement to protect our beloved, shared outdoor spaces.

Jan. 16, 2024, 8:26 p.m.

Accessible Outdoors: Old Fort's Mission to Improve Outdoor Access for All

Curtis Creek Pier

As part of our 2024 outdoor initiatives, we want to encourage all visitors to explore our beautiful outdoor spaces and nature trails.

Old Fort, NC and McDowell County are a great part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with so many unique and beautiful experiences to offer—but we can only call it great if it’s great for everyone. In collaboration with community partners and OutdoorsNC, we are working hard to develop improved accessibility for everyone, and to do our part in making accessibility goals a reality by providing accommodations and services for people of different abilities.

Below you'll find a list of accessible trails and outdoor spaces in our community!

Meadows Loop Trail

The Meadows Loop Trail is a unique outdoor experience in our Pisgah National Forest, allowing folks of different accessibility levels to enjoy our local forests. We reached out to our friend Jon Lane (G5 Director at theG5 Trail Collective) for details on Old Fort's newest trail. This is what he had to share:

The Meadows Loop is a 1-mile ADA-accessible trail that is located adjacent to the new Old Fort Gateway Trailhead. The hiking and wheelchair accessible trail provides a true easy experience along a wide-gravel surface through a creekside area. The Meadows Loop allows visitors to access Curtis Creek for fishing and swimming, traverse through a wetland on a series of boardwalks, and walk alongside a meadow for bird watching and wildlife viewing. No bikes are allowed on the trail.

The trail opening is the first phase of a larger project to restore the rare bottomland hardwood forest and provide educational opportunities. The final phases of the project will include additional invasive species treatments, wetland enhancement, native plantings, and streambank stabilization to help provide sustainable access to fishing along Curtis Creek. All improvements are set to be complete by fall 2024.

Outdoor NC Meadows Loops

The Meadows Loop Trail winds along Curtis Creek and takes hikers through a beautiful array of local flora and fauna. We were able to see some unique mushrooms and plants along the route! The trail is small, crushed gravel, and should accommodate most wheelchairs. Several spots along the trail are board walkways, helping to traverse across otherwise temperamental terrain prone to flooding or icing. Seating has been installed along the route to allow for breaks during your hike.

Curtis Creek Accessible Fishing Pier

A second accessible fishing pier at The Gateway Trails on the right, as you cross over Curtis Creek to the parking area. The pier features a paved path that takes you out to the middle of the creek for easy casting.  A rushing trout stream, stocked with Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout, with handicapped access overlook on left side of road as you approach the Curtis Creek Recreation Area and campground. GPS coordinates are 35.655295, -82.179128.

Our area of the Pisgah National Forest includes approximately 67,000 protected acres are within the Grandfather Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service lands. The first track of land purchased through the Weeks Act in 1911 and was an active part of the Civil Conservation Corps Project celebrating its 76th anniversary in 2009. Hiking trails, horse riding trail, waterfall trail. Seasonal RV and Tent sites. Picnic tables, grills and restrooms.

Curtis Creek Pier Panorama

Peavine Trail

The Peavine Trail runs for 1.5 miles from State Street in downtown Marion, North Carolina to just south of the First Christian Church on Rutherford Road. Construction of the crushed gravel and grass trail began immediately after the City of Marion’s purchase of 2.4 miles of the abandoned Peavine Rail Line from Norfolk Southern in 2010. The railroad corridor originally extended southward from Marion to Camden, South Carolina and was opened for operation in 1890 by the Georgia and Carolina Midland Railway Company. This rich history of the Peavine Trail is evident at the current Rutherford Road endpoint, where barricades prevent access to a gorgeous but structurally unsound original wooden trestle.

Lake James State Park

We interviewed Park Superintendent Nora Coffey of Lake James State Park for information on accessbility options within this popular state park. Nora indicated:

  • At the Catawba River Area we have two ADA campsites, numbers 19 & 20, a paved trail down to an accessible fishing pier, 2 accessible picnic sites and and accessible picnic shelter.
  • At the Paddy's Creek Area we have two ADA campsites, numbers P13 & P14, 3 accessible picnic sites, two accessible picnic shelters, a paved trail down to an accessible fishing pier that also leads to the swim beach, and we have a beach wheelchair that we have available for public use.
  • All of the public bathroom and shower facilities at both the Catawba River and Paddy's Creek areas of the park are accessible.

Catawba McDowell Greenway

Easy walk in access, handicap accessible fishing piers and canoe/kayak access available from three points along the greenway.  This section is stocked with Largemouth Bass, Redbreast Sunfish, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, White Bass and Yellow Perch.  Use your fly fishing skills to lure Brown Trout, Brook Trout or Rainbow Trout.

McDowell Catawba Greenway

Black Bear Campground

Black Bear campground boast 30 primitive campsites along with five cabins. On top of this, Black Bear Campground has a day use area that features a picnic area, a fishing pier and various hiking trails including the Fonta Flora State Trail. Black Bear Campground features ADA compliant picnic area, fishing pier and restrooms.

Black Bear Campground and park

Check out the following link for additional tips on Safe & Responsible Travel in McDowell!

Lastly, we want everyone; from locals to new visitors, to those curious about Old Fort and our surrounding towns, to understand: Accessibility isn't just defined by physical or internal conditions. As with much of our country, we recognize that accessibility to outdoor spaces and outdoor recreation has been a difficult journey, one that we are all still on. We want to acknowledge and thank our friends at West Marion Community Forum, Inc, People on the Move Old Fort, and G5 Trail Collective for sharing their collective statements on equity and access in our community.

As McDowell County individuals, we are committed to unifying our residents by respecting and acknowledging each other’s cultures and lived experiences. To build a stronger community we will continue to educate ourselves and others, by actively challenging historic systemic racial inequities and policies that still exist. It is a human right for all people of McDowell County, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sex, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, culture, or language, to live without fear and have equitable access to resources to establish a foundation of health and well-being.


ACCESS North Carolina A Vacation And Travel Guide for People with Disabilities

Visit NC: Accessible Adventures: NC Fun for Travelers of All Accessibilities

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: Disabled Access and Opportunities

Accessible Nature: North Carolina Accessible Easy Trails


Catalyst Sports

Waypoint Adventures