For over 15 years, people in Western North Carolina have dreamed of transforming the unused Ecusta rail line into something new—a 19-mile rail trail inviting people out into vibrant communities and beautiful countryside. Now that dream is becoming real!  

With a huge outpouring of local support and several major grants, Conserving Carolina and our partners raised the money necessary to buy the land and pay for construction. A groundbreaking on the first section of trail was held on October 28, 2023! We want to thank everyone who donated, especially our major donors 

Ecusta Trail groundbreaking
Ecusta Trail groundbreaking. Photo by Jeff Shields.

There is one final fundraising goal, to provide amenities so you can access and enjoy the trail—like trailheads, restrooms, and benches. This final phase of fundraising is being led by the grassroots organization that began advocating for the trail in the first place—Friends of the Ecusta Trail. Please go to their website and donate to finish the trail. 


Existing Pledges: Thank you to the donors who made a multi-year pledge to the Making the Dream Real campaign. If you have an outstanding pledge, please continue making pledge payments to Conserving Carolina so that we can give you credit for completing your commitment. Please make checks for pledge payments to Conserving Carolina and mail to 847 Case St. Hendersonville, NC 28792. If you would like to inquire about the status of your pledge, please contact Development Director Jenn Tutor, 828-697-5777 ext. 209 or [email protected].

People walking Ecusta Trail
Walking the rail corridor at the groundbreaking event. Photo by Jeff Shields.

Vision for the Ecusta Trail 

The Ecusta Trail will be a 19-mile greenway connecting Hendersonville and Brevard. Along the way, the trail will pass through Laurel Park, Etowah, Horseshoe, Penrose and Pisgah Forest. And it will link to other greenway and trail systems in Western North Carolina, which may include the proposed 31-mile Saluda Grade Trail 

This linear park will beckon people of all ages and abilities to get outside—on foot or by wheelchair, bike, stroller, or scooter. Kids will have places to play. People will get exercise in the fresh air. There will be new ways to get around—without driving. The trail will draw tourists and support local businesses.   

The Ecusta Trail will meander through fields and forests, beside streams, pastures, and country churches, and into thriving business districts—offering visitors the best of Western North Carolina. We envision the Ecusta Trail becoming one of the premier destination greenways in the Southeast! 

Ecusta Trail corridor. Photo by Real Digital Productions.

What’s Happening with the Ecusta Trail? 

We’ve come a long way, starting with a group of dedicated volunteers who have championed this ambitious vision since 2009—the grassroots Friends of the Ecusta Trail. In 2019, an opportunity arose to buy the railroad property. Conserving Carolina was asked by the Friends of the Ecusta Trail and other partners to step in and undertake the acquisition. On August 12, 2021, EcustaRails2Trails, LLC, a subsidiary of Conserving Carolina purchased the rail corridor for $7.7 million. 

Then, the two nonprofits, along with local government partners, worked together to raise funds for construction. There was an outpouring of support from local businesses and individuals, who gave millions of dollars to match state and federal grant funds raised by Henderson County to build the trail. But even after we met our fundraising target, escalating costs made our goal of building the trail still seem far away.  

In the summer of 2023, we got thrilling news. The City of Brevard was awarded not one but two game-changing grants for the Ecusta Trail. It now looks like we have all the money needed to build the entire 19-mile trail! We are so grateful for everyone who donated, making it possible for us to match major state and federal grants!  


Major sources of funding for the Ecusta Trail include the U.S. Department of Transportation, the State of North Carolina, Henderson County Tourism and Development Authority, Transylvania County Tourism and Development Authority, and private donors. We are also very grateful for the leadership of local government partners, Henderson County and the City of Brevard 

When Will the Ecusta Trail Open? 

A groundbreaking was held in October 2023, with construction expected to begin by the end of 2023. The first phase of construction is a 5.7-mile stretch from Hendersonville to Horse Shoe, NC. It is expected that this phase of construction will take approximately one year and it may take 3-5 years to build the full 19-mile trail.   

Photo by Real Digital Productions

Donate to Finish the Trail 

The Ecusta Trail is still in need of amenities so you can get out there and enjoy it. Friends of Ecusta Trail is raising funds for vital amenities like trailheads, restrooms, water fountains, benches, maps, and signage. Please help finish building the trail by making a tax-deductible donation through Friends of the Ecusta Trail!

Go to the Friends of the Ecusta Trail website to learn how to make your gift or pledge to finish the trail. You can donate online or by check. Gifts of liquid securities, real estate or estate gifts are also gratefully accepted.


Dog walking on Ecusta Trail corridor.
Dog walking on the trail corridor at the Ecusta groundbreaking. Photo by Jeff Shields.

Benefits of the Ecusta Trail

What will the Ecusta Trail mean in your life—new places to get outside, new customers for your business, new vitality for your community?

One thing we know: the Ecusta Trail will pay for itself many times over in benefits for our local economy, tourism, health, transportation, connectivity, and environment! This is why so many local governments and organization have endorsed the trail. Here are just a few of the reasons to build this exciting new greenway:  

  • Every $1 invested in land conservation (including parkland) returns $4 in economic value.  
  • Nationwide, rail trails have resulted in 5-20% increases in adjacent residential property values.  
  • Every $1 spent on greenways returns $3 annually in health care savings.  
  • The trail will provide more opportunities to exercise, resulting in longer, healthier lives. On average, every one hour of exercise leads to two hours of additional life. 
  • Exercise in nature supports mental and emotional wellbeing. It relieves stress, reduces depression, eases social isolation, and enhances self-esteem.  
  • The trail will attract tourists who support local businesses and grow our local tax base. With additional tax revenue, we can further improve our communities.   
  • Shared outdoor spaces bring people from different walks of life together, creating stronger social cohesion.  
  • Greenways are networks for alternative transportation, so people can get around without driving. This means less air pollution, less traffic, and better health.   
  • Natural areas along greenways provide corridors for wildlife. They also protect waterways, resulting in cleaner water and less flooding.    

Map of the Ecusta Trail with Potential Trail and Greenway Connections

Ecusta Trail map

Questions About the Ecusta Trail? 

You can learn more about the Ecusta Trail on the Friends of the Ecusta Trail website, including their FAQs. 

In October 2022, Henderson County released a storymap that shares preliminary design plans, with concepts for features such as bridges, road crossings, streams and wetlands, trail width, estimated costs. The storymap includes an interactive map of the trail in Henderson County.  

If you have questions about how you can support the Ecusta Trail, please call Deb Tellman, Friends of Ecusta Trail’s Treasurer at 828-490-1854 or email [email protected]

Thank you for making the dream real!


Ecusta rail line
Ecusta rail line. Photo by Real Digital Productions