Leading the Way on Greenways and Rail Trails

All of us need green space close to home where we get healthy, outdoor exercise and reconnect with nature. That’s why Conserving Carolina is helping create local greenway systems that link neighborhoods, parks, schools, and businesses. In most cases, rail trails and greenways are accessible to people of all abilities—helping to ensure that everyone has opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Among our greenway efforts, we are leading the way on two epic rail trails that would also serve as recreation destinations, with major positive impacts for our local economies. These include the 19-mile Ecusta Trail and the 31-mile Saluda Grade Trail. 

Kieran Roe, our executive director, sums up the importance of greenways: “Greenways and rail trails are a priority for Conserving Carolina because they bring the benefits of conservation close to home for more people. Greenways provide places for us to connect with nature, get exercise, and release stress. They provide safe routes for alternative transportation, so they reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. Greenways strengthen our local economies and improve our quality of life.” 

Oklawaha Greenway
Oklawaha Greenway

New Greenways in the Works

Conserving Carolina is a leading partner in efforts to create the ambitious Ecusta Trail and Saluda Grade Trail—50 miles of rail trail projects. We are also involved in many other local greenway projects. We serve as a partner to local governments to move greenway projects forward. We help engage the public in the planning process, write grants to fund greenways, and work with willing landowners to secure land and rights-of-way. We also mobilize volunteers to keep our greenways clean. 

We’ve played a role in providing sections of four greenways that are already open for you to enjoy: the Vaughn Creek Greenway in Polk County; Cane Creek and Oklawaha Greenways in Henderson County; and Brevard Bike Path in Transylvania County. Currently under construction, the Ecusta Trail will soon be added to this list! 

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

In addition, we are working to advance six new or expanded greenways: 

Ecusta Trail: This exciting 19-mile rail trail will connect Brevard and Hendersonville, providing new opportunities for outdoor recreation and tourism. We envision the Ecusta Trail as a major asset to our communities, like the Virginia Creeper Trail or Swamp Rabbit Trail. Conserving Carolina successfully worked  with the Friends of the Ecusta Trail and other partners to raise funds to buy the land and build the trail and, as of October 2018, the Ecusta Trail is now under construction! Learn more.

Saluda Grade Trail: Conserving Carolina is one of the lead partners working to create the 31-mile Saluda Grade Trail that will follow the route of the historic Saluda Grade rail line, passing through Inman, Landrum, Campobello, Tryon, Saluda, and Zirconia. We are working with our communities to develop a vision for the trail that supports local goals and provides major benefits for local economies, outdoor recreation, and health. Learn more. 

Mills River Valley Trail: This proposed 3-mile multi-use path will connect the heart of Mills River to the French Broad River, providing a safe route for walking and biking in the Hwy. 280 corridor. The path will be separated from the busy road, making this corridor safer for everyone. Conserving Carolina is raising funds that will be matched 4 to 1 by a state grant. Can you make a donation? Learn more.  

Brevard GreenwaysConserving Carolina is helping expand the Estatoe Trail to the historic Rosenwald community, connecting this neighborhood with downtown Brevard and Pisgah National Forest. In addition, our volunteer crew, Friends of Brevard Area Trails, helps to keep Brevard’s greenways clean and improve trails in the adjoining Bracken Mountain Preserve. Learn more.  

Cane Creek Greenway: We are acquiring easements from landowners in order to extend this greenway in Fletcher by approximately half a mile, using grant funding from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Conserving Carolina helped to create the existing 3-mile greenway and restore the creek, in order to reduce erosion and improve natural habitat. 

Oklawaha Greenway: Conserving Carolina is an active member of Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway, helping to maintain and improve this Hendersonville greenway. We’re also working with landowners toward expanding the greenway, including a connection to Blue Ridge Community College. 

Saluda Grade through Campobello.
Saluda Grade through Campobello. Photo by Scott Park/Upstate Forever.

A Big Vision: The Hellbender Trail

Greenways bring so many benefits to our communities, it’s no wonder that towns, cities, and counties throughout WNC have been planning for new greenways. When you put those plans together, a larger vision starts to emerge—an expansive greenway network known as the Hellbender Trail. This network would connect 150 miles of multi-use trails, stretching from Asheville to Brevard and Rosman; to Hendersonville and Flat Rock; to Swannanoa and Old Fort; to Woodfin and Weaverville, and to Canton and Waynesville. The proposed Saluda Grade Trail would extend this network even further, into Upstate South Carolina. We’re excited to be playing a key role as advocates for greenways in our communities!    

Explore the vision for the Hellbender Trail 



Get the Latest News on Greenways

Here’s where to find the latest stories about greenways. There could be new places to walk, run, bike, relax, or play, coming near you!


Brevard Greenway