Outdoors & Adventure

Your Guide to the Charlotte Rail Trail

Looking to enjoy an active afternoon in the QC? Take a stroll, a jog or grab a bike and get your heart rate up while enjoying some of the best spots along the Rail Trail in South End.

Photo by Jessica Swannie

Charlotte’s Rail Trail, which runs 3.5 miles along the LYNX Blue Line in South End, serves as a hub for food, entertainment, art and shopping just a few minutes from Uptown. The paved, art-speckled trail provides a well-manicured stretch for an afternoon workout, complete with healthy culinary stops for a post-sweat-session reward. Ready to kick-start a lasting fitness routine? Check out our tips for making the most of your Rail Trail workout.

Gear Up

Before setting out for a quick jog or a walk with your pup, dress for the weather with a local fashion statement. Glory Days Apparel released a limited-edition Rail Trail collection of shirts featuring a lineup of exercise-centric designs including running, biking and dog walking. The rainbow design mimics the vibrant hues of the trail, and proceeds go to Charlotte Center City Partners to raise funds for trail maintenance.

Photo courtesy of Glory Days Apparel

Planning to get a lot of sun? Grab an iconic “CLT” hat from Girl Tribe Co. to block the rays. The shop, located near the East/West Boulevard Station, is easily spotted with a pink storefront.

Photo courtesy of @girltribeco

Get Outside

Find motivation to exercise with other like-minded Charlotteans on the Rail Trail. Weekday mornings and early evenings draw runners, cyclists and dog-walkers to the trail, and weekends see even more foot traffic from residents who live outside of South End. Scents from Hawkers Asian Street Fare and Jeni’s Ice Creams waft along the trail, providing sweet and savory inspiration to push through a workout in the peak heat of Charlotte summers.

Photo courtesy of @charlottebcycle

The flat, even pavement speckled with art provides the ideal backdrop for a light jog, a purposeful run or a walk with your furry friend. Prefer to cycle? Hop on a bike from B-Cycle, one of the largest urban bike sharing systems in the Southeast. New Bern Station, East/West Boulevard Station and Bland Street Station host convenient hubs to borrow a bike, which costs $8/day for unlimited two-hour rentals.

If walking to the trail itself counted as your workout, stay outside and enjoy the sunshine with a Lime or Bird scooter ride.

Stay Hydrated

Charlotte’s balmy summers will likely cause dehydration with or without exercise, so staying hydrated ensures lasting energy throughout the afternoon. Clean Juice sits comfortably between East/West Boulevard Station and Bland Street Station on Camden Road and provides 100% organic juices and smoothies for a healthy, refreshing sip.

Photo courtesy of @cleanjuicesouthend

Grab a bottle of water and an iced coffee at Not Just Coffee in Atherton Mill, where rich espresso and classic coffees will add a boost of energy pre- or post-workout.

Photo courtesy of @notjustcoffee

Ready to call it a day after an active afternoon? Head to a brewery for a locally brewed craft beer. Popular options along the trail include Hyde Brewing, Sycamore Brewing and Triple C Brewing Company. Legion Brewing Company is slated to open its third location next year in Atherton Mill, adding to the already impressive lineup of Rail Trail brews.


Replenish nutrients post-workout with an organic, plant-based dish from Living Kitchen, where you’ll find scratch-made options like Pad Thai and Angel Hair “Bolognese” as well as cold-pressed juices. Or, take a seat on the patio of Flower Child, the newest addition to the trail, featuring salads and grain bowls.

If you’d rather devour something on the less-healthy side as a savory reward, try the Crispy Canton and Steamed Baos at Hawkers Asian Street Fare.

Photo by Jessica Swannie

The scent of freshly pressed waffle cones at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams beckons Rail Trail visitors for a scoop of rich, creamy ice cream created by James-Beard-Award-Winning Chef, Jeni Britton Bauer. The nearby Two Scoops Creamery also offers unique, homemade ice cream flavors like the neon blue “Cookie Monster,” prepared with both Oreos and chocolate chip cookie bits.

Photo by Jessica Swannie

Before heading home, reward your pup with a handmade treat at Canine Café near New Bern Station, where cannolis, tarts and daiquiris spoil four-legged friends.

Make a Memory

Whether you set out to exercise on the Rail Trail for health or for an Instagram-worthy photo, the trail offers options for both. Frame the perfect active shot with the city in the background at the Magic Carpet Murals by Jessie and Katey, a Baltimore-based artist duo. The South End carpets reside near New Bern Station and across the tracks from Atherton Market.

Photo by Jessica Swannie

Or, become a part of the art itself on the “Before I Die” interactive art exhibit located near the East/West Boulevard Station.

An outdoor fitness routine doesn’t require a traditional gym. The Rail Trail offers a myriad of options to get active, whether you’re seeking an invigorating run, a quick cycle or a relaxing stroll with a furry friend.