I think one of the best things about Charlotteans is their admirable balance of love for urbanism with appreciation for nature. There aren’t many cities where people pack up the backpack on the 15th floor of an uptown building and head to a rigorous hiking trial within the hour.
Whether you need to unplug for some alone time or are looking for kid friendly summer activities, Charlotte is begging you to visit one of the hiking trails that sprinkle western North Carolina. Scoop has rounded up our top 10 picks for best hikes nearby. Looking for a friend to hit the trails? Check out GetHiking! Charlotte Hiking Group on Meet Up.
If BIKING is more your thing, here’s my post on favorite trails nearby.
And if you’re chasing WATERFALLS, here are my 6 picks on those near here.
Crowder’s Mountain State Park – King’s Pinnacle
I laughed when I read this hike was described as a “eat your broccoli and I promise you something really good for dessert” kind of trail in 100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina. It’s a tough climb that promises a spectacular view once you have made it to the top of King’s Pinnacle. If you aren’t feeling the climb, Crowders offers 11 trails total in the park. For a more family friendly walk, choose the Lake Trail which reaches just about a mile once you’ve made it all the way around.
Lake Norman State Park – Alder, Dragonfly, Itusi & Lake Shore Trails
In under an hour’s drive you have four options in Lake Norman’s State Park trail systems. Pack a picnic and circle Alder Trail for a designated spot to rest and eat. Dragonfly is another great trail for an easy, paved walk. Choose this route for strollers. For a more moderate hike choose Itusi Trail (3 miles) or Lake Shore Trail (10 miles). Whichever you choose, reward yourself with a quick dip in the lake once you finish.
Buffalo Creek Preserve
This 393 acre nature preserve and segment of the Carolina Thread Trail is located in Mt. Pleasant, and exists to protect several streams, ponds, and wetlands. The trial begins taking you through the restored piedmont oak savanna. Once through, observe the hay and grains in a portion of the trail that features natural farmland. Finally, you will enter a young forest that ultimately leads along Adams Creek. Though this is an out and back trail, it is extremely educational due to its preservation techniques.
US National Whitewater Center
The US National Whitewater Center offers up over 30 miles of trails for all ages to enjoy. Hiking is one of the few free of charge activities offered at the center once the $5 parking fee is paid. Similar to ski slopes, trails are marked as green for novice, blue for intermediate and black for experienced hikers. Even a simple walk around the facilities gets you up close and personal with all the actives the USNWC has to offer.
Chimney Rock Park
After 500 million years of existence, Chimney Rock has welcomed many hikers. Consider Chimney Rock your one stop shopping tour for the North Carolina Mountains looking over Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. Though a tough set of stairs stands between you and an iconic NC view, every snap will be worth it.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Rough Ridge Hike
Rough Ridge Hike is home to the best leaf watching come fall but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed in the summer months as well! After a short 1/3 mile hike, you’ll reach a wooden boardwalk that protects the NC vegetation on the Blue Ridge parkway. Hike another 1/2 mile to reach Rough Ridge’s summit which propels you at an elevation of 4,773 feet.
Mecklenburg County Greenways
Whether you’re a Sugar Creek or a Stewart Creek girl, Mecklenburg county offers 37 miles of greenways to walk and play. Though this may not be what you think of when you hear someone say “hike,” don’t let these gorgeous pathways sandwiched between Mecklenburg’s prettiest greenery go unnoticed. Walk, run, or bike with your neighbors – a full list of the greenways can be found here.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve
As the only Mecklenburg trails open to horseback riding, expect to see some four legged friends on your hike. Latte Plantation offers 16 miles of trails whether you choose to walk or ride. Once you’re hiked out, take a tour of the plantation home and a self guided tour of it’s grounds.
Linville Gorge – Table Rock Mountain
Though only 2.2 miles round trip, the Tablerock Mountain climb can be strenuous at parts. Look for the large “Table Rock” sign at the trailhead and pack your hiking boots. This trail has been named as one of the best to hike in the Southeastern United States. If you’re feeling frisky, pack a picnic – once you reach the summit, Table Rock has large, flat boulders perfect for a #foodintheair pic.
Uwharrie National Park – Uwharrie National Recreation Trail
In the 1970s, Boy Scouts trying to earn their 50 mile hike badge were determined to find a trail closer than trekking all the way to the Appalachian Mountains. That is where Uwharrie came into play. Though many of the trails have deteriorated since then, about 19.3 miles of hikable trails still remain.