As the weather gets cooler and COVID-19 becomes more of a permanent fixture in our lives, more and more people are looking towards things to do outdoors. With the changing leaves, coziness of old sweaters, and the need for a social distanced adventure, hiking has risen to the top of my weekend (and weekday, ha!) to do list. Luckily, Charlotte is a perfect place to live if access to unique options of hikes is also on your list.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve
My personal favorite hiking spot in the Charlotte area is Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. Just 20 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, it is loaded with trails of all difficulties and interests. One of the best trails at Latta is the Buzzard Rock Trail, which is a very short hike of 0.3 miles to a beautiful rock overlooking Mountain Island Lake. It’s perfect for a picnic or even just a place to read. Latta is also home to Audubon Trail, 0.8 miles, which has many “fairy houses” that hikers and their children have built over the years.
Crowders Mountain is a community favorite and one of the first hikes I did after moving to Charlotte. If you’re going to go on a weekend, be prepared to take a mask or take social distancing precautions as it is one of the more crowded hikes. Crowders Mountain is about 40 minutes from Uptown Charlotte and filled with mountain views. It is a great workout, as many trails are very steep and uphill. There are, however, trails that are a little less steep, such as the Lake Trail, which circles the park lake.
Evergreen Nature Preserve
Evergreen Nature Preserve is in the heart of Charlotte, only 15 minutes from Uptown with about 2 miles of hiking trail available. Every time I went, I never saw more than one other hiker, which was really nice being so close to uptown. There is one main looped-trail option that takes you through board walked wetlands and beautiful trees. One cool thing about Evergreen is that it is home to a protected family of beavers who have been living there for years.
Stone Mountain State Park
If you’re willing to make the drive, one hike I also highly recommend is Stone Mountain State Park. It is an hour and a half from Uptown Charlotte in Roaring Gap, NC. If you decide to take the drive, you will not be disappointed. You have many options of trails which lead to waterfalls, homesteads, and natural geographic surfaces, many of which showcase views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail that I did was the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, which gives you a little bit of everything and was about 4.5 miles. There were also many rock climbers that were physically climbing up the mountain, which was a pretty awesome sight.
Lake Norman State Park
The last hike I recommend is at Lake Norman State Park. 45 minutes from Uptown and on the upper side of Lake Norman, it displays views of lake beaches and many beautiful trees. This one is unique as it has over 30 miles of trails, all boasting lake views. I did a 3-mile shortcut on the Lake Shore Trail and was not disappointed by anything I saw. It was moderately crowded, with a few campsites that I saw in passing.
You honestly cannot go wrong with hiking around the Charlotte area. If you’re not interested in going on a full-wooded hike, I also recommend checking out Freedom Park and many of Charlotte’s Greenways. Charlotte, while mostly a city, is a very nature-friendly place and you’re bound to find at least one trail out of the many that you enjoy. Happy Hiking!