3 hikers along Morrow Mountain State Park Trail in Albemarle, NC

Your Health, Family Health | 4 years ago

Hail the Trail: Top 10 Hikes In the Charlotte Area

From the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, North Carolina is full of natural beauty. But you don't have to go very far beyond the communities that Atrium Health serves to experience the great outdoors. Here's a list of our 10 favorite walks right in our backyard. 

The Carolinas offers some of the most varied and beautiful scenery in the country. From the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains in the western part of the state to the sand dunes and barrier islands that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, it’s blessed with natural beauty.

But you don’t have to go very far to “get away from it all.” Whether you’re new to Charlotte or you’re born and bred – one of the best ways to discover – or rediscover – the beauty of our region is to traverse its trails, paths and walkways.

So, the next time someone tells you to “go take a walk,” take their advice!

Top 10 Hikes in the Charlotte Area (In Random Order)

  1. Name: Anne Springs Close Greenway
    Location: Fort Mill, SC
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Available at all entrances
    Cost: Free to members, $5 for non-members
    Dogs: Yes (on leash – they also have a 12-acre dog park)
    Stroller-friendly: There is a paved path at the Dairy Barn entrance, but most paths are not stroller friendly.
    What makes it great: Nestled amid beautiful lakes and hardwood forests, the Anne Springs Close Greenway is a natural preserve more than twice the size of Central Park. The 2,100 acres includes a 40-mile network of trails and serves as a natural buffer from urban development, providing wide open space for countless activities – from hiking, biking and horseback riding to picnics, kayaking and more.
    Notes: The land has ties to the Catawba Indians and the Civil War and has been permanently preserved for public use. The children of Anne Springs Close donated the land in honor of her lifelong commitment to recreation and the environment for all to enjoy. The Greenway depends on memberships, program fees and private donations to support annual operations. Main entrances include Lake Haigler, Adventure Road and the Dairy Barn, all of which provide additional information and trail maps.

  2. Name: Clark’s Creek and Mallard Creek Greenways
    Location: Charlotte, NC (University area)
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Three areas – 9729 Mallard Creek Road Charlotte, NC; 4424 Saxonbury Way Charlotte, NC; and 4423 Saxonbury Way Charlotte, NC.
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes
    Stroller-friendly: Yes
    What makes it great: This is Charlotte’s longest greenway, stretching more than 7 miles. It is used by joggers, walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, baby strollers, and skateboarders. The western end is a paved trail through many university area neighborhoods. The eastern end is a paved trail passing through mature floodplain forest, under Interstate 85 and US Highway 29, and on to the Kirk Farm soccer fields near UNC Charlotte.
    Notes: In the middle is a gravel trail through University Research Park.


  3. Name: Little Sugar Creek Greenway
    Location: Charlotte, NC (NoDa to South Charlotte)
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Accessible from multiple roads
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes
    Stroller-friendly: Yes
    What makes it great: A space for quiet reflection or a social hot spot, the greenway is a diverse walkway. The walker, jogger, tourist, nature lover, bench-sitter or cyclist will delight in this path that connects us all. Urban Little Sugar Creek also includes a major stream restoration project to enhance water quality.
    Notes: The trail currently has four main sections – Cordelia Park to 12th Street; East Seventh Street to Morehead Street; Morehead Street to Brandywine Road; and Huntingtowne Farms Park. When complete, the greenway will feature over 19 miles of trails and land connectors, from Toby Creek Greenway on North Tryon Street to Cordelia Park just north of uptown. The greenway will continue through the urban section and on to the South Carolina state line, conveniently linking Central Piedmont Community College, the Carolinas Medical Center campus and the Park Road and Carolina Place shopping areas among many other destinations.


  4. Name: Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve
    Location: Huntersville, NC
    Hours: Monday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday: 1 to 5 p.m.
    Parking: 10 parking areas located off Sample Road, Gar Creek Access Road, and North Canoe Access Road.
    Cost: Trails are free, Carolina Raptor Center and other amenities are ticketed
    Dog friendly: Yes
    Stroller-friendly: Yes, but only on hiking trails
    What makes it great: Latta Plantation is great for hiking but has a variety of other amenities including Historic Latta Plantation, the Carolina Raptor Center, the Latta Equestrian Center, a nature center, horseback riding, paddling, fishing, picnic shelters, gardens and a pier overlooking Mountain Island Lake. The preserve offers 14 trails ranging 0.2 to 2.54 miles in length.
    Notes: Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve serves as the gateway to the 1,460 acres of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and is the source for educational programs and information on the preserve's natural communities, flora, and fauna. The preserve, Mecklenburg County's largest, forms a green peninsula extending into Mountain Island Lake and protects a natural heritage site and several endangered plants.


  5. Name: Upper McAlipine Creek and Campbell Creek Greenway
    Location: Charlotte, NC (Cotswold area)
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Three areas: 8711 Monroe Road; 300 Boyce Road; and 110 Old Bell Road.
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes
    Stroller-friendly: Yes
    What makes it great: The McAlpine Creek and Campbell Creek greenways will delight nature enthusiasts. With 188 documented species of birds along the trail and nearby populations of otters and beavers, trail visitors can enjoy recreating in a wildlife-rich area.
    Notes: The land around the trail also hosts Mecklenburg County's only population of a native Lakespur (Delphinium tricorne), a very rare, purple wildflower that blooms in the spring.


  6. Name: Ridgeline Trail at Crowders Mountain State Park
    Location: Kings Mountain, NC
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Three areas: 522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain, NC; 108 Van Dyke Road, Kings Mountain, NC; and 1277 Park Road, Clover, SC (Come early, spaces fill quickly on weekends and holidays).
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes (on leash)
    Stroller-friendly: Not recommended (several elevation changes and lacking paved surfaces)
    What makes it great: This trail includes everything from rocky aerie (Kings Pinnacle in North Carolina) to bottomland forest (almost immediately after crossing the state line into South Carolina). Starting from the Visitors Center at Crowders Mountain, the trail soon encounters a short spur up to 1,705-foot Kings Pinnacle. Rocky crags and stunted pines top this exposed ridge, offering nice views and scenery akin to the western part of the state.
    Notes: Bring your camera! On a clear day, you can get an amazing view of uptown Charlotte’s skyline. There also are areas of the park dedicated to camping, bouldering, canoeing and many other activities.


  7. Name: Morrow Mountain State Park Trail
    Location: Albemarle, NC
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: One area: 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle, NC
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes (on leash)
    Stroller-friendly: Yes (some trails are paved but most are natural surface)
    What makes it great: The Bridle Trail section called the Long Loop is the 16-mile trail which encircles the Morrow Mountain of which a portion is designated as Carolina Thread Trail. Horses, their riders and hikers travel the same path that Native Americans did over ten thousands of years before. The park contains more than 30 miles of trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
    Notes: Other activities in the state park area include fishing, canoeing, paddling, horseback riding and camping. There is also a swimming pool open during the summer. A variety of wildlife including bald eagles, osprey, raccoons and deer can be observed.


  8. Name: Marcia H. Cloninger Rail Trail and South Fork Rail Trail
    Location: Lincolnton, NC
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Several areas to enter/exit the Cloninger rail trail but the trailhead is at 209 W. Congress St, Lincolnton, NC. The trailhead for the South Fork Rail Trail is located at 2677 Laboratory Road, Lincolnton, NC.
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes (on leash)
    Stroller-friendly: Yes, the Cloninger Rail Trail (1.7 miles) is all paved. The South Fork Rail Trail is 2 miles of grave/crushed stone and natural surface.
    What makes it great: The Cloninger Rail Trail runs through downtown Lincolnton and is popular with walkers, joggers, bikers and parents with strollers. There are benches along the route. The trail was once a former rail line operated by Norfolk Southern and was once abandoned and covered in kudzu and debris before its restoration to a public thoroughfare. The South Fork Rail Trail includes great views of the South Fork Catawba River.
    Notes: In May 2018, the governing board of the Carolina Thread Trail awarded over $15,000 through two grants to further efforts to connect the two rail trails. The South Fork Rail Trail is located on the 324-acre Rhyne Preserve and protected by the Catawba Lands Conservancy. The beautiful Laboratory Mill – a former red brick textile-mill-turned-event-space – can be seen across the river. The trail is also part of The Butterfly Highway.


  9. Name: Twelve Mike Creek Trail (SC); Twelve Mile Creek Greenway (NC)
    Location: Lancaster, SC and Waxhaw, NC
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Several areas: Walnut Creek Segment Trailhead (10521 Walnut Creek Parkway, Lancaster, SC); Town of Waxhaw Segment Trailheads (4400 Waxhaw Marvin-Road, Waxhaw, NC and 1304 H.C. Nesbit Park Road, Waxhaw, NC)
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes (on leash)
    Stroller-friendly: Yes (The Town of Waxhaw Segment Trail – 1.4 miles – and trails near Walnut Creek park are paved) 
    What makes it great: Not many trails can boast a state crossing but on the Twelve Mile Creek Trail, you can casually walk across the North Carolina-South Carolina border on a 170-foot suspension bridge. These trails meander around residential developments with spurs connecting to several neighborhoods.
    Notes: The trails include several boardwalk sections and multiple bridge crossings and connect multiple parks including Walnut Creek Park, Harvey Clay Nesbit Park and Towne Creek Park.


  10. Name: South Prong Rocky River Greenway/Southeast Greenway/Davidson Greenway
    Location: Davidson, NC
    Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
    Parking: Four areas: 859 South St.; 19719 Davidson-Concord Road; 13007 Robert Walker Drive; 13001 Robert Walker Drive.
    Cost: Free
    Dogs: Yes
    Stroller-friendly: Yes
    What makes it great: This 2.8-mile greenway connects downtown Davidson with neighborhoods to the southeast along the South Prong of the Rocky River.
    Notes: A variety of owls can be heard or seen in this area. Barred owls regularly hunt along the creek and are often seen or heard during the day. Other owls in the area include screech owls, great-horned owls and barn owls.


New to the Charlotte area and want to find resources for settling in? Download the New Movers guide for more information about outdoor activities in the region.