Catawba Indian Reservation
996 Avenue of the Nations
Rock Hill, SC 29730
Located just over the South Carolina state line south of Charlotte, the sovereign tribe of the Catawba Indian Nation welcomes visitors to its reservation on the banks of the Catawba River. The .7-mile Greenway Trail follows the route of a path along the river used since pre-colonial times. Take the short connecting Cultural Center Trail to see the recreation of an early South Carolina Indian village complete with bark house, story circle, dugout trees and a Catawba tribal garden planted with traditional crops, including corn, beans, squash, pumpkins and sunflowers. The trails are open daily during daylight hours and are free to hike.
522 Park Office Lane
Kings Mountain, NC 28086
Just off I-85 South and the closest state park to Charlotte, Crowders Mountain offers a wealth of trails for all abilities, including a challenging climb to the summit, 800 feet above the surrounding Piedmont. Those who complete the climb enjoy views stretching 25 miles, including a distant view of the Charlotte skyline. Several trails lead to the summit; experts suggest starting up the Tower Trail, where you’ll have a close-up view of rock climbers attempting Crowder’s 150-foot vertical cliff face, then following the Rocktop Trail to the summit, before returning down the Backside Trail and its 336 wooden steps. At about three miles, the route is considered strenuous. Longer hikes lead to the top of King’s Pinnacle, the highest point in Gaston County, and south along the ridge line to connect with the trails in Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina. Easier trails circle the park’s lake, a popular spot for dog walkers. Admission to the park is free.
Related: Best Dog Parks In Charlotte
9621 Reed Mine Road
Midland, NC 28107
An easy drive from Charlotte lies one of the defining sites in Charlotte history, and a great place for a family hike. In 1799, John Reed’s farm witnessed the first authenticated discovery of gold in the United States, a 17-pound solid gold nugget that led to the young nation’s first gold rush and established nearby Charlotte as the banking center it remains to be presently. Several miles of trails cross the property, including the Talking Rocks Trail past lode and placer mining sites where exhibits explain mining techniques. Trails also lead through parts of the old mine tunnels. Admission and tours are free; gold panning costs $2 per pan.
4601 Nevin Road
Charlotte, NC 28269
One of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Park and Rec’s newer projects, this pocket-sized forest is just north of the junction of I-77 and I-85. Four trails through a variety of eco-systems, including wetlands, bogs and hardwood forest, total about three miles and are marked by different colored ribbons tied around trees. The Pink Trail leads to the preserve’s most unique feature, a county-designated “Treasure Tree Grove” of ancient beech trees, as well as to a covered bridge. Other great parks for hiking in the Mecklenburg system include McDowell Nature Preserve on the shores of Lake Wylie, little-known Evergreen Nature Preserve off Central Avenue and Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve, with 10 miles of trails. Latta Plantation Nature Preserve on Mountain Island Lake, the site of historic Latta Plantation and the Carolina Raptor Center, is the largest in the system, and offers horseback trail rides. Hiking is free in all parks and dogs on six-foot leashes are welcome; mountain bikes are generally confined to gravel roads.
Related: Best Greenways In Charlotte
U.S. National Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway
Charlotte, NC 28214
Some 20 miles of trails are open to both hikers and mountain bikers at this outdoor playground. The 2.8-mile North Main Trail offers views of several of the center’s activities, including zip lines and a ropes course, rafts and kayaks running the rapids off the man-made whitewater course and canoeing along the Catawba River. Stop for refreshments at the River’s Edge Bar and Grill. It is free to hike; parking is $5 per car.
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.