Let’s lace up our boots, lather up with some bug spray and sunscreen, and hit the trails.
Some of our hiking picks are standard Charlotte jaunts (yes, Crowders is on the list) while others are places that take slightly extra dedication, both in drive time and trail time.
Here are the 16 best hikes inside a three-hour radius of Charlotte, ranked best to hardest, together with who they might swimsuit finest.
Editor’s notice: This information was first revealed in May 2020. It was final up to date on August 30, 2021.
Best for: People going crazy with cabin fever
East of Charlotte, you’ll find the Uwharrie National Forest. At mainly the same elevation as Charlotte, the weather is similar — which makes it brutal on many summer season days, but much milder than the mountains in the winter. Many weekends, you’ll have the ability to hit the well-marked Uwharrie National Recreation Trail and find winter solitude without freezing your butt off. There are numerous campsites, and you are capable of do as a lot or as little of the 20-mile trail as you need in one go, thanks to several loop choices.
Getting there: 1 hour and 15 minutes from Charlotte. Start at the Uwharrie Recreation Trailhead off Highway 24.
Best for: Not worrying about your children falling off the highest
Seeing kids run round atop cliffs is frightening, no matter how intently you watch them. If you need to hike together with your toddlers or younger children without worrying a few fall, head east to Morrow Mountain. You’ll find several loop hikes of two to 4 miles, including to the top of Morrow Mountain and several other of the modest, surrounding peaks. There are broad, wide-open spaces for kids to roam (especially atop Morrow) and benefit from the view without edging near any cliffs.
Getting there: 1 hour and 15 minutes from Charlotte. Located at Morrow Mountain Road in Albemarle.
Best for: A romantic hike to set the temper
There are few places on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina extra well-known than the Roan Highlands. Straddling the Tennessee border, you’re handled to a feast of 360-degree views inside a mile of parking. You can do this as a day hike (be warned, parking can be powerful on the weekends) and watch the sun setting with a special someone behind the mountains, bathing the rolling sea of hills in golden mild. If you wish to hike farther and camp overnight, there are bountiful campsites alongside the Appalachian Trail.
Getting there: 2 hours and 45 minutes from Charlotte. Program Google Maps or your GPS to Carvers Gap to begin.
Best for: Hiking and scrambling on rocks in solitude
Did you understand there’s one other method to get to Crowders, a magical place where the parking is never full and you may not see one other hiker? There is, and it’s known as the Boulders Access. South of the primary entry factors, this lot is massive and quiet. Yes, you’ll be several miles from Crowders or Kings Pinnacle, however you won’t hate your self. You can skip the main attractions and hike to the boulders the realm is named after. Climb on them, if that’s your thing, or benefit from the slightly-more-modest views from these rocky outcroppings.
Getting there: 1 hour from Charlotte. The Boulder entry space is situated at 108 Vandyke Road.
The writer and his son on a hike up Crowders Mountain. All pictures taken by the creator.
Best for: Pony lovers, Outlander followers
Grayson is just north of the Virginia border, but you’ll feel like you’re in Scotland. Wild ponies graze the rocky, wind-swept highlands, while bears amble furtively via the deep pine woods beneath. Criss-crossed by the Appalachian Trail and a half-dozen well-maintained, easy-to-follow connecting trails, the realm is a hiker’s paradise, with ample backcountry and developed campsites for in a single day stays as properly.
Getting there: 2 hours and half-hour from Charlotte. Start at Massey Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park.
Wild ponies roam in regards to the Grayson Highlands area.
Best for: People who want nothing to do with Iron Man races
One of the worst components of hiking Mitchell from the underside is getting to the highest and seeing hordes of people that merely drove up. And probably the greatest components of driving up is seeing the sweaty, heaving-chested hikers who fought their means from the bottom. Driving to the highest will get you straight to the great views.
You also can hike several short loops around the high, or hit the Black Mountain Crest Trail. This rugged trail will take you over a quantity of different 6,000-foot peaks on difficult terrain. You can hike over a few of the peaks, enjoy a bit more solitude than on Mitchell, and head back to your car for a satisfying and somewhat-challenging day.
Getting there: 2 hours and forty five minutes from Charlotte. Program to Mount Mitchell in Google Maps.
The view from the highest of Mount Mitchell. Drive or hike up relying on how big a problem you need.
Best for: Seeing what Charlotte folks you know appear to be very, very sweaty
Yes, irrespective of how much parking the state provides at Crowders, we keep filling it. As the one real mountainous hiking inside 45 minutes of the state’s largest city, that is sensible. So if you need to see folks you understand from the office sweating their faces off, this is the place you must go. True story: One time I went hiking right here and casually handed then-Mayor Jennifer Roberts. We each looked like tomatoes.
Bonus: Play hooky and go on a weekday if you need to keep away from preventing people for a parking spot.
Getting there: forty five minutes from Charlotte. The precise location is 522 Park Office Lane.
Best for: Impressing your out-of-state dad and mom
Rising like an otherworldly meteorite dropped into the landscape around it, Stone Mountain’s massive granite dome is an impressive site. The four.5-mile loop trail takes you to the top of the dome, past a 200-foot waterfall and throughout a 19th-century homestead with sweeping views of the mountain. Your out-of-state mother and father will completely perceive why you’re residing in North Carolina now.
Getting there: 1 hour and half-hour from Charlotte. Park within the Upper Trail Lot at Stone Mountain to start your hike.
Hike to the highest of Stone Mountain for a view of the meteorite-like floor.
Best for: Looking cute with bae on Instagram
It’s exhausting to beat waterfall views, and South Mountains State Park has plenty. The High Shoal Falls Loop Trail will take you previous increasingly giant cascades over it’s 2.5-mile course, providing plenty of locations to stop and pose for the proper pic.
Getting there: 1 hour and half-hour from Charlotte. Located at the finish of South Mountain Park street right here.
Best for: Lakeside love (or just nice lakeside camping)
Gorges State Park is among the newer and lesser-known North Carolina points of interest, but that ought to change quickly. Park there and walk about five miles via increasingly rugged terrain to Lake Jocassee, the place you’ll intersect the Foothills Trail and discover pristine backcountry campsites. Build a hearth and settle in. If you want to go longer, the Foothills Trail runs 77 miles by way of North Carolina and South Carolina, so you might make this a multi-day trip.
Bonus: You also can start at Devil’s Fork State Park in South Carolina and load up a canoe or kayak, then boat over to the backcountry campsites (if you’re assured on the water).
Getting there: 3 hours from Charlotte. Start on the Frozen Creek Access Road exterior of Brevard.
A camping web site along the Foothills Trail by a waterfall.
Best for: Punishing your hangover
A little greater than an hour northwest of Charlotte is a former quarry that’s been redeveloped right into a hiking and rock climbing hotspot, and the perfect place to make up for a rough Saturday evening. Rocky Face is a small mountain with face quarriers that have been chopped and partly blasted away. Rock climbers have since installed bolted routes on the shorn face, and hiking trails lead to the highest. The hiking is surprisingly steep and hard, and the naked cliffs are home to surprising plants, together with shiny yellow-flowered cacti.
Bonus: If you hike the 2-mile loop trail 8 instances (for a complete of sixteen miles), you ought to have accomplished a “vertical mile,” climbing 5,280 feet.
Getting there: 1 hour and quarter-hour from Charlotte. Exact handle is 3451 Rocky Face Church Road in Hiddenite.
Best for: A weekday getaway when you’re simply not feeling it
It’s Friday. You have PTO to burn. You’re determined to get away, however going to Crowders simply won’t minimize it. Head to Big Bald, off I-26 simply north of Asheville. You can get there in about 2 hours, the car parking zone is true off the interstate and you’ll be swallowed by the quiet woods as quickly as you’re out of sight of your automobile. The Appalachian Trail runs simply north of the Wolf Ridge Ski Resort to Big Bald, a huge, open expanse with 360-degree views. You can look throughout the Black Mountains to Mt. Mitchell and watch the mountains swirl round you want waves. The 13-mile round trip to the bald and back isn’t too rigorous on the well-marked Appalachian Trail, with the one difficult section being the ascent of the bald itself. If you want to make it an overnight journey, there are many campsite choices along the finest way to pitch your tent.
Getting there: 2 hours and half-hour from Charlotte. Inside Pisgah National Forest, drive to 4460 Flag Pond Road.
Stunning view from the highest of Big Bald.
Best for: People who aren’t afraid of heights
Park near the start of the Daniel Boone Scout Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway and start heading up towards Grandfather Mountain. Before too long, you’ll come across some unusual sights, at least for North Carolina hiking: ladders. As you get near the highest of Calloway Peak, you’ll discover wood ladders scaling a quantity of 20-foot or more outcrops that you’d otherwise in all probability want a rope to climb hand-over-hand.
If you retain going all the greatest way to Grandfather correct, you’ll cross a thin part of trail along a ridge connecting the peaks. It’s all enough to make your hands sweat. The rewards are a variety of the most beautiful views within the state and essentially the most rugged, exciting state park (in my opinion anyway).
Bonus: You’ll move a single-engine plane that crashed into the mountain a long time ago. Keep your eyes peeled as you near Calloway and you’ll catch a glimpse.
Getting there: 2 hours from Charlotte. Park at a hundred Blue Ridge Parkway in Blowing Rock to begin your ascent.
Best for: An aspiring Iron Man competitor
It’s the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, and you’ll really feel every inch of the 6,683-foot height when you begin at the Black Mountain campground. Your actual elevation acquire will be about 3,seven hundred feet, and the trail is reasonably rugged. It evens out a bit near the top, providing welcome aid. Enjoy the views then turn round for an 11.5-mile, one-day smoker.
Getting there: 2 hours and 30 minutes from Charlotte. Start on the base of Mount Mitchell at its trailhead.
Best for: Making you question your sanity
“Why did I do this?” could be one of the first questions you ask your self as you descend into Linville Gorge from the western rim. Unlike the jap aspect of the rugged gorge, with bombshell views from epic places like Table Rock and a rimside trail that runs for miles, the western side is generally about taking place into the gorge.
After descending 1,500 ft or extra, you’ll decide your method alongside the Linville River on lightly-used trails, scrambling over fallen bushes and (hopefully) not shedding the trail. Be warned: The trails are tough, you’ll make very slow progress, and the gorge is infamous for individuals getting misplaced. But you’ll be rewarded with wonderful solitude and river vistas you can’t get wherever else.
Getting there: 2 hours and quarter-hour from Charlotte. Program Google Maps to the Babel Tower Trail.
Best for: The Crossfit guy who needs a real problem
There are two methods to hike this North Carolina classic throughout — north or south. Either method is a punishing 30 miles, but if you start at the southern trailhead near Brevard and head north, you’ll be going uphill more of the way. Long climbs of a quantity of thousand feet will test you a quantity of occasions, however by going northbound, you’ll save the best views and wide-open, rolling balds for the top.
Bonus: You can take a 3-mile diversion and climb Cold Mountain (yes, that Cold Mountain) for extra great views and to do your greatest Jude Law impression. Give your self three days and be conversant in wilderness journey.
Getting there: 2 hours and 30 minutes from Charlotte. Directions here.
Take the Art Loeb trail for these impressive views (below).
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