Best hiking trails near Charlotte

Climb rugged peaks rising 800 feet above the surrounding countryside and watch raptors soar while hiking in Crowders Mountain State Park.

Outdoor adventurers and wildlife watchers can find great options for hikes in Charlotte or a short drive away. Here are some of the best hiking trails Charlotte has to offer, including options for short strolls and daylong hikes that end with rustic camping.

Hiking trail options in the Charlotte area:

McDowell Nature Center and Preserve
15222 York Road, Charlotte

Open six days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, McDowell Nature Center is the oldest preserve in Mecklenburg County and made up of mostly rolling terrain and forest along the banks of Lake Wylie. It includes 7 miles of trail for hiking within its 1,132 acres, along with a discovery hall and gift shop. It's also a sweet place to observe wildlife and protected habitat. Along with being one of the best hiking trails Charlotte can claim, McDowell Nature Center and Preserve protects habitat for at least 119 bird species, 21 mammal species, 21 reptile species and 14 amphibian species.

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Latta Plantation Nature Center and Preserve
6211 Sample Road, Huntersville

Open every day and a few miles from the Charlotte city center, Latta Plantation Nature Center boasts 16 miles of hiking trails. Visitors can walk portions of the preserve to see biodiversity that includes upland and bottom land hardwood forests, open fields, streams and a piedmont prairie restoration site that protects federally endangered plant species. This is also a paradise for those who like to bird-watch while hiking: The preserve's Mountain Island Lake Important Bird Area has been designated by the National Audubon Society for its diversity of wintering waterfowl and breeding and migratory songbird species.

Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve
2900 Rocky River Road, Charlotte

Ten miles of trails offer visitors pleasant walks or a step-up to moderate level hikes through this preserve that protects 927 acres of natural, forested habitat within Reedy Creek Park. Trails traverse forests, fields and streams and offer plenty of scenic views and wildlife watching. Just be sure to contact the preserve before coming out for a day or hour's enjoyment. Restoration projects sometimes mean portions of the center or preserve are closed.

Hiking trails within an hour or two of Charlotte
For longer hikes, day trips and rustic camping after a day on the trails, consider a few of the North Carolina state park hikes within a reasonable drive of Charlotte:

Closest mountains to Charlotte | Best nature preserves near Charlotte

Crowders Mountain State Park
522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain

Miles of hiking trails are a fine way to appreciate the beauty and diversity of Crowders Mountain State Park. Hiking trails lined with wildflowers and mountain laurel lead along ridges, circle the lake or weave through pastoral surroundings. A few of the possibilities include a strenuous 1-mile hike that starts at the Linwood Access Area and ends at the summit of Crowders Mountain and an easy .80-mile Fern Trail.

Morrow Mountain State Park
49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle

Morrow Mountain State Park lies in the Uwharrie Mountains of North Carolina's Southern Piedmont and has more than 15 miles of hiking trails and 16 miles of bridle trails, reaching from the summit of Morrow Mountain to Lake Tillery. Family groups or beginner hikers can stroll leisurely for half an hour along one of the park's short loop trails; more experienced hikers will find more challenging and longer trails at Morrow Mountain. Trails there include an easy 2-mile Backpack Trail and the 4.1-mile Fall Mountain Trail that starts at the parking lot along Lake Tillery and works its way through a wide variety of habitats.

Lake Norman State Park
759 State Park Road, Troutman

The child-friendly Dragonfly Trail is one of the draws at Lake Norman State Park, along with boating, fishing and interpretive programs. Hikers will find lots of scenic lake views, with trail options including the .80-mile Alder Trail, a relaxing walk with serene lake views, and the Itusi Tail, which involves eight loops ranging from 1 to 10 miles, so hikers can take it easy or test their endurance on the monster trail.