Looking for Hiking near Charlotte NC?
When you think about Charlotte, North Carolina, you may not automatically think of outdoorsy activities right away, as it is a very large and bustling city. However, the wonderful thing about North Carolina is the beauty that surrounds each and every town. From the small mountain villages to the grandest cities, there will always be nature nearby.
Luckily, if you want to escape the busy street life for a day or two during your trip to Charlotte, that’s very possible. Within minutes of the city, you can find beautiful green wonderlands, tree canopies, lookouts, and more. The landscape near Charlotte has so much to offer when it comes to getting a taste of the diverse terrain of North Carolina.
Hiking near Charlotte NC
We’ve created this guide to help you find all the best hiking trails and nature spots, all within two hours of the busy city. Besides each place is the time and distance from Charlotte.
1. Evergreen Nature Preserve
5.0 miles | 11 minutes from Charlotte
The Evergreen Nature Preserve is the closest hiking trail to Charlotte. The preserve is 77 acres of undeveloped, unspoiled wooded forest bordering the Evergreen Cemetary and a few schools.
The trail within the preserve is called the Evergreen Nature Preserve Loop, and it is a 1.8-mile-long round-trip walk through the woods. The path takes only about 35 minutes to complete and is a perfect little city escape. This trail is very popular, especially in the warmer months, for birding, jogging, and dog walking, and is perfect for small kids and families.
2. RibbonWalk Nature Preserve
5.4 miles | 14 minutes from Charlotte
On the opposite end of Charlotte from the Evergreen Nature Preserve is the much larger Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve. This is a 188-acre urban forest with large beech tree groves, multiple trails, and bodies of water.
The most popular trail in the preserve is the Ribbonwalk Urban Trail, a 0.9-mile easy loop that takes about 20 minutes to complete. You may also want to check out the Inner and Outer Loop Trail, a 2.1-mile loop, to see more of the park.
3. Latta Nature Preserve
12.9 miles | 21 minutes from Charlotte
Latta Nature Preserve is an interactive nature preserve with lots of native birds and animals, a habitat garden, and a gift shop where they sell food and souvenirs.
Latta Nature Preserve is the largest nature preserve in the county, sitting at 1,460 acres, and 16 of those acres are designated historical sites from the original James Latta Plantation. There are 16 miles of hiking trails inside the preserve, including horseback riding and biking trails.
✅ Hill, Cove, Split Rock trails loop
One of the most popular hiking trails in the preserve is the Hill to Cove to Split Rock trail loop. It is a 2.9-mile trail that takes about an hour to complete. It is open year-round and is a beautiful spot to see lots of native animals and lake views.
4. Rural Hill Nature Preserve
15.9 miles | 25 minutes from Charlotte
Rural Hill Nature Preserve is a nature preserve, historical site, and farm on 265 acres in Huntersville, NC. It is a popular field trip spot and event site. The famous North Carolina Brewers & Music Festival takes place on this land. The best trail on the preserve is a 2.2-mile loop called the Rural Hill Outer Loop.
5. Anne Springs Close Greenway
17.9 miles | 26 minutes from Charlotte
In York County, South Carolina, Anne Springs Close Greenway takes over 2,000 acres of protected natural areas. This exciting nature preserve offers miles of hiking, horseback riding, event spaces, dog parks, playgrounds, kayaking or paddle boarding, and campsites.
It is a wonderful place, not far from Charlotte, where you can spend the day hiking the trails and then relax at a quiet campsite.
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6. Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center
9.8 miles | 26 minutes from Charlotte
Under ten miles from the center of Charlotte is the lovely Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center. The Reedy Creek Park is 927 acres with over 10 miles of hiking trails. You can also find a gift shop/visitors center, fishing on the small lakes, disc golf, picnic shelters, a playground, sports fields, and a dog park.
The most popular trail in Reedy Creek Park is a 3-mile loop trail that is perfect for an afternoon hike or jog.
7. McDowell Nature Center and Preserve
17.7 miles | 33 minutes from Charlotte
The McDowell Nature Center is the gateway to the 1,132 acres of the McDowell Nature Preserve. So, before checking out the miles of hiking trails, take a tour of the nature center that features live native animals, a discovery hall, a gift shop, and educational information on the wilderness ahead.
On the thousands of acres, you’ll find seven miles of excellent hiking trails, McDowell Campground, and Copper Island, with more camping.
8. Crowders Mountain State Park
37 miles | 31.2 minutes from Charlotte
Crowders Mountain State Park is a 5,000-acre park near Kings Mountain, NC. Included in the state park is the peak of Crowders Mountain and King’s Pinnacle, another gorgeous mountain peak. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic shelters, paddling and fishing opportunities, and rock climbing all within this state park.
✅ Pinnacle Trail/Turnback Trail
The Pinnacle Trail is a trail to get to the famous King’s Pinnacle, one of the two mountain peaks in Crowders Mountain State Park. This 4.2-mile out-and-back trail is certainly not easy and includes some steep elevation with lots of rock scrambling. However, the hike is well worth the beautiful view!
Turnback Trail is a trail option you can take to hike down from Pinnacle Mountain. Many choose this path because it’s much less strenuous than the Pinnacle Trail. Altogether, the Turnback Trail is 2.4 miles there and back.
✅ Fern and Shorts Lake Trails
Shorts Lake Trail is an easy 0.7-mile loop around Shorts Lake. It is perfect for a quick jog or a place to bring the kids. Fern Trail connects to Shorts Lake Trail and is also around 0.8 miles, so if you are looking for something a little longer, you can easily connect the two.
✅ Crowders and Rocktop Trails
Crowders to Rocktop Trail is a great way to get to the peak of Crowders Mountain. This is a 5.8-mile loop altogether and can be very strenuous at times with steep elevation gain. Visit during April and May to see beautiful wildflower blooms or during the fall to get panoramic views of the fall foliage.
Rocktop Trail is a 6.2-mile trail by itself that is far less traveled than Crowders Trail and has a slightly lower elevation than the peak but still offers excellent views.
✅ Ridgeline Trail
Ridgeline Trail is a 15.8-mile trail connecting Crowders Mountain to Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain Military Park. Campsites can be found along the way for those who choose to do the complete hike. There are many variations of this hike and lots of other paths to hop on along the way (if you don’t feel like doing the full 15 miles.)
9. South Fork River Trail and Blueway Access
34.8 miles | 42 minutes from Charlotte
The South Fork River Trail is a lovely 1.8-mile trail that runs along the South Fork part of the Catawba River. This trail is part of the “Butterfly Highway,” a statewide mission to restore native pollinator habitats.
Along the trail, you’ll see lots of native wildflowers, birds, and butterflies. The South Fork River Trail is perfect for a family afternoon trip, and it’s also a popular biking trail.
10. Buffalo Creek Preserve
32.8 miles | 43 minutes from Charlotte
If you are looking for a fun half-day trip, you should consider Buffalo Creek Preserve. Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail is part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a series of trails connecting 15 counties through North and South Carolina. The main path through the nature preserve is 4 miles there and back, which can be done in an hour or two.
The terrain is easy, with some light rock scrambling, a pretty suspension bridge, and great views of native forests, fields, and a working farm. This trail is great for younger kids or beginner hikers.
11. Landsford Canal State Park
38.1 miles | 45 minutes from Charlotte
The Landsford Canal State Park is 448 acres that sit along the Catawba River in South Carolina. This park is considered historical land, as you can find ruins from the Landsford Canal, old stone bridges, and a historic mill site.
Today, the park is a relaxing place to explore. Landsford Canal State Park has the largest Rocky Shoal Spider Lily population, which can be found in the rivers and lakes around the park. There are great hiking trails, including the Landsford Canal Trail, and great canoeing or kayaking areas.
12. Lake Norman State Park
39.5 miles | 48 minutes from Charlotte
Lake Norman State Park is a beautiful hiking spot in Iredell County that sits along the largest manmade lake in North Carolina. The 1,900-acre park covers 17 miles of shoreline and has over 38 miles of hiking trails, 30 miles of biking trails, and lots of paddling, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming opportunities at the public beach.
Camping at Lake Norman State Park is also available, where they have 44 tent sites, including 11 RV sites and eight camping cabins.
✅ Lake Shore Trail
Lake Shore Trail is the most popular trail in Lake Norman State Park. It is a 6.1-mile loop that offers great lake views and has generally easy terrain. The area is very well-maintained, and the trail is easy to follow. You’ll have great views of Lake Norman.
✅ Short Turn Trail
Short Turn Trail is actually the same trail as the Lake Shore Trail loop, except it utilizes an additional segment that cuts the loop into two shorter sections for those looking for a less strenuous hike. The southern portion offers a 2.6-mile loop, while the northern portion offers a 3.2-mile loop.
13. Boone’s Cave Park
57.3 miles | 57 minutes from Charlotte
Boone’s Cave Park is a 110-acre park near Lexington, North Carolina, named after the American pioneer Daniel Boone. The park includes six miles of hiking trails, a primitive campground, disc golf, fishing, picnic shelters, and a playground, and it is home to native Appalachian wildflowers.
14. Bakers Mountain Park
60.5 miles | 1 hr 6 minutes from Charlotte
Bakers Mountain Park is a gorgeous hiking area and the highest elevation point in Catawba County. This 189-acre park is home to a large mature Chestnut Oak forest and other native flowers and plants. A popular trail in the park is a 2.3-mile loop called Bakers Mountain Loop, which takes about an hour and a half to complete.
15. Broad River Greenway
54.2 miles | 1 hr 6 minutes from Charlotte
Broad River Greenway is 1,500 acres of recreational protected land near Shelby, NC. There are over 15 miles of hiking trails, including the popular Broad River Greenway trail, a 2.5-mile, point-to-point trail along the Broad River.
Events like marathons, family events, and live music take place at the Broad River Greenway. This is also a popular place for horseback riding, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and more.
16. Uwharrie National Forest
61.6 miles | 1 hr 7 minutes from Charlotte
The Uwharrie National Forest is over 50,000 acres of wilderness, including the Uhwarrie Mountains. Notably, the Uhwarrie Mountains are roughly 500 million years old, most likely making them the oldest mountain range in the United States.
This land has excellent hiking, camping, lakes, rivers, hunting areas, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails. The Uwharrie National Forest may be the smallest of the four national forests in North Carolina, but it is still full of adventure.
✅ Birkhead Mountains Wilderness
The Birkhead Mountains Wilderness is a 5,000-acre section of land at the northern end of the Uwharrie Mountains. This area is popular for hunting, hiking, and camping. A few popular trails in this area include the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness Loop (11.6 miles) and Coolers Knob Mountain (2.4 miles.)
✅ Uwharrie National Recreation Trail
If you are searching for a long trek, the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail is perfect for you. This is an almost 30-mile trail from Troy, NC, to Flint Hill Rd in Ophir, NC, and it is open year-round. Most backpackers take a weekend to complete this hike, and wonderful campsites are already set up along the way for anyone to use.
17. Morrow Mountain State Park
47.4 miles | 1 hr 8 minutes from Charlotte
Just about 50 miles north of Charlotte, in Stanley County, is the beautiful Morrow Mountain State Park, which includes 5,000 acres of the Uwharrie National Forest.
There are 37 miles of supreme hiking trails, 19 miles of horseback riding trails, a seasonal swimming pool, lakes, fishing areas, camping, and boating areas. The Morrow Mountain Loop Trail is an easy 0.8-mile loop at the top of Morrow Mountain that has a lovely picnic area and spectacular panoramic views of the park.
✅ Sugarloaf/Morrow Mountain Trails
Sugarloaf and Morrow Mountain Trail is a 5.4-mile loop and is a great way to get to the peak of Morrow Mountain. The trail is generally quiet and has some steep sections, but the view makes it worth it!
✅ Fall Mountain Trail
Fall Mountain Trail is a favored trail amongst locals. It is a 3.8-mile loop, part of which follows the Yadkin River and has great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hike is mainly easy, with a few steep climbs near the middle. It is a great place to see lots of native wildlife and plants.
18. Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area
65.5 miles | 1 hr 14 minutes from Charlotte
Rocky Face Mountain Recreation Area is 318 acres of family-friendly outdoor adventures in Alexander County. There are six miles of hiking trails, including the popular “Stairway to Heaven.” It is also a favored spot for rock climbing and geocaching.
Recently, a new adventure playground was built in the picnic area for younger kids to enjoy. There are lots of great hiking trails in the recreation area, but a few popular trails include Vertical Mile Challenge to Hollow Rock Loop, Hollow Rock Trail, and Prison Camp Loop.
19. South Mountains State Park
60.7 miles | 1 hr 17 minutes from Charlotte
South Mountain State Park is home to the mountains closest to Charlotte, the South Mountains, a branch of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a beautiful park covering 20,000 acres in Burke County. There are many camping options, including backcountry camping and drive-in campsites along the Jacob Fork River.
South Mountain State Park offers nearly 40 miles of hiking, horseback riding, biking trails, and access to the most famous part of the park, High Shoals Falls.
✅ High Shoals Falls Loop Trail
High Shoals Falls is why many come to South Mountains State Park. They are a series of 80-foot-tall cascading falls that drop into the Jacob Fork River. The trail to see the falls is a fairly easy 2.4-mile loop that takes a little over an hour to finish (in addition to however much time you spend at the Falls, of course).
Besides access to the falls, you will also get a mountain vista point and lots of wildlife encounters. The trail does see lots of traffic during the weekends, so plan accordingly!
20. Pilot Mountain State Park
100.4 miles | 1 hr 31 minutes from Charlotte
Pilot Mountain State Park is home to the famous Pilot Mountain, a tall pinnacle pointing out of the treeline that has been a navigational landmark for centuries. Hikes to the peak are strenuous, but other hikes around the park are beautiful and great places to explore.
The park also includes a 42-site family campground, rock climbing, waterfalls, fishing in the Yadkin River, and mountain biking trails. Pilot Mountain via Grindstone, Little Pinnacle, and Jomeokee Trails are a series of 7.7-mile trails that bring you to the summit of Pilot Mountain. This hike is challenging but well worth it!
21. Stone Mountain State Park
93 miles | 1 hr 38 minutes from Charlotte
60 miles northwest of Winston-Salem and 90 miles north of Charlotte is Stone Mountain State Park. The park is 14,000 acres centered around a 600-foot granite dome that is a designated National Natural Landmark and brings in thousands of visitors each year.
Other popular attractions in the park include Stone Mountain Falls, a beautiful 200-foot waterfall, and Widows Creek Falls, a smaller waterfall with a wonderful swimming hole at the bottom. Widows Creek Falls can be easily accessed by a short 0.2-mile trail.
The park also has over 20 miles of hiking trails, family-friendly campsites, 10 miles of horseback riding trails, mountain biking, fishing, and rock climbing.
22. Hanging Rock State Park
108.2 miles | 1 hr 48 minutes from Charlotte
Hanging Rock State Park is a popular state park in Stoke County, NC. This park is filled with fascinating geological features, hiking trails, camping, mountain views, and waterfalls.
The most popular trail and attraction in the park is Hanging Rock Trail, a 2.6-mile roundtrip trail that brings you to the overhang of the iconic Hanging Rock.
✅ Upper/Lower Cascade Falls
Upper and Lower Cascade Falls are another extremely popular attraction in Hanging Rock State Park that brings in thousands of visitors. Lower Cascade Falls are among the prettiest of North Carolina’s waterfalls and has a large swimming hole at the bottom. The hike is a short quarter-mile walk through the forest.
Running adjacent to the Lower Cascade Falls Trail is the Upper Cascade Falls Trail, another quarter-mile hike to the taller set of falls. This trail passes by the Rock Garden Trail, a longer trail leading to the scenic Hanging Rock lookout.
23. Chimney Rock State Park
97.6 miles | 2 hr 3 minutes from Charlotte
Chimney Rock State Park is just 25 miles east of Asheville and is home to the iconic Chimney Rock, a 535 million-year-old monolith standing up above the treeline. Fun activities in Chimney Rock State Park include hiking trails, waterfalls, an animal discovery den, and rock climbing.
Visitors from all over the world have been visiting Chimney Rock State Park since the early 1900s to see views you won’t see anywhere else.
✅ Chimney Rock Peak
The peak of Chimney Rock can be easily accessed in multiple fashions. The easiest way to get to the peak of the falls is by taking the elevator, that’s right, the elevator, accessed from the parking lot, right to the top of the rock. Other options are to walk from the parking lot or hike in on the 3.9-mile roundtrip trail.
Another popular attraction in the park is the 404-foot waterfall, Hickory Nut Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.
The hike to the falls is just shy of 3/4 mile (1.4 miles, roundtrip) and is a moderate trail that brings you to a paved lookout. Swimming is prohibited around the falls. However, you can always feel the cool mist coming off the cascade.
Read More: Things to Do in Lake Lure NC, near Chimney Rock.
24. Rough Ridge Lookout
104 miles | 2 hr 3 minutes from Charlotte
Rough Ridge Lookout is one of the easiest and fastest lookout points in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A short, quarter-mile walk on a wooden bridge brings visitors to an amazing lookout point where they can see panoramic mountain views of Grandfather Mountain, Blue Ridge Mountains, and Linn Cove Viaduct.
At an elevation of 4,773 feet, you won’t see anything like it! This path is easy for families and younger kids to access.
25. Linville Falls
118.9 miles | 2 hr 3 minutes from Charlotte
Linville Falls is one of the most popular falls in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. Known by the Cherokees as “the river of many cliffs,” Linville Falls cascades 90 feet into the Linville Gorge. There are two main trails to see different views of the falls, called Erwin View Trail and Linville Gorge Trail.
Erwin View Trail is a 1.6-mile roundtrip hike that offers four different views of the falls along the way, including the famous “Chimney View.”
Linville Gorge Trail is a much more challenging hike that takes you three-quarters of a mile down the gorge up to the base of the waterfall. Swimming is strictly prohibited anywhere around the falls due to strong currents, but you can always stick your toes in.
26. Grandfather Mountain State Park
112.5 miles | 2 hr 10 minutes from Charlotte
Grandfather Mountain State Park is one of the most visited state parks in North Carolina. The park is a fully recreational park with almost every outdoor activity you could think of. Grandfather Mountain is a 300 million-year-old formation that towers 5,946 feet in the sky and is full of rich biodiversity.
There are 13 miles of hiking trails (a free permit is required before hiking in Grandfather Mountain,) tent sites (backpacking only,) a restaurant, a nature discovery center, wildlife habitats, special events, and so much more.
✅ Mile High Swinging Bridge
The Mile High Swinging Bridge is a must-do if you are in the area. Since 1952, visitors have been walking along the 228-foot tall suspension bridge that spans an 80-foot chasm. From the bridge, you can see views like you’ve never seen and experience the feeling of walking in the air.
✅ Grandfather Loop Trail
The Grandfather Loop Trail is the most popular hiking trail in the park. The 1.5-mile loop combines three trails and gives hikers a great taste of what the forest in the area is like. The hike gains 400 feet in elevation, goes under the suspension bridge, and has great views of the mountains.
27. Elk Knob State Park
126 miles | 2 hr 15 minutes from Charlotte
Elk Knob State Park was opened in 2003, making it one of the newest state parks in North Carolina and it is one of the smallest. The park was originally opened to protect the mountain and the headwaters of the New River and is covered in beautiful streams, native flowers, and wildlife.
There are around 5 miles of hiking, backcountry tent sites, picnic areas, and cross-country skiing trails in the winter. Elk Knob reaches an elevation of 5,520 feet, making it one of the highest peaks of the Appalachians.
The Elk Knob Summit Trail is a 3.8 mile there and back hike that is considered a challenging route but has great views of the mountains.
28. Mount Mitchell State Park
123.2 miles | 2 hr 23 minutes from Charlotte
Mount Mitchell State Park is home to the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Reaching 6,648 feet in the air, Mount Mitchell offers breathtaking views from the summit lookout.
Surrounding the mountain, there are 40 miles of hiking trails, backcountry camping, a seasonal restaurant, and picnic areas. The trailhead for the summit can be easily accessed off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where a 0.2-mile paved trail takes you to the lookout.
29. Craggy Gardens
132.4 miles | 2 hr 39 minutes from Charlotte
Craggy Gardens are found right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, at milepost 367.6. There is a lovely picnic area, a visitors center, and access to a short hike up Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Craggy Gardens are named after the twisted rocks that surround the area and the spectacular floral gardens that cover the ground.
The best time to visit the Craggy Gardens is during June when all the native rhododendrons are in bloom. Craggy Gardens is a lovely place to visit for an afternoon picnic.
30. DuPont State Recreational Forest
113.9 miles | 2 hr 10 minutes from Charlotte
DuPont State Recreational Forest is a 12,500-acre state forest most known for housing High Falls and five other noteworthy waterfalls. The waterfalls are so picturesque that they were used in two movies, The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games. There are over 86 miles of trails, making it one of the most accessible recreational forests in the state.
✅ High Falls and Triple Falls Tour
High Falls and Triple Falls Tour is a 3.3-mile loop that brings you to three of the six waterfalls in Dupont State Forest. There is no other hike in the park that will allow you to see views of this many falls together. It is a great afternoon hike, good for older kids and beginner hikers.
31. Big Bald
130.7 miles | 2 hr 27 minutes from Charlotte
Big Bald is a 14-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that brings you to the tallest peak of the Bald Mountains. This part of the Appalachian Trail is known for being very hilly with steep climbs, but there are also large areas of rolling green fields. This hike can be done in 7-8 hours or broken up into a two-day trip. Campsites can be found along the way.
32. Grayson Highlands State Park
130.6 miles | 2 hr 35 minutes from Charlotte
Grayson Highlands State Park is a 4,502-acre park in Virginia, right over the border of North Carolina. This park is a popular place for camping, as there are a number of designated tent sites, RV sites, yurts, cabins, and bunkhouses.
There are many miles of hiking trails, bike trails (bike rentals are available nearby,) cross-country skiing, and bouldering. A highlight of Grayson Highlands is the wild ponies that live in the area.
33. Gorges State Park
146.6 miles | 2 hr 52 minutes from Charlotte
Gorges State Park, in the Blue Ridge area, spans 8,000 acres of temperate rainforest and is known for having a plethora of amazing waterfalls. Many areas of this park are extremely remote and offer peaceful, secluded hiking trails.
There are 56 miles of hiking trails, biking and horseback riding trails, campsites, cabin campers, and backcountry camping. Besides quiet hiking, many come to Gorges State Park to see some of the 26 waterfalls located inside the park.
✅ Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Trail
The Turtleback Trail is a 3.9-mile out-and-back hike that leads hikers to four different waterfalls and some great backcountry campsites. About a mile and a half into the hike, you’ll come across Rainbow Falls, a spectacular 150-foot waterfall.
Hiking near Charlotte NC: FAQs
📌 Is Charlotte good for hiking?
The Charlotte area is surprisingly great for hiking. You just have to leave the city center to find it!
📌 What are the nearest mountains to Charlotte, NC?
The Appalachian peak called the South Mountains is the closest mountain range to Charlotte. They are just over an hour away.
📌 What is the closest waterfall hike to Charlotte, NC?
High Shoals Falls, located in South Mountain State Park, is one of the closest waterfalls to Charlotte.
📌 What mountains are within 2 hours of Charlotte?
The Blue Ridge Mountains and Grandfather Mountain are two hours from Charlotte.
If you are visiting Charlotte and looking to get out of the city for a day or two, you are in luck because there are so many places within two hours where you can go hiking, camping, swimming, or enjoy any other outdoor activity you please.
From famous attractions like the Mile High Swinging Bridge or Linville Falls to secluded hikes and family-friendly campsites, this area has it all.
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