You’ve seen our hikes by the sea and the Triad and Triangle, but today I’ve got a great list for our Charlotte friends. Five quick and easy hiking destinations in and around Charlotte that will allow you some well-deserved peace and quiet.
Seven Oaks Preserve, Belmont
There’s an abundance of popular hikes along Lake Wylie north along the Catawba River to Lake Norman, the key word here being “popular.” So many trails, so many hikers. Which is why the 2.8-mile trail at Seven Oaks stands out: it’s new and despite being part of the Carolina Thread Trail, is, for now at least, not as well known. The preserve is on land purchased and protected by the Catawba Lands Conservancy, which sought the parcel in part because of its wild turkeys, turtles and native wildflowers. Should you decide 2.8 miles is a little too quick of an escape, the trail connects with the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, where you can put together a five-mile loop.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte
The 1,343-acre Latta Plantation Nature Preserve along Mountain Island Lake is one of those better-known waterside escapes mentioned above. But with 16 miles of trail, it’s one of the largest trail networks in the region, making it possible to give the masses the slip and enjoy some peace and quiet. Our recommendation: from the Nature Center head out on the Hill Trail to the Piedmont Prairie restoration, which will transport you back in time. Prior to the European Invasion (the original, beginning in 1492, not The Beatles, beginning in 1964), prairies — complete with grazing bison — were a relatively common sight in the region. Here, you’ll get a sense of that long-forgotten time. Continue on the Cove Trail for more serenity and escape.
Crowders Mountain: Boulders Access, Kings Mountain
OK, you’re saying, you just went to the Crowders Mountain State Park website and found that it can take up to 30 minutes just to get a parking space at Crowders Mountain!? How on Earth is that a quiet escape? It’s not, at least not starting from the park’s uber-popular Linwood Road or Sparrow Springs access points. But drive a couple minutes farther down I-85, get off at Exit 5, and shortly you’re at the Boulder’s Access, at the southwest end of the park. You’ll have access to the 6.2-mile Ridgeline Trail (go north to the Pinnacle or south into South Carolina), or hang out around the Buzzard’s Roost area, where a collection of house-size-and-larger boulders give the sense of an escape to the West. You may see a climber or two, but few other signs of civilization.
RibbonWalk Nature Preserve, Charlotte
It would be hard to find a better use of 188 acres in an urban environment than the RibbonWalk Nature Preserve in the heart of Charlotte. The hundred-yard-or-so drive to the parking area initiates your escape into the woods; a quarter mile of hiking adds the finishing touch to divorcing you from the honk-and-hustle of town. Hike down a mellow valley of young hardwoods, pines and cedars that quickly give way to a majestic stand of beech trees dating back 150 to 200 years. All the time you’re hiking in the company of 106 herbaceous plant species, 78 species of woody plants, 53 species of birds and 24 species of butterflies — and very few of your fellow humans.
Rural Hill Nature Preserve, Huntersville
Do you scoff at the notion of a quick escape to the Scottish highlands? What if those highlands were magically transported to Huntersville? That indeed is the magic of Rural Hill, a 487-acre reserve on Mountain Island Lake that, beginning in the mid 1700s, was home to the Davidson family, Scottish immigrants, and their plantation. No bogs and heaths, but you will see evidence of the Davidson’s Scottish heritage, in addition to a diverse bird population supported by the preserve’s hay fields, which provide habitat for a variety of uncommon nesting birds. Bring your binos and be on the lookout for Grasshopper Sparrows, Killdeer, Eastern Bluebirds, Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks and more.
[Top image: Shutterstock]