Here are some hidden gems for hiking near Charlotte, NC

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Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve in Kershaw, South Carolina.

One of the things I love most about life in Charlotte is that a panoramic view is usually less than 90 minutes away. If I’m really lucky I can admire spectacular scenery from the top of the mountain at sunrise or sunset. When I’m just in it for views and a little time away from life, I prefer a walk in the mountains or around. When I’m ready for a challenge, both physically and mentally, I gather enough energy to conquer the mountain on my own. When I want to cut down on the possibility of stumbling across half of Charlotte on a trail at Crowder’s or King’s Mountain, I’m looking for something that is a bit off the beaten path.

Here is a short list of places you may not have discovered that are perfect for spending time away from the noise. If you’re really lucky, you could snap a shot of a spectacular view and it could be your next most beloved Instagram post.

(1) Bakers Mountain Park

Location: 6680 Bakers Mountain Road, Hickory, NC 28602

1 hour and 20 minutes from Charlotte Center City.

Why hike here: Bakers Mountain Park offers six miles of trails, taking hikers through a deciduous forest that leads to an observation deck and a lookout at the top of the mountain for spectacular views of the Catawba Valley.

What there is to know: All four trails are colored and are less than 2.5 miles each. Some trails are steep and arduous, offering hikers a variety of difficulty levels.

Where to park: In the car park near the park headquarters.

(2) Forty acre rocky trail

Location: 2207 Conservancy Road, Kershaw, SC 29067

1 hour and 20 minutes from Charlotte Center City.

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A flowing stream at Forty Acre Rock. Carly Dodds

Why hike here: The trail is located on the Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve, which includes nearly 3,000 acres of the region’s most diverse protected area. Hikers can see waterfalls, caves, flat granite rocks, and a variety of wildlife.

What there is to know: The 2.5 mile round trip trail difficulty level is moderate. You will pass through a forest and end at the top of an oversized standing boulder. From the top, admire the panoramic view of the surrounding dunes.

Where to park: To travel to Nature Reserve Road approximately 1.6 miles and take a left onto Conservancy Road. The parking lot is at the end of the road.

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Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve in Kershaw, South Carolina. Carly Dodds

(3) McDowell Nature Reserve

Location: 15222 York Road, Charlotte, North Carolina 28278

30 minutes from downtown Charlotte

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McDowell Nature Preserve offers 7 miles of hiking trails and specular views. Michelle Bruni

Why hike here: The McDowell Nature Reserve offers many options for hikers with seven miles of trails. Hikers can choose to explore the scenery of Lake Wylie, streams or forests. About 90 percent of the nature reserve is underdeveloped. A bonus is that you can bring your own canoe or kayak and set off from the landing stage near the waterfront deck.

What there is to know: Offering 12 different trails, hikers can choose the level of difficulty and viewpoints they wish to see along the hike. All trails are less than 1.2 km. The Kingfisher Trail is just under a mile and offers spectacular views of Lake Wylie.

Where to park: With over 10 different parking options, hikers are sure to find a park near the desired trail.

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The McDowell Nature Reserve is only half an hour from downtown Charlotte. Michelle Bruni

(4) Morrow Mountain State Park – Fall Mountain Trail

Location: 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle, NC 28001

1 hour and 20 minutes from Charlotte Center City

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Watching a sunrise at Morrow Mountain should be on your spring hiking bucket list. Courtesy of North Carolina State Parks

Why hike here: This 4.1 mile trail includes a variety of habitats. From the top of Fall Mountain, hikers can enjoy magnificent views of Tillery Lake and rhyolite rock outcrops. If you are lucky you will spot a bald eagle searching for fish along the river.

What there is to know: The surface is natural and has gravel. There is a promenade, a bridge, water crossings and rocks.

Where to park: There is parking along Lake Tillery.

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Kron House is located near the Fall Mountain Trail from Morrow Mountain. Courtesy of North Carolina State Parks

(5) Rocky face mountain

Location: 3451 Rocky Face Church Road, Hiddenite, North Carolina 28636

1 hour and 15 minutes from downtown Charlotte

Why hike here: Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area offers five different trails with a total of six hiking miles that lead to the top of the mountain. Hikers can travel along the top of the quarry cliffs to the top of the mountain. During the hike, keep an eye out for the various markers representing the rare plants located in the park.

What there is to know: All trails are 2.5 miles or less. Hikers can choose the level of difficulty from easy with the Buzzard Loop Trail to strenuous with the Vertical Mile Challenge Trail.

Where to park: Rocky Face Mountain Recreation Area.


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This story was originally published March 31, 2021 3:12 pm.

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Ebony Morman is a freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, writing and developing Charlotte’s youth through her association. Follow her on Instagram @chitoclt.


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