20 BEST Hikes Near Charlotte

While most people probably don’t consider hiking one of the best things to do in Charlotte, you’d be surprised at some of the outdoor adventures you can have in the Queen City.

From easy to hard, there are plenty of hikes near Charlotte to enjoy all year round. Let’s dig into a few of our favorites!


The Best Hikes Near Charlotte


1. Lake Norman Shore Trail

Lake Norman Shore Trail - best hikes near Charlotte
  • Length: 6.10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 390 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: Lake Norman State Park

Lake Norman State Park, located in Iredell County, in Troutman, NC, lies 40 miles north of Charlotte and takes about 45-min to reach from Uptown Charlotte. The park offers hikers and nature lovers the opportunity to indulge in picturesque lakeshore hikes around the man-made Lake Norman, created by the Duke Power Company between 1959 to 1964.

The 5-mile Lake Shore Trail is amongst the most popular hiking trails at the park and is of moderate difficulty for those seeking a scenic hike around the lake’s picturesque shoreline.

The park also boasts the area’s most famous mountain biking trail system, known as the Itusi Trail, which offers over 30 miles of single-track trails for mountain biking enthusiasts and plenty of other hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty.


2. Reedy Creek Nature Preserve Trail

Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve - best hikes near Charlotte
photo courtesy of Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve
  • Length: 2.80 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 190 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Reedy Creek Nature Preserve

Just over 3 miles long, the Reedy Creek Nature Preserve Trail is just a short drive away from Uptown Charlotte. Located at the Reedy Creek Nature Center, this easy hiking loop is the best way to enjoy the beauty of flowers in bloom and local wildlife.

As you hike the trail you can also avail various amenities such as a playground, campground, dog park, and picnic facilities that are located toward the north side of the preserve.

The southern side is more rugged and connects to other trails that lead into the Piedmont forest. In total, you will find about 10 miles of hiking trails to explore at the Reedy Creek Nature Preserve, meaning you can easily spend the whole day here soaking up the nature.


3. Mallard Creek Greenway

Mallard Creek Greenway - best hikes near Charlotte
Image courtesy of Mallard Creek and Clark’s Creek Greenway
  • Length: 9.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 167 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Charlotte, North Carolina

One of the most popular and highly trafficked trails in Charlotte, Mallard Creek Greenway is a 9.2-mile-long out-and-back trail that is best enjoyed in late summer or early fall. This is because during this season numerous butterflies can be found walking along the trail along with other wildlife such as gray foxes, white-tailed deer, and great blue herons.

The trail is open to hikers, skateboarders, bikers, and rollerbladers. Pets are also allowed on the trail as long as they are leashed. Being a mix of asphalt and gravel the trail is easy to moderate in difficulty and leads to Clarks Creek Greenway with numerous neighborhood connections along the way.


4. Latta Nature Preserve Trail

Latta Nature Preserve Trail - best hikes near Charlotte
Latta Nature Preserve / Image courtesy of Visit Lake Norman / Best Hikes Near Charlotte
  • Length: 5.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 337.9 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: Latta Nature Preserve.

In the nearby town of Huntersville, just a 20-min drive from Charlotte lies the waterfront trails of the Latta Nature Preserve. The 16 miles of trail begins at the Quest Nature Centre where visitors can learn about the flora and fauna present in the preserve.

The five-mile Latta Nature Preserve Trail is the most popular of the trails as it explores the nearly 1,500 acres of the preserve and offers a moderate hiking challenge. As you hike the trail you can see the Mountain Island Lake, forests, and wildlife. The trail is marked and easy to follow as it winds through foliage-covered pathways.   


5. Kings Mountain Pinnacle Trail

Kings Mountain State Park - best hikes near Charlotte
Image courtesy of South Carolina State Parks
  • Length: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 777 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: Kings Mountain State Park

Situated in Kings Mountain State Park, a 40-min drive from Charlotte, the two-mile-long Kings Mountain Pinnacle trail might not be the longest trail on this list but it is one of the most strenuous.

While the first mile of the trail is generally easy as you meander through lowland hardwoods the next part of the journey is a steep climb up to the summit of Kings Mountain where you can experience panoramic views of the picturesque countryside and the surrounding Piedmont.

There are plenty of other trails to choose from as well ranging from easy to strenuous that explore different regions of the park. 


6. Fall Mountain Trail Loop

- best hikes near Charlotte
Image courtesy of Morrow Mountain State Park
  • Length: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 547 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: Morrow Mountain State Park

The Fall Mountain Trail loop can be found in Morrow Mountain State Park in Albemarle, NC, which is over an hour’s drive from Charlotte. The 4.1-mile long trail offers spectacular views of Lake Tillery and as you hike up to the top of Fall Mountain keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles and ospreys.

The trail is mostly natural with some parts being gravel and also features two bridges, giant boulders, and a chestnut oak forest for those wanting further exploration. Set at a moderate difficulty this is just one of many trails that can be hiked at the park but is arguably one of the most rewarding.


7. High Shoals Falls Loop

High Shoals Falls Loop - best hikes near Charlotte
The panoramic view of High Shoals Falls Loop
  • Length: 2.42 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 557.7 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: South Mountains State Park

Located in Connelly Springs, NC, over an hour’s drive from Charlotte, the High Shoals Falls Loop can be found in South Martins State Park. Named after the 80-ft tall High Shoals waterfall the trail crosses the Jacob Fork River to reach the waterfall and can be easily accessed from the park’s parking lot.

Even though the trail is only a couple of miles long it is steep and rocky which can make it a strenuous hike. The park also offers an additional 50 miles of trails that allow hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers to fully explore the 18,000 acres of South Martins State Park. 


8. Clarks Creek Greenway

Clarks Creek Greenway - best hikes near Charlotte
Image courtesy of Carolina Thread Trail / Best Hikes Near Charlotte
  • Length: 5.4 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 187 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Charlotte, North Carolina

Located in Charlotte, the Clarks Creek Greenway is a hiking trail you don’t want to miss! This nearly five-and-a-half-mile-long trail offers visitors the chance to explore Charlotte’s natural beauty with relative ease and comfort.

Most of the trail is shaded and runs alongside a river offering opportunities to spot various species of local birds, North Carolina spring wildflowers, salamanders, and crawfish. As the elevation is minimal and the trail is paved, the hike isn’t a tiring one. Pets are also allowed on the trail as long as they are on a leash. 


9. Evergreen Nature Preserve Loop

- best hikes near Charlotte
  • Length: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 72 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Evergreen Nature Preserve

If what you seek is a relaxing and easy hiking trail to break in your boots close to Charlotte, the Evergreen Nature Preserve Loop is your best choice. This easy two-mile-long hiking trail is just three miles from downtown Charlotte and offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

While the Evergreen Nature Preserve is only 77 acres it does offer everything you need for a short nature walk including a couple of tiny tributaries, glades, and a picturesque upland hardwood forest.


10. The Kingfisher Trail

best hikes near Charlotte

This out-and-back trail can be found in the McDowell Nature Preserve in Charlotte and is best known for its wildlife viewing opportunities. The McDowell Nature Preserve contains numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians and even though the trail is under 2 miles long there is a lot to see and explore.

The Kingfisher trail can be easily done year-round by hikers of all levels. If you are yearning to break in your boots some more, the preserve also has plenty of other hiking trails to choose from to explore its 1,100+ acres of natural beauty.  


11. Broad River Greenway Trail

Broad River Greenway Trail
Image courtesy of Daniel Thomas via Broad River Greenway
  • Length: 2.2 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 52.4 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Located in Cleveland County, the Broad River Greenway trail cuts through 1,500 acres of protected land around the Broad River. The four-mile-long trail is quite popular amongst locals and visitors as it doesn’t only offer picturesque river-side views but also connects to a more extensive network of trails that are open to both equestrians and mountain bikers.

Apart from hiking the trail also allows access to fishing, canoeing, picnicking, and a playground which makes the trail fun for the entire family. 


12. Bakers Mountain Park Trail

Bakers Mountain Park Trail
Image courtesy of South Carolina State Parks
  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 633 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: Bakers Mountain Park

Those wanting to explore mountain scenery and foothill forests will love hiking along the trail in Bakers Mountain Park, in Hickory. Over an hour’s drive from Charlotte, the Bakers Mountain Trail offers six miles of moderately challenging pathways that lead to the top of Bakers Mountain, the highest point of Catawba County.

From the 1,780 ft. summit, you can take in the views of the surrounding Piedmont and the mountainous landscape. 


13. Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Little Sugar Creek Greenway
  • Length: 5.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 124.6 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Huntington Farms Park

Starting from Huntington Farms Park, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway trail is one of the best hiking trails in Charlotte for those looking for an easy to moderate day hike.

The over five-mile-long trail is paved the entire way and offers opportunities for not just hiking but also mountain/road biking, dog walking, and birdwatching. Running alongside Little Sugar Creek the trail provides the perfect escape from the bustling city even though you are still in it!


14. US National Whitewater Center Lake Loop

US National Whitewater Center Lake Loop
Image courtesy of Whitewater.org / Best Hikes Near Charlotte
  • Length: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 141 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: U.S. National Whitewater Center

One of the most accessible and easy hikes near Charlotte, NC, is the almost three-mile-long lake loop at the US National Whitewater Center. This wide tree-shaded trail offers the perfect escape for mountain bikers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts who are wanting to explore nature and wildlife.

The US National Whitewater Center also offers plenty of other recreational activities such as whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, rappelling, and more.


15. Colonel Francis Beatty Park Loop

Colonel Francis Beatty Park Loop
Image courtesy of Natalya Kosyanenko / Best Hikes Near Charlotte
  • Length: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 223 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location Trailhead: Charlotte, North Carolina

Another fantastic trail near Charlotte for hikers that prefer a bit of a challenge is the 4.3-mile Colonel Francis Beatty Park Loop. Even though the trail can be heavily trafficked, it is still great for walking, fishing, and even biking.

The trail is considered mildly technical but isn’t that difficult as it has little to no elevation. However, beware that the trail isn’t marked and you can get lost easily as many interconnecting trails lead off to different areas of the park. The lake at the halfway mark of the loop is the highlight of the trail and a great place to relax and unwind.


16. Ridgeline Trail – Crowders Mountain State Park

Crowders Mountain State Park
Image courtesy of Idawriter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Length: 15.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,572 ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Location Trailhead: Crowders Mountain State Park

Crowders Mountain State Park is one of the best state parks in North Carolina and also has some of the best hiking trails near Charlotte for those seeking rugged natural beauty and a challenge. The 12-mile long Ridgeline Trail is amongst the most popular trails near Charlotte as the trail winds through 1,500 acres of parkland; from Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina to Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina.

The ridgeline trail not only takes you to the top of Kings Mountain but also continues onwards to SC via a rolling ridgeline that eventually leads to a bottomland forest.


17. South Fork River Trail

South Fork River Trail
Image courtesy of carolinathreadtrailmap.org
  • Length: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 78.7 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: Mc Adenville, North Carolina

Less than half an hour’s drive from Downtown Charlotte lies the South Fork River Trail and Blueway Access. This amazing trail runs alongside the South Fork of the Catawba River and is accessible to both runners and bikers.

Being relatively flat and just 2.2 miles long it is an easy trail that starts adjacent to the R.Y. McAden River Access close to Interstate 85. The trail is a mix of gravel, natural, and paved surfaces and connects the charming towns of McAdenville and Lowell.


18. RibbonWalk Nature Preserve

RibbonWalk Nature Preserve
Image courtesy of Lee Barker / Best Hikes Near Charlotte
  • Length: 0.9 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 55.8 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location Trailhead: RibbonWalk Nature Preserve

If you are looking for a nature walk in the heart of Charlotte City, hike along the three-mile-long RibbonWalk that winds its way through a small 188-acre nature preserve.

The trail may not be the longest or the most challenging but it does offer a quick escape from city life as you suddenly find yourself walking alongside a small creek surrounded by hardwoods and plenty of flora and fauna. Just three miles in length, the RibbonWalk is the perfect trail when you are looking for a quick escape to enjoy nature and tranquility. 


19. Hickory Nut Falls Trail

Hickory Nut Falls Trail
Hickory Nut Falls Trail

Nearly a two-hour drive away from Charlotte lies Chimney Rock State Park, which is home to plenty of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous in terms of difficulty.

The Hickory Nut Falls Trail is a moderate-difficulty trail that is only a 1.5-mile round trip. Even though the distance is short, the trail is slightly technical and has steep inclines which lead to the spectacular 404 ft. high Hickory Nut Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North Carolina, and that can be found east of the Mississippi River.


20. Indian Creek Trail

Let’s just say we may have saved the best for last! The Indian Creek Trail, located in Hanging Rock State Park is nearly a two-hour drive from Charlotte, but worth the trip!

While the park offers several hiking trails, the most popular of them all is the Indian Creek Trail which leads to Window Falls.

The trail can be quite strenuous thanks to the difficult and steep path. However, the views of the cascading waterfall and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north (at the end of the trail) make this one of the most rewarding hikes you can take on near Charlotte.  


EXPLORE THE AREA

We hope one of these hikes near Charlotte works for your outdoor escape! For more information around the city, see below:

About Natasha

Natasha moved to North Carolina for college years ago (but she's not trying to age herself here). Her days were spent reading a book on the beach and enjoying a cold glass of sweet tea in between classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Upon graduation, she met her partner, Cameron, and they traveled the world together crossing 85 countries and seven continents. After, many years of international travel they settled down a bit and launched Lost in the Carolinas to share their experiences about and travel tips on South Carolina and North Carolina.

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