There are a lot of things to love about living in the state of North Carolina, but something we love most is the weather. Even though we get some cold months where it’s better to stay inside, most of our year can be spent outdoors! Thanks to our Park and Rec department, we have a lot of opportunities to explore nature in Mecklenburg County. There are our parks, of course, but then there are also our greenways, nature preserves, and programs like mountain biking and sailing.
But let’s focus on our trails for a minute. When was the last time you went for a hike? With over 50 miles of paved trails and several nature preserves with trails, we have something for hikers of all levels. Here are some of our favorites that we encourage you to check out.
Easy Hiking Trails
Buzzard Rock Trail
Located at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Buzzard Rock Trail is 0.3 miles one way and can be completed in 15 minutes or less! This trail will leave you with a spectacular view – it brings you to the buzzard rock overlook of Mountain Island Lake.
Treasure Tree Trail
Another great one for the folks near Latta Plantation Nature Preserve is the Treasure Tree Trail. It’s a 0.65 mile loop that will take 30 minutes or less to walk. The fun part about this one is that you can scan QR codes along the walk for a self-guided nature hike (using the game app Munzee)!
Big Oak Trail
Big Oak Trail can be found at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve and is one mile long. It will take you about 30-45 minutes to complete and has a relatively easy natural surface trail. But, to get there, you’ll need to take the Umbrella Tree Trail (see our list of moderate trails below). Make sure you take a look at the large white oaks that line this trail along the way.
Kingfisher Trail is an easy one for our McDowell Nature Preserve hikers. It’s 1.11 miles long and takes about 30 minutes to complete, but is not difficult to navigate. Plus, the view you’ll get at the end is one not to be missed — this trail takes you down to the main waterfront of McDowell Nature Center!
Moderate Hiking Trails
Umbrella Tree Trail
Remember the Big Oak Trail from Reedy Creek that we just talked about under “easy?” The Umbrella Tree Trail is the path that will get you there! This 1.0 mile trail can be completed in 30-45 minutes and includes some uphill and downhill sections. It also passes through some of the most botanically significant areas of the nature preserve.
Dragonfly Pond Trail
While you’re at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve, be sure to check out the Dragonfly Pond Trail too. On this 1.0 mile hike (approximately 30-45 minutes to complete), you’ll pass through hardwood forests and follow along the shoreline of Dragonfly Pond. The woodland flowers and aquatic wildlife (such as mallard ducks, turtles, and of course, dragonflies) are a sight to see!
The Cove Trail at McDowell Nature Preserve is just under a mile (.8 miles to be exact), and can be hiked in about 30 minutes. This is your go-to trail if you want great views of the lake and the wildlife that our nature preserve is home to — it takes you all along the ledges of Lake Wylie.
For our hikers at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve who would like something a little more difficult, try the Beechwood Trail. It’s a 0.9 mile loop that takes 50 minutes or less to walk. You’ll pass over ravines and through mixed hardwood forest. Just be prepared for some hills!
More Difficult Hiking Trails
At 1.11 miles long, the Chestnut Trail is the most difficult one you’ll find at McDowell Nature Preserve — it can take 1-1.5 hours to hike! It’s a loop trail that circles around a natural valley divided by a small creek and passes under the canopy of a hardwood forest. If you’re there in early spring you’ll see lots of wildflowers, and in late autumn and winter you’ll find Witch Hazel blooming.
If you want a taste of all that Latta Plantation Nature Preserve has, the Hill/Splitrock/Cove loop is your best bet! For example, you’ll pass by the prairie, forest, lake and more. You’ll come across hills and rocky terrain on this 5-mile loop that can typically be completed in 2-2.5 hours.
Sherman Branch Nature Preserve
We couldn’t forget to include something for our bikers (you can hike/run here too, but you’ll need to look out for all of those biking around you). Linking all of the trails at the Sherman Branch Nature Preserve will give you a 10.3-mile loop to explore. On the full tour you’ll see creeks, a small lake, rock gardens, remnants of old farms, and lots of trees. Biking this trail would take 1-1.5 hours, but if you’re up for the walk, it could take about four hours!
Make Your Own!
When you really want a challenge, one of the easiest ways to make things a little more difficult is by connecting trails. You can connect as many or as little as you want – it’s up to you how long you’d like to hike for and what type of things you’d like to see along the way! You can find maps of the trails at parkandrec.com.
Ready to get out there now? The next time you’re on one of our trails, be sure to snap a photo and share it with us on social media!