Now that fall is upon us, and the leaves are starting to change colour, you should get outside and enjoy it! There are a number of local areas to hike, where you can get to within half and hours drive from home.
Crowders Mountain State Park in Kings Mountain, North Carolina is a quick 30 minute drive from Charlotte, and has a number of good hikes! You can park at the Linwood Road Access Parking Lot, accessible off I-85 exit 13 (Edgewood Rd.) The other access point is the from the Visitors’ Centre off Sparrow Springs Road, which is accessible off I-85 again at Exit 13, or at Exit 8.
If you are looking for a leisurely stroll, don’t do either of the peaks, as they are all rated strenuous. There are a couple of shorter hikes, Fern Trail (1.0 mile, Easy) and Lake Trail (0.8 mile, Easy), which are accessible from the Visitor’s Centre. The man-made 9 acre lake offers a picnic ground, fishing and canoe rentals are also available. Rock climbers will find over 150 routes on two main climbing walls; The Main Wall and the Hidden Wall. Climbers must register with park staff and have a climbing permit. There is also back-country camping available for families and groups, both of which are hike in only, approximately 1 mile from the Visitors’ Centre.
The King’s Pinnacle, or Pinnacle Trail, is a 1.7 one way strenuous hike to the peak, which reaches 1705 ft. It is well worth the climb. From the peak, you can see Charlotte in the distance, if it is not too hazy. The views of the surrounding area are spectacular. The joy of hiking this trail in the fall is that there isn’t the summer heat to add to the strenuousness of the climb.
You can make your return hike back along the Pinnacle Trail and, for a change of scenery, take the Turnback Trail back to the Visitor’s Centre for the last 1.1 miles.
The Crowders Mountain Peak can be accessed by a number of trails, and from the two different parking areas. If you park at the Visitors’ Centre, take the Crowders Trail, which is 2.8 miles in length. It connects to the Backside Trail to make your way to the Peak. Crowders Trail is rated as moderate to strenuous, but the last half mile of Backside Trail is definitely strenuous. When you join to the Backside trail, look up to your left and you see the peak. The signs say .4 miles to peak, and looking at it, you realize that is an awful lot of UP for .4 miles! The Backside Trail has 334 steps built into the trail, with a number of benches placed along the trail to catch your breath and survey the view. The trail ends at the top of Crowders Mountain, at an altitude of 1625 feet. Once again wonderful views of surrounding towns and peaks make it well worth the climb!
If you are returning to the Visitor Centre, you can take the Rocktop Trail for 1.4 miles and join up to the Crowders Trail where it crosses Sparrow Springs Road. The Rocktop Trail, as the name suggests, follows along the top of the rocks, and it truly would be helpful to be part mountain goat! The “trail” is very well marked, with markings on the rocks showing the way to go. You will scramble up and down rocks and gullies, so I would recommend wearing good hiking boots with ankle support, as it is easy to roll your ankle along here.
The Linwood Road Access Parking lot is the trailhead to the Backside Trail (0.7 miles, strenuous), the Tower Trail (1.8 miles, strenuous) and the Rocktop Trail (1.4 miles, strenuous). The Tower Trail provides access to the Climbing Walls, and has great views along the way, culminating at the Peak.
One other trail in the Park, for the serious hiker, is a moderate 6.2 mile hike that breaks off the Pinnacle Trail and continues along the Ridgeline for 6.2 miles, where it continues into the Kings Mountain State Park on the South Carolina side of the border. You can make a full day trip if you have two vehicles and start at the Linwood Road Access and park the second vehicle at the Boulders Access Area close to the South Carolina Border. You would walk the Crowders trail, the Pinnacle trail and then the 6.2 mile Ridgeline Trail.
A wonderful park, close to home, and some great hikes.
A good reference website with maps and contact info is found at www.crowdersmountain.com .