Fly fishing rod

North Carolina State Parks to Explore in the Charlotte Area

Hikers stand on top of Crowders Mountain overlooking Piedmont.

Hikers stand on top of Crowders Mountain overlooking Piedmont.


North Carolina is often praised for its striking scenery.

Scenic lakes, tree-lined hiking trails, and breathtaking mountain views are just a few of the things you can find at most of North Carolina’s 34 state parks.

There are no state parks in Mecklenburg County, but six of them are within a two-hour drive of Charlotte. Here’s what you need to know about each to make the most of your visit:

Crowders Mountain State Park

Location: 522 Park Office Ln., Kings Mountain, North Carolina 28086

Distance from Charlotte: 30 miles

What to do: Hike miles of trails lined with wildflowers and mountain oleander that lead to the summit of Crowders Mountain and take in panoramic views of Piedmont, or pitch your tent at one of the individual campsites just steps from the parking areas. You can also visit the Visitor Center, which features museum-quality exhibits.

Connect with nature by hiking Crowders Mountain. Abbie Largess

Lake Norman State Park

Location: 759 State Park Road, Troutman, North Carolina 28166

Distance from Charlotte: 46 miles

What to do: Cycle over 30 miles of trails along the shores of Lake Norman or go swimming at the 125-meter-long water beach. You can also bring your fishing rod to cast a line at many designated spots along the park trails, or gather the family for a night outdoors at the campsite, with cooking facilities, restrooms, bathhouse and a fireplace.

Itusi Trail_1
Cyclists navigate the Itusi Trail at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. JEFF WILLHELM Charlotte Observer file photo

Morrow Mountain State Park

Location: 49104 Morrow Mountain Road, Albemarle, NC 28001

Distance from Charlotte: 48 miles

What to do: Bike or hike from the edge of Lake Tillery to the top of Morrow Mountain for a picnic, or pitch a tent at a 106-site family campground. If you’re not in the mood to rough it, you can rent a rustic vacation cabin for an extended stay.

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

Southern Mountain State Park

Location: 3001 S. Mountain Park, Connelly Springs, North Carolina 28612

Distance from Charlotte: 62 miles

What to do: Set up camp at one of 24 hiking sites and take in views at elevations up to 3,000 feet, or check out the 80-foot waterfall. Experienced anglers (with a fishing license) can try their hand at wild trout fishing in the Jacob Fork River, and mountain bikers are suggested to be in good shape to attempt the 17-mile loop trail.

An angler drifts a trout fly across a small pool on the Jacob Fork River in Southern Mountains State Park. John D. Simmons Charlotte Observer file photo

Lake James State Park

Location: 7321 CN 126, Nebo, CN 28761

Distance from Charlotte: 91 miles

What to do: Go boating on the nearly 7,000 acre lake or rent a canoe, kayak or paddle board to navigate the waters. You can also take your kids for a short hike on the Holly Discovery Trail, which includes kid-friendly activities, or leave them at home and head to the Overmountain Victory Trail, a historic footbridge once used by soldiers in the war. of independence.

Lake James State Park has a pleasant swimming area that is open during the warm months. FILE PICTURE Charlotte Observer

Chimney Rock State Park

Location: 431 Main St., Chimney Rock, NC 28720

Distance from Charlotte: 96 miles

What to do: You can’t visit the park without going to Chimney Rock, a 315-foot granite monolith that offers stunning views of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. Admission is $17 for adults, $8 for children ages 5-15, and free for ages four and under. The Rocky Broad River, which runs through the park, is also a prime destination for trout anglers.

This popular view of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure behind, seen from the Opera Box, a nearby viewpoint in the park. Charlotte Observer

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Evan Moore is a duty reporter for the Charlotte Observer. He grew up in Denver, North Carolina, where he previously worked as a reporter for the Denver Citizen, and graduated from UNC Charlotte.