Picking the right trail is a crucial part of putting together a hiking trip, especially when you don’t necessarily have the experience to navigate more difficult, strenuous terrain.
Although Charlotte and the surrounding areas have plenty of trails that can provide thrills and tests of endurance, there are also a number of options that are easier to handle but still offer scenic views and good exercise. Choosing the right option not only will make your experience better but also help you avoid injury, or worse.
Here are some beginner-friendly hiking trails in and around Charlotte to consider for your next adventure:
Badin Lake Hiking Trail
Location: 400 Cove Road, New London, North Carolina 28127
What to know: This loop trail around Badin Lake is described by the U.S. Forest Service as “gentle terrain” that’s “a good choice for family hikes.” You can take the 2.5-mile short loop or go the full 5.6 miles. The trail can be accessed “from the Arrowhead, Badin Lake, Badin Group Camp campgrounds, or from the Kings Mountain Point day use area,” the Forest Service advises.
Congaree National Park
Location: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, South Carolina 29061
What to know: About 90 minutes south of Charlotte, Congaree National Park offers a variety of hiking trails at different difficulty levels. The Boardwalk Loop Trail, a 2.6 mile round-trip, is perhaps the most popular of the “easy” trails. The boardwalk will take you through part of the forest, has benches throughout and is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, the National Park Service advises.
McDowell Nature Preserve
Location: 15222 York Road, Charlotte, North Carolina 28278
What to know: This Charlotte nature preserve has “easy” trails, ranging in length from less than a quarter mile to just over one mile. Trails offer views of Lake Wylie, flowers and hardwood forests.
Mecklenburg County Greenway System
Location: Multiple locations
What to know: If you’re looking to build up your stamina close to home before venturing out to more adventurous hiking trails, Mecklenburg County’s greenways can be a great way to start. There are more than 62 miles of trails throughout different neighborhoods. Paths vary in length, and many offer wildlife views.
Pilot Mountain State Park
Location: 622 Hauser Road, Pinnacle, North Carolina 27043
What to know: Pilot Mountain State Park’s Bean Shoals Canal Trail is about a mile round-trip and “travels alongside the Yadkin River and passes the remains of the Bean Shoals Canal,” per North Carolina State Parks. You can access the trail by parking at the park’s Hauser Road lot or through the Bean Shoals access, though you’ll need to cross three “shallow streams” in your car to get to the latter.
Rocky Face Mountain
Location: 3451 Rocky Face Church Road, Hiddenite, North Carolina 28636
What to know: Despite what could come across an intimidating name for someone new to hiking, Rocky Face Mountain does offer an “easy to moderate” hike. The Buzzard Loop path is about a third of a mile and will take you to a scenic overlook of a quarry. The trail does involve a rock staircase.