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Tell any Charlottean that you’re new in town and looking for a good hike and the first words out of their mouth will be “Crowders Mountain.” And with good reason. It is a strenuous hike that rewards you with a breathtaking view from Crowders Overlook that reminds you that Charlotte remains, even now, an island in an ocean of trees. It’s best to go early. Although I visited this state park on a day with sub-freezing temperatures, the parking lot was full when I got back. BY MATT CLAPP
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 3 hrs
Distance from Uptown: 40 minutes
More Info: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/crmo/main.php
1. Type “Crowders Mountain State Park” into Google Maps.
2. Stop at Visitor Center and pick up the large free map. Tell them you’re hiking the Crowders Trail to Crowders Overlook and they will happily outline it for you in highlighter and tell you about the hike.
Mile 0.0 – From the Visitor Center go right and follow the trail into the woods.
0.3 – You come to a fork in the trail. Continue right onto the Crowders Trail, following the white diamond and orange dot trail blazes on the trees.
0.6 – Cross a small bridge over creek. Indulge your inner child and play Poohsticks with your friends.
0.9 – Come to a bench on the right with a pretty view. Sit, breathe, and take in the moment.
1.1 – Reach the crosswalk at Freedom Mill Rd. 50′ after you cross the road is a fork. Turn left up Crowders Trail. Continue for the next 1.7 miles along the side of a rolling hill. Pet dogs as they pass.
2.8 – Begin the initial ascent of Crowders Mountain.
2.9 – Arrive at a T junction for Backside Trail. Turn right to go up hill to stay on the now gravel covered Crowders Trail.
3.2 – Arrive at the stairs leading up to Crowders Overlook. Although 0.1 miles long, this is the steepest part of the trail.
3.3 – Reach Crowders Overlook. Scramble out onto the overlook, collapse elegantly, and revel in the endless forests of North Carolina. Carefully crawl out to the edge and look down and to the right to see if anyone is rock climbing. When you’re ready to leave continue on the trail (right if you are facing view of the forest) up the rocky hill, passing the supremely picturesque TV tower on your right. Take a selfie and check into the WSOC-TV1 Tower on Facebook here just because you’re guaranteed no one else ever has. When you reach the T junction after a short downgrade, continue right down the winding gravel Tower Trail.
3.9 – Turn right onto Rock Top Trail and follow red dots (blazes). The trail gets rocky as you head downhill. When you come to large boulders go up them at the red dot. Continue over boulders following occasional red dots.
4.25 – Come upon a large collection of boulders where the trail is not immediately obvious. Look left before the boulders and you’ll see the trail.
4.85 – To your left is a large grouping of boulders with an entrance. Just to the right is warning sign with its back to you. If you go out through the entrance to these boulders, there’s a fantastic view. Afterwards, continue down the trail following red dots to the road.
5.0 – Arrive back at the road. From here follow white diamond blazes again.
5.75 – Reach the final trail junction. Stay left and follow white diamond and orange dot blazes back to visitor center.
5.9 – Arrive back at visitor center.
1. Indulge your inner nerd and take the short tour inside the Visitor Center and let Rocky the turkey vulnerable educate you about some nature facts (“Tectonic plates are not dinner plates you forgot to wash”). In the winter they may have a roaring wood fire going. Mmmm….
2. After leaving the parking lot, stop 100 feet past turn off to State Park Lane for a photo op of the pond on your left which, when frozen, makes for beautiful photos.
3. On your way back, stop at Five Guys in Gastonia and stuff your face with a bacon double cheeseburger and fries. (You just hiked 6 miles up and down a mountain, you need some protein, man!)
4. While waiting for your order, watch the clip “Chinese Downhill” from the 1984 ski movie Hot Dog, laugh ’til everyone around you thinks you’re weird, and remind yourself that sometimes, anything goes.
Temp: 30, sunny
Water: 3 oz.
Song: Sledgehammer by Fifth Harmony – “If you could feel my heart beat now, it would hit you like a sledgehammer…”
Drink: Unnecessarily cold water
A little help on the initial part of the trail (these are not the stairs to Crowders Overlook, those are much worse!). [photo by Matt Clapp]
Endless forest—the view from Crowders Overlook. [photo by Matt Clapp]
A section of the aptly named Rocktop Trail on the way back down [photo by Matt Clapp].
Another great view from a hidden overlook on Rocktop Trail shortly before reaching the road. [photo by Matt Clapp]
Coming back home. [photo by Matt Clapp]
Frozen pond just outside the parking area. [photo by Matt Clapp]
- State: NC
- City: Charlotte
- Distance: 0.0
- Contact: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/crmo/main.php
- Land Type: State Park