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After a .8-mile warm-up, the trail to Crowders Mountain either goes up, or goes up in a hurry. Follow this route clockwise to approach the summit at a more moderate grade, or tackle it counter-clockwise for a more strenuous challenge. This is a great year-round city escape, but it’s best when Crowders Mountain State Park’s diverse ecology bursts into a springtime bloom and the trail turns into a bird-watching paradise—migrating species of warblers and vireos add to an already diverse mix of hawks, owls, and other winter residents.
Mapped by Tim Johnson
- Distance: 8.4
Location: 35.213421, -81.293701
Start from the north side of the Visitor Center parking lot. Travel north on a flat road bed through pine forest with sourwood and red maple understory.
Location: 35.21497, -81.294823
Turn right @ Y-junction onto a rolling gravel foot trail through young hardwood forest. In the early fall, look for the bright red capsules of strawberry bush exploding with non-edible scarlet berries. Ahead, cross two small streams on wooden footbridges.
Location: 35.218182, -81.284897
Cross Sparrow Springs Road and travel left @ Y-junction on the white-blazed Crowders Trail. In early spring, listen for red-eyed and blue-headed vireos, and black and white warblers. The wavy-edged leaves and acorns of chestnut oak can be found in the treetops and on the ground below.
Location: 35.237381, -81.274048
Turn right @ T-junction onto gravel road (Backside Trail). As you hike, the cliffs of Crowders Mountain tower 150 feet above on the left (SE) side of the trail. The seasonal flowers of Mountain Laurel dot the steep hillside above and below the trail.
Location: 35.232491, -81.275078
After climbing up 334 wooden steps, look east for impressive views of the Charlotte skyline. Vultures float overhead on air currents that race upwards from the mountain. Climbers may be seen or heard below at the one of the best rock climbing sites in the North Carolina Piedmont.
Location: 35.232349, -81.276237
Crest Crowders Mountain’s 1,625-foot summit. Next, continue following the trail past towers and antennae that serve the Charlotte metro area. Descend rocky trail through a recently burned area with native yucca plants scattered on the steep hillside.
Location: 35.23011, -81.278763
Straight @ 4-way intersection with Tower Trail (a gravel road).
Location: 35.221779, -81.282867
Descend this steep stretch with caution: scramble over rocks and crags down the leading ridge of the mountain. Plants and small pines grasp to soil found in the cracks of the rock.
Location: 35.21983, -81.282593
Take advantage of this rare level section of trail to rest your knees, catch your breath, and enjoy the views to the east. Continue descent to Waypoint 3, then backtrack to the trailhead.