Best Bets for Where to Hike With Kids
Try one of these family hikes that make a great day trip from Charlotte.
A view from the top of Crowders Mountain.
Get your family outside and enjoy these Carolina parks and paths. All of these trails are perfect day trips for the family since none are farther than an hour and a half from Charlotte. If you and your older children are hitting the trails often, enter the North Carolina State Parks 100 Mile Challenge and hike, bike, swim or paddle 100 miles on state trails and waterways before the end of 2017. Happy Trails!
Drive time: 45 minutes north from uptown Charlotte.
This state park is a great place to hike with kids. Feel free to bring fishing gear and spend time relaxing by the lake as well. Two trails, the Alder Trail (.8-mile roundtrip) and the Dragonfly Trail (only .15-mile roundtrip), are easy and great for young ones. The Lake Shore Trail is best for children a little older. Though this trail is listed as moderate and 6.2 miles round-trip, there is a shortcut that condenses the trail to only 3 miles.
Check the park’s events page to see when rangers lead special informational hikes in the park.
Drive time: 35 minutes from uptown Charlotte.
Crowders Mountain is known around town for its hike to the summit. This hike, the Backside Trail, is only .9 miles one-way but it is listed as strenuous since it is a steady climb with then 336 wooden steps until the summit. If you take your time this hike is good for older kids.
This state park also offers many trails that are good for your young ones as well. For example, the Lake Trail is a flat .8-mile round-trip trail that follows a gravel path around the lake. If you’d like to extend this hike, you can combine this trail with the Fern Trail (.8-mile round-trip) and the Turnpike Trail (1.2-miles round-trip, listed as moderate) for a 2.1-mile round-trip hike.
Drive time: 45 minutes from uptown Charlotte
South Carolina’s Kings Mountain State Park offers two family-friendly hikes. The first, the Kings Mountain Nature Trail, is great for young kids. This 1.2-mile loop trail offers signs along the way to teach your family about the local history, wildlife and vegetation. The Living History Farm Trail is an easy 3-mile round-trip hike that older kids may enjoy. It shows what everyday life would have been like on a Carolina farmstead during the revolutionary era. Highlights include a carpenter/blacksmith shop, a two-story farmhouse, and a cotton gin.
Kids can also get a Junior Ranger badge at this park!
Drive time: 1.5 hours from Charlotte
This state park offers trails for all levels of hikers. The most popular trail in the park is the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail. This hike is best suited for older kids and teens as it is listed as strenuous and covers 2.7 miles round-trip. The trail brings you across the Jacob Fork River and up to High Shoals Waterfall. Then, ascend the steep steps to cross the river again above the waterfall.
The River Trail is more appropriate for young children. This easy mile-long round-trip path follows the river and offers brochures for kids. Other hikes varying in difficulty are also available.
Be sure to check the schedule of events at the park because they are offering animal and fly fishing programs consistently throughout the summer.
Drive time: 30 minutes from Charlotte
This trail system in Rock Hill, S.C. provides easy paved paths along the Catawba River. These paths are good for all ages, wandering through the woods with only a few hills. The River Walk is 3.5 miles one-way but your family can turn around whenever. Feel free to bring leashed dogs, picnics or kayaks.
You can also check out hikes on the Anne Springs Close Greenway, only a 15 minute drive from the river.
Drive time: 1.5 hours from uptown Charlotte.
This park offers many beautiful moderate and strenuous hikes. The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is the signature hike of the park, climbing to the top of Stone Mountain and bringing you down to view a 200-foot waterfall. It is 4.5 miles round-trip and listed as strenuous so it is best suited for families with teens.
If searching for more kid-friendly hikes there are a few moderate-level trails that your family can explore. The Middle Falls/Low Falls Trail is a one-mile round-trip trail that leads hikers along Big Sandy Creek to views of waterfalls. If you’d like a glimpse of Stone Mountain’s steep slope, take the two-mile round-trip Cedar Rock Trail up to the top of Cedar Rock.
Drive time: 1.5 hours from uptown Charlotte.
This state park has many jaunts suitable for young ones. The Kids Track Trail is a .6-mile round-trip hike that offers views of the Pilot Mountain pinnacle and surrounding mountains. It even offers activities for children along the way. The Little Pinnacle Overlook Trail is even shorter, only .2 miles round-trip, and on a clear day, you can see over 3,000 square miles from the bluff. Longer, steeper trails are also available for older children and teens.
Drive time: 1 hour, 15 minutes east of Charlotte.
There are some more strenuous hikes available at this state park, but if you’re searching for a kid-friendly trail there is always the Quarry Trail and the Rocks Trail. The Quarry Trail is only .6 miles round-trip and passes by the quarry where the Civilian Conservation Corps’ (CCC) got many of the rocks that built the park’s buildings, curbs and walls during the Great Depression. Brochures are available at the beginning of this hike that offer activities for children along the trail. The Rocks Trail is longer, 1.3 miles one-way, and less suited for young children. It ends at a 35-foot high rock outcrop overlooking the Pee Dee River so keep your children close.
There's also a swimming pool at the park that is open during summer months with a baby pool. Summer pool hours at 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Entry fee is $5 for adults, $4 for children ages 3-12, and free for under age 3.
Addie Gottwald is a freelance writer who loves hiking whenever she can.