Spring Hiking

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With the winter days getting shorter and the spring sun making days warmer, it’s the perfect time to plan a day trip with the family. Tucked in the mountains and foothills of North and South Carolina lie some beautiful, natural oases, green forests and gushing waterfalls — great destinations for hiking and picnicking. Parents can appreciate the natural beauty and kids can enjoy exploring new territory without any admission fees. Following are three gems worth checking out.

Crowders Mountain State Park
Only 45 minutes west of Charlotte, near Kings Mountain, this outdoor haven is a great getaway that requires little planning — go for a morning or an afternoon, or spend the entire day. Visitors to Crowders Mountain State Park can hike, rock climb, picnic, canoe and fish. There are three access areas at the park. Bathrooms, picnic facilities, an exhibit hall and education center with a theater are available at the main access area and visitors center off Sparrow Springs Road. The two other access areas — Linwood and Boulders — offer bathrooms, picnic facilities and parking.

Whether it’s a meander through the forest alongside creeks or a hike to the summit of Crowders Mountain or Kings Pinnacle, there’s something for all ages and abilities. The Backside Trail is a quick ascent (.9 miles) to Crowders Mountain Summit and includes more than 330 steps, a good adventure for tweens, teens and parents. The hike to Kings Pinnacle along the Turnback Trail is strenuous, but the view is outstanding from the top, including a peek at the uptown Charlotte skyline.

If you prefer to float the day away on the park’s manmade, nine-acre wooded lake, canoe rentals are available at the park office May through October.

Linville Falls
This three-tiered waterfall is easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, at milepost 316.3, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. About a two- to three-hour drive from Charlotte, it’s the perfect full-day trip. Plan to leave in the morning with a picnic lunch, and enjoy a day of hiking.

You can get to the falls from the main parking lot at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, which has bathrooms, water fountains, a gift shop and education center, and a large map that details the nearby trails.

The falls trail — or Erwins View — is an easy to moderate 1.6-mile roundtrip hike that offers four different views of the falls along the way. The first half mile of the trail leads to a view of the upper falls, and is a moderate hike, suitable for everyone in the family — including those being pushed in a rugged stroller — but gets more strenuous and rough as the trail continues.

Further along the trail, is the next overlook: Chimney View. Both the lower and upper falls are visible from this point. Gorge View Overlook, which offers a view of the Linville Gorge Wilderness, part of Pisgah National Forest, is the third observation point. The trail ends at Erwins View Overlook, which offers a panoramic view of the gorge and falls.

Dupont State Forest
A couple hours from Charlotte and near Brevard, Dupont State Forest is a wonderland of 10 waterfalls scattered throughout the woodlands. From the Buck Forest Access Area, a 2.5-mile moderate hike on a loop trail leads to Triple and High Falls. The hike to High Falls if relatively level and takes about 20 minutes. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch at the picnic shelter by the falls. Trails to Grassy Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Lake Julia and other interesting areas in DuPont State Forest are accessible from the Buick Forest Access Area, which also has bathroom facilities.

Things to pack for a day of hiking
Map or GPS
Hiking stick
Food and snacks
Water or sports drink
Extra clothing and socks

If you go, you need to know …

Crowders Mountain State Park
522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain

Linville Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 316.4
Generally open spring through October

Dupont State Forest
14000 Staton Road, Cedar Mountain