EXPLORING THE BEST OF THE OUTDOORS WITH CHARLOTTE’S EXPERTS
It’s summertime, and that means one thing in these parts: get outside. Whether you like to hike, camp, fish or just relax, we tapped our local experts to help you do it, and do it well.
WHERE TO GO
North Carolina is known for its wealth of outdoors and touted as the state where you can soak in mountain views and sea spray in a single day. But with a bounty of beauty right outside our backdoors, there’s no need to venture so far from Charlotte.
We asked the experts at locally-owned Great Outdoors Provision Co. for their recommendations on local hikes of all levels. And when we say “local,” we mean it—these are all in Mecklenburg County.
For the Newbie:
Evergreen Nature Preserve
Looking to dip your toe—ahem, boot—into the great outdoors? Then check out the Evergreen Nature Preserve. At just 77 acres and three miles from the center of town, you don’t have to worry about getting lost. This two mile trail might be small, but it features all the eye candy a new nature lover could want, including an upland hardwood forest, small tributaries and glades.
For the Newbie:
RibbonWalk Nature Preserve
Urban meets rural in RibbonWalk, 188 acres of escape in the city. The trail first follows a small creek through young hardwoods, pines and cedars, then weaves into a stand of beech trees that date back 150 to 200 years. It’s a feast for the eyes perfect for someone new to exploring.
If You’re Just Breaking in Your Boots:
Rural Hill Nature Preserve
The grounds of the former Davidson Plantation, begun by Scottish immigrants in 1760, still hold some historic structures and a healthy population of birds for watchers. The preserve covers 487 rolling acres on Mountain Island Lake (the lake itself only dates back to 1924). This quick hike is a fun one that takes you out of the city.
For the Hiker With Some Dirt on Their Boots:
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve: Hill, Cove, Split Rock Trails Loop
Historic Latta Plantation includes 16 miles of winding trails for hikers of all levels, but to make the most of your day the folks at Great Outdoors suggest stringing together three of the trails. Begin at Hill Trail, which departs from the nature center off Sample Road, which will take you through the Piedmont Prairie. This wide expanse of native grasses was once a common—though mysterious—formation in our wilderness.
For the Experienced Hiker:
Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center
Reedy Creek has lots of amenities for those who just want a quick taste of the outdoors, like a dog park and ball fields, but the extensive trail system offers a lot more for those who want it. Take the southern leg go the Umbrella Trail to the Big Oak Trail and delve into mature Piedmont forest. Follow your feet to the Robinson Rockhouse Ruins, a 1700s-era structure that nature’s taking back, then loop back along the Sierra Loop, Sassafras and Dragonfly trails for more wanderings.
For the Experienced Hiker:
McDowell Nature Center
You’ll see a little bit of everything on these seven miles of trails, though only a small portion of the 1,100-acre preserve. Follow the loop along the Pine Hollow, Creekside and Cedar Ridge trails away from the shores of Lake Wylie into old-growth forests, then up Cove Trail to witness the progression of creek to wetlands to lake.
WHAT TO TAKE
Whether you’re hitting the trails for the day or pitching your tent for the week, it’s important to outfit yourself with the best supplies and gear to make the trip a walk in the park (or woods). Rudy Hayden, manager at Great Outdoor Provision Co., shares his picks:
MSR Hubba Hubba: This is a great all-around tent made by a US company based out of Seattle. It’s light but strong, and although it’s built to last a lifetime they have a reliable repair facility for any issues.
Salewa Ultra Train: Boots have their place, but shoes are preferable in the summer season. These are fast and light hikers that still provide enough ankle support for long days.
Gransfors Axes: The craftsmanship of these Norwegian tools is second to none; they’re really built to last. A small axe is handy to have when clearing a campsite or even hiking through thick brush.
Helinox Chairs: Camping chairs aren’t saggy-bottomed and heavy anymore. These are light, packable and extremely comfortable.
Farm to Feet: These socks are true to their name and are all North Carolina-made from no-itch, non-stink wool that will make your feet sing.
Goal Zero Lantern: Camping might be an escape, but we like to stay a little connected too. The Goal Zero Lantern does double duty as a phone charger and soft, warm light.
Hydroflasks: This brand is a favorite in the outdoor community. Their flasks keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for hours.
Gregory Paragon 58: Wayne Gregory has redefined their line and this bag fits the bill. It features a built-in day pack and raincover, and it’s just the right size for your weekend to week-long trip. Packs a punch at $229.
Kuhl: A Salt Lake inspired pant that is very versatile. You will keep pulling these out of your wardrobe instead of everything else!
Smith Optics Redmond: The new Chromapop tapered lens technology gives plenty of protection and comfort for all-around use.
Astral Brewess: Do anything and go anywhere with this self-draining shoe. School dropout, entrepreneur and Charlotte native founder Philip Curry know what he’s doing. From PFD’s (personal flotation devices) to shoes, this company is and Asheville based.