In Gaston County sits a beautiful mountain offering plenty of outdoor activities for the entire family. Hop on a hiking trail, stroll around a scenic lake for fishing or canoeing, and find plenty of stunning vistas to take in. Pack a picnic and jump in the car for a quick drive to begin your family’s adventure. It’s worthy of an afternoon spent among a beautiful piece of preserved land.
Stop by the Visitors Center
Entering the park, head to the Visitors Center to get the lay of the land. A well-maintained facility houses exhibits for both kids and adults. Learn about the history of the mountain, its flora, fauna, and geology through hands-on displays. There is an informative relief map showing an overview of the entire mountain range. Pick up an information sheet listing trail descriptions and a park map to determine areas you want to explore.
Whether your family wants a nice stroll or a workout, there is a trail for everyone. There are over 20 miles of scenic hikes ranging from easy to strenuous. Walking among nature is where your family will truly experience the variety of the plant and animal life of the mountain. Each trail is clearly marked to keep you on track. Most parts of the trails are shady, but have water on hand to keep everyone hydrated.
A trail circling a beautiful wooded lake makes for an easy walk for the whole family. A 20 minute walk around the 0.8 mile loop makes it accessible for little ones. Keep your eyes and ears open to the sights and sounds of the forest. Look for evidence of the beavers’ nightly work chopping down trees to build a dam, frogs guarding the entrance to their lakeside homes, and lizards scampering around. Listen for woodpeckers hammering and toads croaking.
Interested in fishing for bass and bream, throw a line from the banks or the fishing pier. For those, looking to get out on the calm lake, rent a canoe from the Visitors Center. Private boats and swimming are not permitted.
Top of Crowders Mountain
The most direct route to the scenic Overlook is the Backside Trail. It’s only 0.7 miles one-way, but is rated strenuous, finishing with 334 steps to reach the summit. There are benches along the way to sit and catch your breath. My nine and seven-year-old daughters made it to the top with proper pacing and drinking plenty of water.
Spectacular views await hikers at the top. Sit and watch hawks soar in the wind currents above the beautiful countryside. On a clear day, Charlotte’s Uptown skyline can be seen. Stay away from the edge, there are sheer cliffs down below, and you may even see a rock climber pop up into your view.
A fun activity for kids aged 6 to 12 is becoming a Junior Ranger. Go to their website (www.ncparks.gov) and find the park on the home page. Under the Education tab, look for Junior Rangers section, print out the guide, and bring along to complete activities. Your kid can earn a patch once the guide is complete.
The Park is opened year round. During May to August, park hours are 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Admission and parking are free. There are reasonable fees for canoes. Look on the park map for restrooms and picnic tables. Rock climbing and camping are available. For more information, go to www.ncparks.gov.