Crowders Mountain, just a half hour from Charlotte is a great place for mountain hiking away from the mountains. To reach Crowders Mountain, park at the main visitor center and follow the Pinnacle/Crowders Trail and turn right where the trails split. This trail crosses a street so use caution and watch for traffic while crossing. The trail ends at Backside Trail and begins a steep ascent up the mountain. Alternately, park at the Linwood Road Access and follow either the Backside or Tower Trail up the mountain. The Backside Trail is initially a steep gravel road, then becomes steps - more than 300 of them! The reward for your labor is worth it - an overlook with great views of the landscape. On a clear day (unlike when I took the pictures in this review), the Charlotte skyline is visible. A short ways past the overlook is a communication tower and the Rocktop Trail that goes back to the Crowders Trail at the street crossing. Rocktop Trail is a particularly fun hike - it follows the ridgeline of Crowders Mountain across numerous boulders and rock formations.
The highest peak in the park, however, is Kings Pinnacle. To reach this peak, from the main visitor center, follow the Pinnacle/Crowders Trail and turn left at the split. Another trail will split off further on and then a very steep climb to the summit of Kings Pinnacle, again with great views of the surrounding Piedmont. Near the summit of Kings Pinnacle, is the Ridgeline trail that leads to South Carolina. This is a long trail and you must register at the park office before hiking it.
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