CHARLOTTE, NC – Trying to find a fun outing for the kids this summer amid COVID-19 restrictions has been challenging, to say the least. Many venues such as playgrounds, trampoline parks, and children’s museums are still closed. Places that have reopened, such as the NC Zoo, are open with many temporary changes and restrictions.
With so many of our usual activities and fun locations closed, hiking has become my family’s go-to summer activity. Hiking is outside where social distancing is easy. Plus it’s fun!
Two of my family’s favorite nearby hiking locations are Crowders Mountain State Park and Morrow Mountain State Park. Both are within a short drive of the Charlotte area.
Crowders Mountain State Park
Crowders Mountain State Park is located near Gastonia, NC. There are several hiking trails to choose from, ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous.
When my family and I hiked a few weeks ago, we parked at the Sparrow Springs Access and hiked the Crowders Trail (2.8 miles, moderate) to the summit of Crowders Mountain and then returned by the Rocktop Trail (1.5 miles, strenuous) and finished on the Crowders Trail.
The entire hike was a bit long for my 3-year-old and the Rocktop Trail was quite strenuous so he ended up being carried quite a bit. My older children (ages 7, 9, and 11) did fine though, even on the strenuous, rocky portion of the hike. We packed in our lunch and ate at the summit while we enjoyed the view. Overall, definitely a hiking spot that I would recommend, although, if you want to hike to the summit, it’s probably better suited for older kids. We plan to go back and try other trails sometime soon.
Morrow Mountain State Park
Morrow Mountain State Park is located near Albemarle, NC. There are more than 15 miles of hiking trails, with choices for both beginners and experienced hikers.
My family and I have hiked at Morrow Mountain State Park many times and have been on nearly all of the trails. Hattaway Mountain (2.0 miles, strenuous) and Sugarloaf Mountain (2.8 miles, strenuous) are quite challenging and definitely not suitable for my 3-year-old, although fine for my older children. Quarry (0.6 miles, easy) and Three Rivers (0.8 miles, easy) are shorter distances and easy enough for my little one. Fall Mountain Trail (4.1 miles, moderate), with its view of the lake, is my favorite. Morrow Mountain (2.6 miles one way, moderate) goes to the top of Morrow Mountain with a scenic overlook.
Morrow Mountain also offers nice picnic areas near the lake and at the top of the mountain. The homestead of a 19th-century doctor, Dr. Francis Kron, is on-site and is an interesting place to walk around. Due to COVID-19, the swimming pool, boat rentals, and museum are currently closed. The road to the scenic overlook at the top of the mountain is also currently closed.