Charlotte is known for its urban tree canopy. When viewed from above, tree canopy covers 47% of the city (as of 2020)–one of the highest canopy cities in the U.S. It’s one of my favorite things about living here. Everywhere you turn it’s green and beautiful!
This also makes for great parks throughout the city. During the COVID-19 pandemic (and my third trimester of pregnancy) my husband and I started getting out to explore more of these local parks. We live on the North side of Charlotte, so our explorations also lead us into Huntersville. Here are some of our favorites!
This park is in Huntersville on the edge of Lake Norman. It’s my favorite park because it’s on the water, but also wooded. Everywhere you go there’s a beautiful view. You could make a day of going if you pack swimsuits for the beach area and bring food to enjoy at one of the pavilions or picnic tables. We usually head there for a 3 mile walk or run, which requires going around the entire park twice, and we always stop to take in the lake views.
Reedy Creek Nature Center
This wooded area is not too far from Uptown and has over 10 miles of wooded trails to explore. It’s amazing to me that this park is within the city of Charlotte, because it feels like you’ve stepped into a forest that you wouldn’t see in a populated, developed area. We’ve only explored 3 miles of trails here, but plan to go back and explore more. I particularly loved the pond trail!
Another park that’s close to Uptown, Freedom Park is a popular destination. Colin and I actually went here when we visited Charlotte before moving down. This has a much less wooded feel, but has multiple playgrounds, fields and open areas to hang out in. Freedom park is a great spot for a walk, run or to meet up with friends. There’s a good amount of parking available, too.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway
This greenway was pretty close to where I used to live in Plaza Midwood, so I would run/bike/walk along it often. It has a very urban feel since it weaves through a populated area of the city, but the creek, statues and greenery are all still a nice touch. I particularly loved biking along this trail because I didn’t have to pack up my bike to take it somewhere, but I was still able to get off the main sidewalk and main roads of Charlotte where cars and pedestrians could interfere. If you take this far enough, you’ll also end up in Freedom Park, which is nice! One con might be that there’s not a lot of parking options unless you park at Freedom Park to pick up the trail. It was convenient for me since I lived close by, but I have rarely been back since moving.
Toby Creek Greenway
This has a similar feel to Little Sugar Creek Greenway, but a little less urban. To get to this walking trail, we park at UNC Charlotte. The trail is about 2 miles long and is meant to connect Mallard Creek Greenway to the campus and nearby shopping areas. We love that the trail is wooded, not super busy, and nicely paved. We’ve only ever walked it, but it looks like a great spot to bike or rollerblade.
The Rail Trail
Even more popular than Freedom Park, the rail trail is almost guaranteed to be busy on a nice day. This trail runs alongside the light rail in South End and extends into Uptown. There are bars and apartments and shops all along it. Since South End is a popular place to live, this means it’s almost always occupied. Again, this has a very urban feel, but it’s nice to get outside and walk/run/bike along a designated pedestrian area. You’re also likely to see cool street art and run into someone you know! One thing to note: this is not someplace you can easily park and walk along (unless there is a parking area I’m not thinking of). You may need to street park and pick up the trail at a random location.
Still on our list to try..
Whitewater Center trails – I’ve been to the whitewater center many times now, but never ventured through the numerous trails in the daylight. I did once run a nighttime trail race there, which was fun, but means I can’t speak much to the views!
We’ve been to (and loved) local-ish hikes like Crowders Mountain, Stone Mountain and South Mountain State Park, but wanted to keep this list a little more local to Charlotte.
What are your favorite Charlotte trails and parks? What else should be on our list to try?