Buds are sprouting, birds are chirping, and the snow on mountain trails is melting. You can get close to the wonders of spring with a walk in the woods. And lucky for you, the Lake Norman region features dozens of great hiking destinations.Huntersville resident Alex Pfeifer knows this fact better than most. Pfeifer, an avid outdoorsman, began hiking while growing up in Germany. Since moving to Lake Norman, he has led hikes for 14 years covering every part of North Carolina. He says there’s nothing like getting lost in a wildflower-filled meadow or soaking in the sun from atop a mountain to put everything in perspective. Locally, he loves exploring the trails at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, North Mecklenburg Park and the 200-acre Fisher Farm park in Davidson. “It’s a way to reflect about whatever is going on in my life and recharge my batteries and take in the splendor of nature,” says Pfeifer, who visits at least one national park each year. This summer he plans to travel to Glacier National Park in Montana. Another local hiking enthusiast is Dee Ham of Statesville, who started the Iredell Hikers Club (www.iredellhikingclub.com) with his wife, Barbee, in 2008. Today some 50 members, ages 20s through 70s, meet twice a month for Saturday treks. Locally, the group focuses mainly on the 20 or so miles of trails at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. The group also travels to regional destinations such as Crowders Mountain in Gastonia, Linville Gorge in the 512,758-acre Pisgah National Forest, as well as the 6,684-foot Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, which offers panoramic views of scenic ridges and valleys that are populated with spruce-fir forests. “Here’s a sport, especially during tough economic times, that anyone can do,” says Ham. “You get a good pair of shoes and a day pack and you’re ready to go.” Steve Bassett of north Charlotte, says he loves to go hiking to relieve some of the stress involved with his hectic, deadline-driven job as facilities manager at Wells Fargo.“Hiking is simple and one of the least costly adventures you can embark on,” says Bassett, who leads trips for local hiking clubs two to three times a month. “And the county and state parks are great stepping stones to try before getting up into the mountains.”Bassett says he particularly likes the 13,500-acre Stone Mountain State Park, which is about an hour’s drive north of Lake Norman in Roaring Gap and noted for its 600-foot granite dome. “You can walk across the dome and feel like you’re walking on the surface of the moon,” he says.
Trails To TryExperienced local hikers Alex Pfeifer, Steve Bassett and Dee Ham recommend the following hiking trails:
Local hiking trailsFisher Farm (Davidson): 2.5-mile trailsGreenway Trail (Davidson): 3-mile trail Jetton Park (Cornelius): 2-mile paved and short woodsy trails Lake Norman State Park (Troutman): 5-mile Lakeshore TrailLatta Plantation Nature Preserve (Huntersville): Laura’s Trail, Piedmont Prairie Trail and Split Rock TrailNorth Mecklenburg Park (Huntersville): 3.5-mile loop trail
Regional hiking destinationsCrowders Mountain (Kings Mountain): More than 15 miles of trails lead to the mountain’s 1,624-foot peak. On clear days you can see the Charlotte skyline.
DuPont State Forest (Asheville/Brevard): This 10,000-acre park has nearly 100 miles of trails. Scenes from both “The Hunger Games” and “The Last of the Mohicans” were filmed here.
Elk Knob State Park (Todd, near Boone): Opened in 2003, this 1,800-acre park has several new trails that are noted for their beautiful azaleas.
Hanging Rock State Park (near Winston-Salem): A 7,049-acre-park with nearly 20 miles of trails that wind along waterfalls, high rock cliffs and a mountain cave.
Julian Price Park (Blowing Rock): This 4,200-acre park at the foot of Grandfather Mountain has about 20 miles of trails, including a section of North Carolina’s Mountain-to-Sea Trail.
Pisgah National Forest: Sections of this 512,758-acre wooded and mountainous expanse reach elevations of more than 6,000 feet. The rugged Linville Gorge is located inside Pisgah, which is known for the 45-foot Linville Falls. Along the eastern rim of the national forest you can hike to the peak of the 4,100-foot Table Rock.
Stone Mountain State Park (Roaring Gap): This 13,500-acre park is known for its 600-foot granite dome.