Get Outside

5 Ways to be Outdoorsy, Even Though You Live in Charlotte

March 9, 2016

Oh my gosh, today is an absolutely beautiful day. I spent the morning walking with the dogs to get a smoothie from Coreology in NoDa, and have been wearing shorts and working with my garage door open since 8am.

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Smoothie Break. Selfie Break. Same Thing.

I love glorious days like this. Filled with promises of a warm summer that includes being outside as much as possible. So, I’ve come up with my top 5 things to do around Charlotte for an Outdoorsy Summer Life.

Charlotte, North Carolina is becoming a thriving city, located in the heart of the Carolina Piedmont region. Located at the heart of an old Native American trading path, it’s quickly becoming a mecca for young professionals in the banking and tech industry to put down roots.

Many people don’t imagine Charlotte when they think of outdoorsy cities, but there are some hidden gems just a short drive away from the Queen City. You just have to be willing to drive a little for a big reward.

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  1. Flatwater Kayaking on the Catawba River.

Flowing West of Charlotte, the Catawba River is a perfect place to spend a day on the water. Named after the local native american tribe, the river stretches over 200 miles long, with several reservoirs that many use for boating. Venture out with a canoe, a kayak, or a stand up paddle board for a day adventuring and fishing, and enjoy the beauty of the trees lining the river banks, while the incredibly clear water flows at a gentle pace. On nice days, you’ll be joined by many on the water, with everyone soaking up the sun and taking occasional dips to cool off.

If you need to rent a kayak or SUP, head to the US National Whitewater Center where you can rent equipment for the day. If you have your own gear, head to my favourite boat landing dock on Elm Avenue in Mt. Holly (You can see it on the right as you cross over the river on Mt. Holly Road. Only 25 minutes from Charlotte!

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2. Rock Climbing at Crowder’s Mountain.

45 minutes West of Charlotte is a wonderful natural playground, also known as Crowder’s Mountain. This state park offers challenging hikes and sweeping views of the piedmont, but is ideal for rock climbing on the towering cliffs. Any given weekend, you’ll find yourself surrounded by other climbers – both beginner groups to advanced – tackling the routes on the granite rock. Many of the routes already have anchors at the top – ideal for top-rope climbing. Be sure to fill out the climbing permits at the trailhead, and to pet every crag dog you see on your way!

3. Mountain Biking on the Sherman Branch Park Mountain bike Trails. 

Located 30 minutes East of the city, you’ll find the Sherman Branch Park, featuring 11 miles of trail with plenty of jumps, berms, and log jams throughout the twisty singletrack. Riders like that the trails are well-maintained, with an easy-to-follow flow. The area is rated Intermediate, but there’s something for beginners and experts as well.

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4. Hiking at Uwharrie National Forest

Charlotte isn’t going to be the place to be if you live for climbing tall mountains every day, but it is nicely situated between some amazing parkland. You could head West into the mountains to explore the Smokies, but everyone does that. In the winter and early spring, I find the Uwharrie National Forest is an ideal place to wander for miles in the woods, especially if you’re got a furry companion.

Uwharrie’s wilderness area covers over 5,000 acres, and the mountains within the area are considered the oldest in North America. As you wander, you’ll find remnants of the original Native American inhabitants (The Catawba, naturally) through burial mounds and arrowheads. I’m partial to parking at the Robbins Branch Trailhead and wandering the trails that interconnect for miles of hiking and stream crossing.

5. Trail Running at the USNWC

In very close proximity to Charlotte, you’ll find the U.S. National Whitewater Center. A one-of-a-kind place, it was originally built to serve as the training center for Olympic Whitewater rafting and has evolved to offer so much more. You’ll find mountain bike trails, rafting, flatwater sports, and ropes courses, but I prefer it for it’s trails to run on.

The $5 parking fee gets you access to the center’s trails, where you can run under a canopy of trees and ropes course participants. The center has built an incredible Race Series, with events from 5ks to marathons to triathlons giving you the chance to explore the land and be rewarded with a beer at the end. While out running, always be on the lookout for mountain bikers coming around corners, and leisurely walkers with their pets.

This is only a sampling of the activities in the Piedmont region, with plenty more to explore across the Carolina’s. Just make sure that when you go outdoors, you do so responsibly. Leave a game plan with a friend or relative. Pack in all your trash, and pick up trash that you see along the way. Ensure you have the proper gear to enjoy yourself safely, and that all of your gear is in working order. Most importantly, have a good time! Living in a city doesn’t mean you can’t be outdoorsy – you just need to work a little harder to make adventure happen.

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