Winter hiking can be a little depressing in the Carolinas because most of the trees are bare and the plants are sleeping! That doesn’t mean we don’t hike. In fact, sometimes the views are better when the leaves are off the trees. Typically in the winter we have been staying closer to home in South Carolina. In the summer, it can be quite warm here and the lovely mountains of North Carolina offer beautiful views and cooler weather in the summer.
Last Friday we scheduled a group hike at Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina which is on the way to Charlotte on I-85 coming from Greenville, SC. We started out from the main ranger station (Sparrow Springs Access) on the Turnback Trail and headed towards the Lake and Fern Trails. The Lake Trail circles what I would described as more of a pond with a dam which appears to be used for canoeing.
We made the loop around the lake and eventually met back up with the Turnback and hiked to the intersection of Turnback and Pinnacle. This is where the hike starts its way uphill until you reach the turn to Kings Pinnacle.
We decided to take the Ridgeline Trail to Pinnacle Road to get a few miles in. This trail actually goes almost entirely downhill to Pinnacle Road. It is rocky in places and has stairs on the steepest part. The Ridgeline Trail from the turn at Kings Pinnacle is 6.2 miles to the state line between North and South Carolina.
Once we hit Pinnacle Road we turned back for the climb back to Kings Pinnacle where we had lunch and enjoyed the views. Unfortunately it was a little windy and cold. It was also a very popular spot and started to get pretty crowded with hikers. A couple of us made our way towards the view of Crowders Mountain and Charlotte in the distance while the others climbed down the rock face on the trail side to get out of the wind.
Our return trip included the Pinnacle Trail and Crowders Trail back to the ranger station. This hike was just shy of 8 miles.
Now that we’ve covered the Fern and Lake Trails we have now hiked all the trails at this park. I would suggest that the Ridgeline Trail is best treated as a shuttle hike. I like the parking lot off Exit 13 (Linwood Road Access) which gives you good access to the Crowders Trail, Rocktop Trail and other trails and views at the north end of the park.
There is no fee to visit this park. Facilities and parking are very good. Trails are very heavily used so you don’t find a lot of solitude here although the Ridgeline Trail between Boulder Access Area and the turnoff to Kings Pinnacle are in my opinion probably not as heavily traveled. A good reason to hike it!
Update 10/28/17: We hiked at Crowders Mountain State Park yesterday trying to avoid the rain in the mountains. It was a beautiful day. Lots of people on the trails though and the parking lot closest to the Charlotte end was full. It appears they are running shuttles from a parking lot outside the park. We saw lots of dogs who were all well behaved for the most part. I’m not a big fan of crowds when hiking though but still a good day. We hiked about 11 miles.