Oct 7, 2020 - Things to Do

7 trails for fall colors within 50 minutes of Charlotte

Seven Oaks Preserve_26 - Credit Nancy Pierce (2)

Seven Oaks Preserve, on a Lake Wylie Cover behind the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

Peak fall color is expected to happen around mid-October, so now’s the time to hit the trails, feel the fresh fall air, and enjoy nature’s beauty.

One of the many great things about living in Charlotte is that you can go from center city to practically off the grid in under an hour. Or stay in town and head to one of the greenways that weave through the city.

Many of these greenways and wooded paths are part of a regional trail network called the Carolina Thread Trail which will ultimately reach 15 counties throughout North and South Carolina. The CTT already has about 300 miles of trails with more 1,300 more miles to go. (You can help make that happen with a donation.)

Here are seven trails for optimal fall color-viewing within 50 minutes of Charlotte.

Seven Oaks Preserve Trail

Details: Located near Belmont (the town), Seven Oaks Preserve Trail is a 4.6-mile loop that winds along the shoreline of Lake Wylie. Visitors can enjoy views of the lake, hardwood forests, and plenty of wildlife along the way. Plus, it loops around Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden if you want to stop and explore.

Distance from Charlotte: 30-minute drive. Park near 6900 S. New Hope Road in Belmont.

Pharr Family Preserve Trail

Seven Oaks Preserve
Seven Oaks Preserve, on a Lake Wylie Cover behind the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. (Photo by Nancy Pierce)

Details: Pharr Family Preserve Trail located near Midland is a 3.5-mile out-and-back trail that runs parallel to the Rocky River. The preserve is home to 48 different tree species and a wide array of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The natural surface of the trail is perfect for walking or biking.

Distance from Charlotte: 35-minute drive. Park near 9111 Mt Pleasant Rd. S. in Concord.

Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council Trail

Pharr Family Preserve Trail - scenic

Details: The Girl Scouts Hornets’ Nest Council Trail offers a unique place to hike or mountain bike. The 2-mile trail is housed on the Oak Springs Campus — a regional destination for the Girl Scouts. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate this trail because of its wealth of biodiversity.

Distance from Charlotte: 50-minute drive north to Statesville. Park at 1763 Turnersburg Highway.

Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail

Oaks Springs-Girl Scouts_10 (1)

Details: Hike alongside working agricultural fields and natural forests at Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail. The paths are great for walking, hiking, running, and mountain biking.

Distance from Charlotte: 40-minute drive northeast to Mount Pleasant. Park near 7911 Malibu Road.

Riverwalk: Piedmont Medical Center Trail

Buffalo Creek Preserve
The Buffalo Creek Preserve Trail is a natural surface trail that takes visitors through restored oak-savanna, farmland, and along Adams Creek. (Photo by Nancy Pierce)

Details: The Piedmont Medical Center Trail, located in the Riverwalk community, is 3.35-miles of scenic views of the Catawba River. The trail is one-way but connects to River Park allowing visitors to start from either park entrance.

Distance from Charlotte: 25-minute drive. The Riverwalk is located between Fort Mill and Rock Hill along the Catawba River. Park at 575 Herrons Ferry Road in Rock Hill.

Pro tip: After your walk, stop for drinks at the Pump House.

South Fork Trail

The Pump House
The Pump House overlooks the Catawba River in Rock Hill.

Details: This historic 2-mile trail was originally used by the Native Americans and settlers for textile mills back in the 19th century. It gets its name from following the south fork of the Catawba River. This trail is perfect for families because it’s relatively flat.

Distance from Charlotte: The closest trail listed here, South Fork Trail is about a 20-minute drive from Charlotte to McAdenville. This trail is located on the South Fork branch of the Catawba River. Park at 119 Willow Drive in McAdenville.

South Fork Rail Trail

South Fork Trail

Details: Not to be confused with the previously listed South Fork Trail, the South Fork Rail Trail runs along the eastern banks of the South Fork of the Catawba River. From the trail, you can see the historic Laboratory Mill on the other side of the river. The path is perfect for hiking, running, and mountain biking.

Distance from Charlotte: 45-minute drive. Find the trailhead near 2677 Laboratory Road outside of Lincolnton.

Cover photo by Nancy Pierce. All photos courtesy Carolina Thread Trail.

South Fork Rail Trail

Looking for more challenging hikes? Check out our definitive hiking guide of the 16 best hikes around Charlotte.


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