The radio towers capping Crowders Mountain are a familiar waypoint for locals driving 85 south of Charlotte. Summiting the peak, one of two inside Crowders Mountain State Park, is a favorite half day trip of Charlotte runners and hikers. At just 45 minutes’ drive time, you won’t find a more challenging hike or better view any closer to uptown.
This loop hike offers enough challenge to keep experienced hikers happy and lots of pretty stopping points for anyone needing a breather
What Makes It Great
Crowders Mountain State Park is built around two peaks – Kings Pinnacle to the west and Crowders to the northeast. The five-mile roundtrip loop hike to the peak of Crowders instantly submerges visitors in a dense forest of pine and hardwood.
The loop hike begins from the main ranger station, called the Sparrow Springs Access on the map. Follow the Crowders Trail (it will veer right shortly after leaving the ranger station) across the road and then up. This is a fantastic stretch of undulating trail that palpably separates hikers from the “real world” with every step. The trail dead ends at a gravel road called the Backside Trail. Take a right and go up. You’ll know you’re close when you reach the stairs. Climb 330-plus stairs and pick your rock to stretch out and bask in the rewards of your effort.
Return to the ranger station by heading towards the towers opposite where you came up. You’ll walk a gravel road for a short distance and turn right onto the steep and rocky Rock Top Trail. Finish up by crossing the paved road once again and walking the Crowders trail you started on.
Runners or hikers looking for longer distances or less dramatic climbs, give the Ridgeline trail a try.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers are treated to a commanding view of the western North Carolina Piedmont and runners are challenged by 330 plus stairs capping the top of 800 feet of vertical incline. All with less than an hour’s drive from Charlotte. While this is a challenging hike, the distance puts it within range for most families of hearty hikers. For a little less distance and slightly smoother walk that still challenges with vertical incline, try Kings Pinnacle.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The trailhead is next to the main ranger station – also called the Sparrow Springs Access. Parking is plentiful but can get full during weekends of great weather, earning the part it’s nickname “Crowded Mountain.” When that happens, rangers will direct you to a remote lot. The visitor center offers bathrooms, water fountains, and a small nature center. Park hours vary by season and dogs are allowed on a leash.