The ultra-fast and flowy multi-use trail system at Lake Norman State Park is also among the longest in the area. Ample shade and less technical trail, with just a few steep-ish hills, make the trail system one of the best for a long Saturday morning run. Loop options of varying lenght make it easy to create the perfect workout distance at LNSP.
What Makes It Great
Thanks to the amazing work of the Tarheel Trailbalzers, the Itusi trail system at Lake Norman State park has, over the years, grown to more than 30 miles long. With very few technical features and typically gradual climbs and flowing curves, each mile is fun to run.
The trails on the north end of the Itusi system are generally the easiest. A few hills keep it interesting but for the most part the Hawk, Hicks Creek, and Norwood Creek Loops are good for stretching out legs and running with some speed.
The most advanced trail, mostly due to its length and some long climbs, is the Laurel Loop. Like the others, this nine-mile path cuts through dense forest allowing for an immediate immersion far separate from the “real world”.
If the Laurel Loop isn’t enough, the Fox and Wildlife loops add a connecting 2.5 and 4.25 miles respectively. This section of the park has the most interesting trail features such as burms and rollers.
All trails have pretty hard packed dirt and, as single track in North Carolina is wont to do, have plenty of ankle grabbing roots and rocks.
While this is a very popular place to run and ride, the sheer number of miles allows for plenty of one on one trail time.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a great spot for just about anyone looking for trail time. It’s common to see families with small children strolling on the Hawk loop. More experienced trail runners, looking for maximum challenge, will get their miles in on the Laurel Loop and beyond.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Keep on State Park Road, the entrance road, to the first parking lot at the north end of the park. There is a huge, new visitor center there with bathrooms, drinking fountains, and an interpretive center.
When running the trail, keep your head on a swivel. These trails aren’t just fast for runners. The trail system was designed by a mountain biking club after all. As noted on the trailhead signs, runners should always travel in the opposite direction of riders. Yield the trail to riders and if you’ve brought your four-legged friend they should be leashed.