The good news for Charlotte hikers? It takes less than an hour and a half to get to the Pisgah National Forest, the gateway to epic southern Appalachian hiking. The even better news: you don’t need to drive to the Pisgah to find great hiking. You can find it within minutes of your driveway.
Consider that Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation has 21 nature preserves spread throughout the county. Not all have developed hiking trail, but many do: You’ll find more than 30 miles of hiking trail in these preserves alone. Despite their proximity to civilization, these preserves can whisk you into the wild in a flash.
Again, that’s just within Mecklenburg County.

holiday hike
Descending at Morrow Mountain

Venture a bit beyond and you’ll find four state parks (Crowders Mountain, Morrow Mountain, South Mountains, Lake Norman) within an hour. Also within that range: the Uwharrie National Forest, which boasts a 40-mile trail and another dozen miles of hiking in a 5,100-acre wilderness. Add to that some stellar county parks and green space just over the line in South Carolina and you suddenly realize why Charlotte is a pretty decent base camp for a hiker.
So why aren’t you hiking? Or hiking more?
Our guess is it boils down to one of two things.

  • You’re new to hiking and aren’t sure how to get started. The thought of escaping your well-manicured existence is appealing but just how wild is it out there? Ticks bearing Lyme disease, rabid raccoons, venomous snakes, bears — oh, the stories your’ve heard! How much risk should you be prepared to handle? Maybe if there was someone to guide you through the process, to answer your questions, to patiently take you into the woods and ease you into hiking. Sure, there are hiking groups out there. But you’ve heard tales of newcomers getting left behind to fend for themselves. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a hiking group that vowed to leave no hiker behind?
  • You aren’t sure where to go. Maybe you’re already comfortable in the woods — a little too comfortable, because you tend to go to the same place over and over. Or maybe you’re new to the area and aren’t sure what’s out there. You’d venture out more, but you just aren’t sure where to go.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a hiking group that addressed both of these concerns?
The answer to both predicaments: There is such a group.
Welcome to the first season of GetHiking! Charlotte with the Great Outdoor Provision Co. GetHiking! Charlotte is a series of weekly hikes and monthly seminars targeted to both beginners and hikers who get out some but would love to get out more. In partnership with GetGoingNC,  Great Outdoor Provision Co. will lead weekly hikes on different trails in the Charlotte area. The hikes will be short (2-3 miles) and simple at first, growing in distance and difficulty as we progress into the spring.
Here’s what you can expect from our hikes:

  • No-drop hiking. Our hikes are lead from the rear, meaning the slowest hikers in the pack will never be dropped. At the beginning of each hike we quickly review a map of the trail and note any potential points of confusion. More experienced hikers lead the way (which helps them develop their way-finding skills).
  • Mid-week and weekend hiking. Most of our hikes will be on Sunday afternoons during the winter, with one or two mid-week, after work. “In the winter?” you ask. “It’s dark.” Indeed, which brings us to another feature of our program … .
  • Night hiking. If you’re leery of hiking in broad daylight you’re probably thinking the notion of hiking at night is daft. In fact, being in the woods after sunset is a unique outdoors experience, and hiking under a headlamp is a good skill to hone, allowing you to greatly expand your outdoor options during the dark days of winter.
  • Discover local trails. Hikers with some experience will benefit from learning new places to hike. Our schedule (see below) includes hikes on different trails every week. Further, we’ll expose you to 25 trails and trail networks in the Charlotte area alone.
  • Monthly seminars. As you grow comfortable on the trail, you’ll want to know more about hiking. During the early spring we’ll hold seminars at our Charlotte store. We’ll talk some about gear, we’ll talk a lot about great trails to explore.
  • Earn gear. Here’s something else you won’t find in other hiking groups: the chance to earn gear. We’re working on the details, which we’ll announce at our Jan. 16 kickoff (see details below).
  • Meet other hikers. Eventually, you’ll want to explore on your own. When that happens you’ll have a new collection of GetHiking! friends to hike with.

We’ll keep in close contact with you in three ways:

  • GetHiking! Charlotte. All of our hikes will be announced on our Meetup site well in advance (go there now and you’ll see all hikes scheduled for January and February). Join the Meetup (there’s no charge), find out the hike details, RSVP.
  • Facebook. We’ll communicate with you on the Great Outdoor Provision Co. Facebook page with photos on the past week’s hike and details on the hike ahead.
  • E-newsletter. We’ll send a quick e-newsletter each week with tips, resources, photos from the past week’s hike and information on the coming week’s outing.

To register for our GetHiking! program, you can either join our GetHiking! Charlotte Meetup group or stop by our Charlotte store and register.
You can also sign up at our GetHiking!
We’ll let you in on another secret about hiking: winter is one of the best times to hit the trail. The open tree canopies provide better views and the cold temperatures are great motivation to keep moving! Plus, if you’ve resolved to be a healthier, more active you in 2014, what better way than by hiking!
We’re excited about spending time with you on the trail this winter and exposing you to the wonderful world of Charlotte hiking!

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More info: Check our GetHiking! Charlotte Meetup site.

Just a few of the hikes on tap this season

RibbonWalk Nature Preserve, Charlotte: RibbonWalk loop, 3 miles

Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, Charlotte: Hill Cove and Split Rock trails loop, 4.2 miles

Crowders Mountain State Park, Gastonia: Crowders and Rocktop Trails, 5 miles

Morrow Mountain State Park, Albemarle: Sugar Loaf and Morrow Mountain trails, 5.4 miles

Birkhead Mountain Wilderness of the Uwharrie National Forest, Asheboro: 11.5-mile Birkhead loop.

South Mountains State Park, Connelly Springs: Backpacking Loop (HQ, Possum Trail, Horse Ridge, Lower CCC, Fox, Jacob Branch and Upper Falls trails): 11.8 miles.