If you’re looking for great trails to explore in the Charlotte, NC area, you’re in luck. The area has miles of trails, bike lanes, and paths that you can explore. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, you’ll find something to suit your needs. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of biking in the Charlotte area, as well as some of the most popular bike trails in the area.
Introduction to bike trails in Charlotte, NC
The Charlotte, NC area is home to a great trail system, with miles of mountain bike trails, city bike lanes, and park trails. The Tarheel Trailblazers, a local bike club, has mapped out over 200 miles of trails that you can explore. In addition to the trails themselves, there are plenty of parking lots, restrooms, and other amenities that you can use along your ride. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely ride or a challenging ride, you’ll find it in the Charlotte area.
Why Biking in Charlotte
There are many benefits to biking in the Charlotte area. For starters, you can explore the city and the surrounding areas in a way that you can’t do by car. You’ll get to see sights that you wouldn’t otherwise get to see, such as the beautiful Freedom Park or Mecklenburg County Parks. You’ll also get some great exercise while you ride, as biking is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn some calories.
Another great benefit of biking in the Charlotte area is the convenience. You can easily access the trails from just about anywhere in the city, and the bike lanes make it easy to get around without having to worry about traffic. Plus, the city of Charlotte has put a lot of effort into making the bike trails safe and accessible.
Best Bike Trails in Charlotte by Types
There are a variety of bike trails in the Charlotte area, suitable for riders of all experience levels. Several trails run through Charlotte’s urban parks. The 10-mile Billy Graham Parkway Trail is entirely paved and features water fountains and a few benches along the way. It’s one of the easier trails to tackle, as it’s not very hilly and doesn’t cross any major roads. Another park trail to check out is Freedom Park Trail in Uptown, which has some hills to climb but is mostly flat.
The Carolina Thread Trail is a 70-mile route that runs from Mooresville to Charlotte, with plans to expand it to over 700 miles in the coming years. It currently consists of two separate sections: the North Carolina Greenway, which runs from Mooresville to west Charlotte and includes a 20-mile stretch of the planned 70-mile trail; and the East Coast Greenway, which runs through northeast Charlotte. The East Coast Greenway is a bit rougher than the Carolina Thread Trail; it’s unpaved for about half its length and crosses several roads.
The Urban Loop consists of three connected paths that form a circle around Uptown, just west of downtown Charlotte. These trails are pancake-flat, with very little elevation change. They’re made mostly of crushed stone or gravel and include some sections that are paved or lined with brick pavers.
Best Bike Trails for Mountain Bikers
If you’d rather take a break from pavement and tackle the trails in the region’s many state parks, here are some of the best mountain biking trails in the Charlotte area.
Bike and hike the 10 miles of trails at Crowders Mountain State Park, which is located just southwest of Kings Mountain in North Carolina. The trails range from easy to difficult, so there’s something for all skill levels. There are also plenty of places for picnics and hiking as you take in views of the countryside around you. If you like waterfalls, you can add another 15 miles to your ride by biking over to nearby Hooker Falls, one of the tallest cascades east of the Mississippi River.
The Harris Center at Carpenter Park has a network of approximately 20 miles of trails that are open to bikers in addition to hikers and runners. The trails are located just west of Uptown, near the intersection of Tryon Street and Parkwood Avenue. This is a hidden gem that many locals don’t even know about—take advantage and check it out!
Snow’s Memorial Park is a small park with an off-the-beaten-path location—it’s located on a peninsula that juts into Lake Wylie in South Carolina. But it’s worth seeking out, as it features two scenic nature trails with great views of the lake. Cyclists must be accompanied by someone who drives a car to get to the park and back home again.
Best Bike Trails for Road Bikers
If you’re a road biker who wants to cover some ground, the Lake Norman Trail is an excellent option. This 41-mile paved path runs from the county line with Lincoln County south to Denver, and there are plans to extend it all the way around Lake Norman. The full trail is open from about March or April through October or November, depending on the weather.
The sections of the trail that run through the towns along the lake (Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius, and Denver) are considered “on-road” sections. While they’re mostly separated from traffic, they aren’t exactly “trail” sections. There are 18 miles of relatively new paved trail just north of Mooresville that runs between Longview Park in Iredell County to the north and Horse Park in Lincoln County to the south.
You can access these two “off-road” sections at a few different points along the main route. The southern access point is at Cane Creek Park in Huntersville; there’s also a northern access point at Whitehall Road in Cornelius.
Best Bike Trails for Families
There are many great trails for families in the Charlotte area, and Sugar Creek is one of the most popular. The 6.5-mile trail follows Sugar Creek through a beautiful rural setting south of Charlotte. There are access points at several roads along the way so that you can stop wherever you like and enjoy a picnic, play in the creek, or just relax and enjoy some nature.
Best For: Families looking to get outside and enjoy some exercise on a paved trail without having to worry too much about traffic.
Low Impact: Yes
It’s hard to believe that before 1992, this beautiful 24-mile trail was abandoned railroad right-of-way–but now it’s one of the most popular trails in the state. The railbanked corridor stretches from Mooresville in Iredell County to just outside Durham’s city limits. In between, cyclists and hikers pass through small towns, pastures, forests, and wetlands along an easy-to-follow route with interpretive signs explaining what they see along the way. You’ll also pass through several historical sites along the trail including an old train depot in Mooresville and the restored Ellis Warehouse in Kannapolis.
Best Bike Trails for Nature Lovers
If you’re looking for a way to get away from it all, the Carolina Thread Trail is for you. The trail travels through rural areas, where you’re likely to see wildlife and plants that are more common in other parts of the country.
The trail also passes through several historic sites, including the Grover C. Maxwell House in Concord and Moses Cone Manor in Blowing Rock. It also links up with Troutman Trail and Bartram Trail, making it easy to extend your ride and explore even more.
The Southland Park Recreation Complex Bike Trail is a two-mile loop that passes through the park’s athletic fields and playgrounds before looping back to its start on South Boulevard. It’s an asphalt path with a smooth surface that’s suitable for any type of bike. Bikers must follow the rules of the road when using this trail, which shares space with vehicular traffic.
Charlotte Area Pathway System (CAPS) Trails are scattered throughout the Charlotte area, with many in and around Uptown Charlotte. These trails are typically short loops and connectors, so they’re best suited for casual bikers or those who simply want to get from point A to point B. However, there are longer trails near and within Uptown Charlotte, including Reedy Creek Greenway, Sugar Creek Greenway and Cassidy Greenway.
Popular Bike Trails in the Charlotte, NC
Now that you know the benefits of biking in the Charlotte area, let’s take a look at some of the most popular bike trails in the area.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway
The Little Sugar Creek Greenway is one of the most popular bike trails in the Charlotte area. The trail runs for 8.5 miles, and it’s perfect for both beginners and experienced riders. The trail is mostly flat, with a few small hills, and it’s surrounded by plenty of trees and foliage. The trail is also very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way.
Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a 14-mile pathway that follows the Sugar Creek and its tributaries through parts of Concord, Harrisburg, and Cornelius. The trail is often crowded on weekends, popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists alike. The stretch in Concord is paved, while the sections in Harrisburg and Cornelius are crushed gravel.
The greenway connects to several other trails along its route, including the Pete Blackwell Greenway in Charlotte and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It also has numerous parks and recreation areas along its length, including the North Carolina Botanical Garden in the Harrisburg area.
The trail is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round but is closed for maintenance on Tuesdays. There is no fee to use Little Sugar Creek Greenway but there are several parking lots with restroom facilities along the way. Drinking fountains are also available at several locations along the trail. You can access Little Sugar Creek Greenway off Interstate 77 at exit 23B/C or exit 24/B.
Charlotte Rail Trail
The Charlotte Rail Trail is another popular bike trail in the Charlotte area. The trail runs for 7.5 miles and it’s perfect for both beginners and experienced riders. The trail is mostly flat, but there are a few hills to keep it interesting. The trail is also very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way.
The 13-mile Charlotte Rail Trail is the longest paved rail-trail in North Carolina. It follows the old Seaboard Airline Railroad track that was abandoned in the late 1980s and purchased by the city. The trail opened in 1992 and runs from South Boulevard in Uptown, through Elizabeth, then to Norwood where it ends at the intersection of Providence Road and Bethel Lane.
There are several access points along the trail for use by cyclists and pedestrians. The trail is open for use year-round and can be used for walking, running, horseback riding, cross-country skiing (when there’s snow on the ground), or bicycling. Bikes are allowed on the paved trail only; horses must stay off the asphalt surface to protect it. Use caution at trail intersections as cars have right-of-way over users on foot or on bikes.
In addition to the main 13-mile trail, there are also two extensions—one in Kannapolis called the Legacy Trail and one in Mooresville called the Mooresville Greenway—plus dozens of local greenways that crisscross each community. For more information about using this trail, visit charlottetrailtrail.org or call 704 972 6704.
Colonel Francis Beatty Park
Colonel Francis Beatty Park is a great spot for biking in the Charlotte area. The park has miles of trails, including a 4.5 mile mountain bike trail. The trails are mostly flat, but there are some hills to keep things interesting. Plus, the park is surrounded by plenty of trees and foliage, making it a great spot to explore.
Colonel Francis Beatty Park is a 17-acre park with a 2.5-mile paved trail that loops through the woods. The trail is a great place to watch wildlife, with deer frequently spotted. It’s also a popular fishing spot, with you able to fish in two lakes in the park – Lake Wampee and Lake Tippecanoe. The park also features several shelters, picnic tables, grills, restrooms and playgrounds. Fishing and camping are allowed at an additional cost.
There’s also an annual 5K mud run held at Colonel Beatty Park. This run is open to all ages but has obstacles that are 18 years old and older only. The trailhead is located at 6207 Ridge Lane in Huntersville, North Carolina. Bikers should note there is no parking at the trailhead itself but if you turn left from Ridge Lane onto Blanche Drive, you will see ample parking down at the end of the street.
American Tobacco Trail
The American Tobacco Trail is a great option for those looking for a longer ride. The trail runs for 17 miles, and it’s perfect for both beginner and experienced riders. The trail is mostly flat, and it’s surrounded by plenty of trees and foliage. Plus, the trail is very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way.
The American Tobacco Trail is a rails-to-trails project that uses an abandoned rail corridor to create a beautiful, scenic trail. The trail is located in Durham and Wake County, North Carolina, but there are two access points in Mecklenburg County: at the intersection of Rea Road and Eastway Drive in Pineville and at the Wake Forest Road / Fairview Road intersection in Huntersville.
The 12-mile section of the American Tobacco Trail in Charlotte offers a delightful experience for bikers and walkers alike. The surface of the trail is smooth asphalt, making it great for casual bikers, families, or anyone who doesn’t want to tackle a more challenging trail. In addition to its smooth surface, the AT also boasts benches along the way where you can take a break and enjoy the scenery.
The Mecklenburg County section of the AT runs from Huntersville to Pineville; however, there is also an extension that runs from Pineville to Matthews through the town of Mint Hill. This 6-mile extension includes a lovely trestle over Lake Brandt near Matthews.
Four Mile Creek Greenway
The Four Mile Creek Greenway is another great option for those looking for a longer ride. The trail runs for 8.5 miles, and it’s perfect for both beginner and experienced riders. The trail is mostly flat, but there are a few hills to keep things interesting. Plus, the trail is very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way.
Four Mile Creek Greenway is a paved, linear park that follows a tributary of the Catawba River for about 10 miles. The greenway is made up of two different sections, the East and West Four Mile Creek Greenways. The West section features scenic overlooks of the creek, numerous bridges, shelters with picnic tables, and many access points. It connects with several other popular trails, including the Mountains to Sea Trail and the Haywood Mini-Loop.
The East Four Mile Creek Greenway is more rural in character, featuring many small tributaries and forested areas. The trail starts near the Mallard Lake community and follows the creek to the Grady Cole Center and Park in Matthews. This section features some steep inclines and declines, so it’s not ideal for beginning cyclists.
You can access the trail from several places in Charlotte, including Mallard Lake Road in Matthews, Statesville Avenue in University City, I-485 at Exit 21A in Pineville, Old Statesville Road in Steele Creek and Torrence Chapel Road in Pineville.
Stewart Creek Greenway
The Stewart Creek Greenway is a great option for those looking for a longer ride. The trail runs for 8.5 miles, and it’s perfect for both beginner and experienced riders. The trail is mostly flat, but there are a few hills to keep things interesting. Plus, the trail is very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way.
The Stewart Creek Greenway is a 9.3-mile paved trail that connects several neighborhoods in South Charlotte. The trail starts at South Blvd., where you’ll find a small parking lot, restrooms and picnic areas, and continues north along Stewart Creek. Along the way, you’ll see many large trees and wildlife, including great blue heron, red-winged blackbirds, deer and beavers.
There are also several access points for getting on or off the main trail if you want a shorter ride. The Greenway links to several other trails, including the Sugar Creek Greenway, Sedgefield Park and Mallard Creek Greenway. You can access the entire length of the trail in one go by crossing over onto the Reedy Creek Trail and proceeding south to South Blvd. The trail is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
There is no charge to use the trail; however, there is limited parking available at designated lots at South Blvd., Sugar Creek Road and Mallard Creek Circle.
U.S. National Whitewater Center
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is a great spot for those looking for a more challenging ride. The center has miles of mountain bike trails, and it’s perfect for both beginner and experienced riders. The trails are very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way. Plus, the center also has a rail trail bridge, which provides some great views of the Catawba River.
The U.S. National Whitewater Center is an outdoor sports activity complex with an impressive cycling trail network. The center features a man-made river for kayaking and rafting as well as a rock climbing wall. There are also a large observation tower, a water park, and an adventure ropes course. The cycling trails are paved and range in length from .9 to 11 miles.
There are several different types of trails, too, including mountain bike trails, family-friendly bike paths, and paved roads that follow the center’s waterways. With so many activities in one location, you can easily turn your visit into an entire day of fun or plan to stop after a ride for lunch or a snack at the café. There are restrooms and changing areas located throughout the property, but there is no overnight camping allowed here.
You do need to sign in at the front desk when you arrive if you’re bringing your own bike; rental bikes are available for those without their own wheels.
Lake Norman State Park
Lake Norman State Park is a great spot for those looking for a more challenging ride. The park has miles of mountain bike trails, and it’s perfect for both beginner and experienced riders. The trails are very well-maintained, with plenty of rest areas along the way. Plus, the park also has a rail trail bridge, which provides some great views of the lake.
Lake Norman State Park is the largest state park in North Carolina. It has more than 30 miles of paved bike trails, including the 7-mile paved Centennial Trail, which circles the lake. This is a beautiful ride that takes you through various landscapes and past several parks, marinas, and lodges. Bikers under 16 are required to wear helmets. The park also has a variety of other trails suited for different levels of experience.
The 3-mile Lakeview Trail follows along the shoreline, while other trails take you through wooded areas and wetlands. For a more challenging ride, try the trails at Hickory Nut Gorge that are winding and hilly and include numerous bridges. To get there: The trailhead for Centennial Trail is located at the park’s main entrance on Highway 150 near Denver. There is ample parking, including some designated spots for cyclists.
Other park entrances and trailheads are located at Hickory Nut Gorge, Catawba Island, Lizzie Bennet Gate & Parking Lot, Mowry Road, Mesquite Campground & Boat Dock, Little River Marina & Little River Road and Long Creek Marina & Long Creek Road. For more information about Lake Norman State Park, visit ncparks.gov or call (704) 291-2000.
Tips for Enjoying the Bike Trails in the Charlotte, NC Area
Now that you know some of the most popular bike trails in the Charlotte area, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your ride.
- Plan your route ahead of time. Take a look at the maps of the trails and plan out your route before you head out. This will help you make the most of your time and ensure you don’t get lost.
- Wear the proper gear. Make sure to wear a helmet, as well as appropriate clothing for the weather. You should also make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Follow the trail rules. Respect the other trail users and follow the trail rules. These rules exist to keep everyone safe and to ensure everyone has a great time.
- Take your time. Enjoy the scenery and take your time. This is a great way to relax and take in the sights.
Overall, the Charlotte, NC area has miles of great trails for you to explore. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, you’ll find something to suit your needs. Plus, the area has plenty of amenities, such as parking lots, restrooms, and other amenities, to make your ride as convenient and enjoyable as possible. So, get out there and explore the miles of amazing bike trails in the Charlotte, NC area!