Outdoor guide: 11 best hikes for fall foliage this year, all within 3 hours of Charlotte

Outdoor guide: 11 best hikes for fall foliage this year, all within 3 hours of Charlotte

Photo: Courtesy of AllTrails

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This guide is proudly presented by OrthoCarolina – our partners in healthy living. If you want more outdoor itinerary inspiration, check out OrthoCarolina’s blog. Happy exploring.


If you’re chasing leaves, here’s a breakdown of which trails will have the best fall foliage and when.

Leaves: The 2021 fall foliage forecast shows most leaves should be changing over the next few weeks. The transformation already started at higher elevations, and will creep down to Charlotte.

All hiking trails are within 3.5 hours driving distance of Charlotte.

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October 10-16

Calloway Peak

This 7.1-mile trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park gets steep and rocky toward the top. This is for experienced hikers who want a challenge while reveling in the views.

Parking: Profile Trail parking area; 4198 N.C. 105 N. Banner Elk (2 hours 20 minutes from Charlotte)

Length: 7.1 miles (4.5 hours)

Difficulty: Hard

Calloway Peak via Profile Trail

Photo courtesy of AllTrails


Nuwati Trail

A moderate 3-mile trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park, Nuwati is a well-marked, family friendly trail. Expect the path to be a little rocky with exposed roots, but not too strenuous.

Parking: Boone Fork Parking area; 100 Blue Ridge Pkw.y, Blowing Rock (2 hours from Charlotte).

Length: 3 miles (1.5 hours)

Difficulty: Moderate


Wizards Way

If you’re looking for a leisurely hike with views for days, Wizards Way is for you. It’s a shorter jaunt along the Emerald Outback trail system.

Parking: Emerald Outback; 328 N. Pinnacle Ridge Rd., Beech Mountain. (2 hours 45 minutes from Charlotte).

Length: 1.2 miles (35 minutes)

Difficulty: Easy

Bonus: Try the Emerald Outback Outer Loop if you want a longer, moderate 4.1-mile hike.

wizards way

Photo courtesy of AllTrails


October 17-23

Summit and Rhododendron Trails Loop

An easy-to-moderate hike, this out-and-back trail has great views from the top.

Parking: 3399-1947 Mt Jefferson St. Park Rd., West Jefferson (2 hours 45 minutes from Charlotte)

Length: 1.3 miles (45 minutes)

Difficulty: Moderate


Sunrise and Jefferson Overlook

Part ot Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, this 2-mile hike is moderate with photo-worthy overlooks.

Parking: Mount Jefferson State Natural Area; 1384-1944, Mt. Jefferson St. Park Rd, West Jefferson (2 hours 45 minutes from Charlotte)

Length: 2 miles (1 hour)

Difficulty: Moderate

Sunrise and Jefferson Overlook

Photo courtesy of AllTrails


Greenway Trail Loop

If your version of a hike is really a scenic walk in nature, this loop’s for you. Plus: it’s partially paved.

Parking: Clawson Burnley Park; 355 Martin Luther King, Jr. St., Boone (2 hours 10 minutes from Charlotte).

Length: 3.3 miles (1.5 hours)

Difficulty: Easy


Boone Fork Trail

This is popular among more experienced hikers and known for its mix of terrains. Part of the hike is easy-to-moderate, but several miles include creek crossings, ladders and rocky terrain.

Parking: Julian Price Memorial Park Picnic Area; 3636 Blue Ridge Pkwy. Blowing Rock. (2 hours from Charlotte).

Length: 5.2 miles (3 hours)

Difficulty: Moderate

Boone Fork Trail rocks

Photo courtesy of AllTrails


Bass Lake Loop Trail

If you’re looking for a flat, short trail in a scenic setting, this loop is for you. There are tons of trails nearby if you want to extend your walk.

Parking: The Cone Manor/Moses H Cone Memorial Park; 6570 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Blowing Rock (2 hours from Charlotte).

Length: 0.9 miles (20 minutes)

Difficulty: Easy

Bass Lake Loop Trail fall

Photo: Courtesy of AllTrails


October 24-30

Stone Mountain Loop Trail

This hike is tough but so rewarding with sweeping views and a gorgeous waterfall. There’s a lot of space to rest at the top of the mountain, so pack a picnic and take in the hard-earned views.

  • Fun fact: This was the first hike I ever went on. If you’re inexperienced, like I was, I’d recommend starting with some easier trails before jumping into this.

Parking: 3042 Frank Pkwy, Roaring Gap (1 hour 45 minutes from Charlotte).

Length: 4.5 miles (2.5 hours)

Difficulty: Hard

stone mountain state park

Photo: Courtesy of AllTrails


October 31- November 6

Seven Oaks Preserve Trail

One of my favorite treks near Charlotte, Seven Oaks Preserve Trail winds along the shoreline of Lake Wylie. There’s plenty of tree coverage and foliage. Plus, it circles around Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden if you want to stop and explore.

Parking: 6900 S. New Hope Road in Belmont (30 minutes from Charlotte).

Length: 4.6 miles (2 hours)

Difficulty: Moderate

Seven Oaks Preserve

Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Pierce


South Fork Rail Trail

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.

Parking: 2677 Laboratory Rd. outside of Lincolnton (45 minutes from Charlotte).

Length: 3.5 miles (1.5 hours)

Difficulty: Easy

South Fork Rail Trail


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