Both Boone and Blowing Rock are about two and a half hours from Charlotte, but they're worth the drive. Start with an intense hike up Grandfather Mountain, spend noon driving through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, and end with an afternoon meal in Boone (a creative enclave disguised as a college town) or Blowing Rock (one of the most luxurious mountain destinations in the state). The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains cover most of western North Carolina, including Asheville. While they stretch from Georgia to Pennsylvania, the highest peaks are found here.
The highest point on Blue Ridge is Mount Mitchell, which reaches 6,684 feet in height. Located in Mount Mitchell State Park, just 30 miles from downtown Asheville, Mt. Not only is Mitchell the highest peak on the Blue Ridge, it's also the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Crowders Mountain State Park is something of a hiking spot in the Charlotte region for good reason.
The park is about an hour west of Charlotte, in Gaston County, near Interstate 85, and has real mountains in the metropolitan area. The park has two small peaks (Crowders Mountain, about 1600 feet, and The Pinnacle, about 1700). It has a variety of trails, including one that links to Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina if you're feeling ambitious. It is most famous for the Backside Trail, a difficult route that climbs from the parking lot to the top of Crowders Mountain, which is full of protruding rocks and offers a view of uptown Charlotte, which is often photographed.
Stone Mountain State Park (not to be confused with the one near Atlanta) is about an hour and a half north of Charlotte. Of course, western North Carolina is the star when it comes to mountains, but that doesn't mean that the area east of Charlotte lacks fun. In South Carolina, Anne Springs Close Greenway is a short drive from Charlotte and closer to the city than many of the most popular hiking trails on the North Carolina side. North Carolina has trails that just about everyone can enjoy, whether you're a long-time outdoor enthusiast, someone who started hiking during the pandemic, or a newcomer looking to explore.
Charlotte, North Carolina, has long been known for offering an epic outdoor lifestyle to accompany its elegant urban subway. I discovered West Jefferson by accident on my way to the Creeper Trail in Virginia, and it became my favorite mountain town in North Carolina.