Parks & Na­ture

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CROWDERS MOUN­TAIN STATE PARK—

About a half-hour drive west of Char­lotte lies Crowders Moun­tain, the sec­ond high­est point in Gas­ton County. Rock climb­ing at Crow­der Moun­tain—with sheer ver­ti­cal cliffs dropping 150 feet—prom­ises to be a peak ex­pe­ri­ence. Breath­tak­ing views (on clear days you can see the Queen City!) await atop sev­eral hik­ing trails, which span more than 25 miles. Climbers must reg­is­ter with the park staff. Other ac­tiv­i­ties at the park in­clude camp­ing, ca­noe­ing, fish­ing and pic­nick­ing. Hours vary by sea­son. www. nc­parks.gov. 522 Park Of­fice Lane, 704.853.5375.

DANIEL STOWE BOTAN­I­CAL GAR­DEN—

Ex­plore the botan­i­cal won­ders in this com­plex founded by Bel­mont tex­tile mag­nate Daniel Stowe. Lo­cated along the banks of Lake Wylie, the gar­dens spread across 110 acres of rolling land­scape. Guests are awed by the large vis­i­tors pav­il­ion with its stained­glass dome, foun­tains, canals and nine themed gar­dens. The 8,000-square­foot Or­chid Con­ser­va­tory, de­signed like a liv­ing work of art, is ded­i­cated to the dis­play of or­chids and trop­i­cal plants. Ad­mis­sion: $6.95-$12.95. Open daily 9 am-5 pm. www.dsbg.org. 6500 S. New Hope Road, 704.825.4490.

LAKE NOR­MAN STATE PARK—

When filled to ca­pac­ity, the surface area of this largest man­made lake in North Carolina is 32,510 acres with a shore­line of 520 miles. The main chan­nel is 34 miles long, thus its nick­name, “In­land Sea.” Thir­teen miles of shore­line ac­cess means tons of boat ac­cess, not to men­tion all the fish­ing—crap­pie, bluegill and yel­low perch love this lake—and hik­ing you can han­dle. Hours vary by sea­son. www.nc­parks.

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