Parks & Nature
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.