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Holiday Hike in Gaston County

posted Dec 21, 2015, 7:20 AM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 22, 2015, 6:22 AM ]

This past Saturday, we headed to the Charlotte area for a holiday hike and fun with friends in Gaston County.  This December has been unseasonably warm, but it was chilly for the weekend, a welcome relief for steep climbing and scrambling at Crowders Mountain.  We met in the Chapel Hill area to form carpools and headed south on I-85 to Crowders Mountain State Park.  We arrived at the Linwood Road Access area of the park at about 1030 and started our hike.  We started off on the Backside Trail towards Crowders Mountain, but when we got to the split, turned right on Crowders Trail and bypassed the mountain.  We would be stopping here on the way back, so we followed Crowders Trail around the side of the mountain.  We had a group of twelve and most of us were wearing some type of holiday apparel.  At one point, a guy walking in the other direction was looking at Bob’s Santa hat and tripped over a rock.  Apparently, our holiday flair was distracting to other park guests!   We crossed Sparrow Springs Road and continued towards the park office.  At the intersection with Pinnacle Trail, we went straight on this trail, continuing towards the trail’s namesake mountain.  After passing the intersection with the campground spur trails, the Pinnacle Trail leads over a rocky ridgeline.  I really enjoy visiting Crowders Mountain for the rocky trails that require a bit of climbing and scrambling.  Right after this rocky section, the Turnback Trail splits off and then it becomes steeper as it heads up to the summit of the Pinnacle.  There are a couple of switchbacks and then the last part of the trail is pretty much just straight up.  The trail ends right below the rocky summit.  We climbed up some rocks here and stopped to eat lunch.

Looking west, there are sweeping views with the South Mountains visible and the Black Mountains far off in the distance.  Going north a bit to the true summit of the peak, I could see Crowders Mountain, the park office, and the Charlotte skyline far in the distance.

After lunch, we found some more rocks to climb around on enjoy the views.  We saw a large black vulture perched in a tree not far from here.  He waited around long enough for some pictures and then flew off.

Then we started making our hike back.  We followed Pinnacle Trail back down the mountain, then turned right to get on Turnback Trail to make a partial loop to head back to the park office.  We stopped here for a couple minutes to use the restrooms and then took Crowders Trail back to the road crossing.  Across Sparrow Springs Road, we turned right to take Rocktop Trail to the summit of Crowders Mountain.  Rocktop is my favorite trail in the park as it involves a lot of rock scrambling along the rocky spine of the mountain.

At a few points where there are breaks in the trees, the trail provides good views of the surrounding countryside.

Towards the end of the trail, we got on the Tower Trail, which is also the access road to the radio towers on top of the mountain.  We hiked this steep road up to the towers at the summit of the mountain and then went a little further to the overlook

The views from here are great and the skyline of Charlotte was clearly visible to the northeast.

We also saw some climbing ropes leading down.  As we were getting ready to leave, a woman climbed up and was adjusting the ropes to take down from the day.  It’s amazing to see how skilled some climbers are in maneuvering around on the cliffs, seeming to defy gravity.  If we improve our climbing skills, I’d love to come back out here for some rock climbing.  From here, we took the Backside Trail back down to the parking lot.  We drove into Gastonia and had dinner at Tequilas on West Main Street.  After dinner, we took US-74 east towards McAdenville to see the Christmas lights.  It was extremely crowded with unbelievable traffic, so we parked at Food Lion on Market Street and walked up Wesleyan Drive.  McAdenville, also called Christmastown USA, lives up to its nickname in December.

Walking down Wesleyan Drive and Main Street, very house, building, store, and tree are covered in Christmas lights.  Trees lining the small lake in the middle of downtown were especially scenic.

We also saw a Shelby Cobra covered in lights.

Once we got towards the end of Main Street, we turned around and headed back.  It was quite cold, especially carrying a tripod, but it was fun seeing all the pretty lights.  Driving home, we saw the traffic on US-74 stretched back for miles.  I’m sure glad we opted to get out and walk rather than trying to drive through town.