Thursday, January 14, 2021

McDowell Nature Preserve

McDowell Nature Preserve, the oldest preserve in Mecklenburg County, is a treasure trove of outdoor adventure amenities. Home to a nature center, campground, fishing piers, boat ramps and hiking trails, McDowell offers something for everyone any time of year.

When I was a kid, my dad would take us camping at McDowell, and, though the 1,132-acre preserve is less than 30 minutes from uptown, it always felt like a grand outdoor adventure to another part of the world. In many ways, it still does.

We most recently visited for fishing and enjoyed a pleasant hike through the woods while we were there. There are seven miles of trails within the preserve. If you go, I recommend you choose one of the routes that swing by the Lake Wylie waterfront (see park map). The large dock is a particularly pleasant place to pause.

The nature center at McDowell Nature Preserve, which features live animals and a discovery exhibit, offers a number of educational programs and activities for all ages and interests as well as information about the park's ecology. Self-interpretive trail guides are available in the nature center for miles of hiking trails. 

One fun feature of the Preserve is Copperhead Island, a 20-acre island with hiking trails, fishing docs, boat ramp and group camping facilities.

At McDowell, you'll also find shaded playgrounds, picnic areas, restroom facilities and lots of wildlife, including dozens of species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. 

Any time of year, whatever your outdoor excursion interests, McDowell Nature Preserve offers a wonderful place to escape into nature close to home. 

How to get there: McDowell Nature Preserve is located at 15222 South York Rd., Charlotte, NC 28278.

Don't forget to pack
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Fishing gear (optional)
  • Snacks and water
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Bug spray (particularly in the warmer months)   

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