As part of a summer series, T+L is highlighting amazing lesser-known attractions found in the United States. Next up: a North Carolina spot for all sorts of outdoor activities.
Located 45 minutes north of Charlotte in Troutman, North Carolina, Lake Norman State park encompasses 1,940 acres on the northeastern shore of Lake Norman, the state’s largest manmade lake (which is nearly 17 times the size of the Park itself). Here visitors can mountain bike, hike, boat, fish, and more. As such, is a pretty stellar spot for an affordable family vacation.
If wildlife is your thing, the park is home to around 35 different species of mammals. “White-tailed deer and eastern grey squirrel are readily visible from the park roads,” says Park Superintendent Gregory Schneider. Elsewhere visitors can spot chipmunks, grey foxes, opossum, skunks, cottontail rabbits, and beavers. On the lake itself find Great Blue Heron and Osprey. Plus coyotes, Schneider adds, “can often be heard yipping and howling during the evening hours.”
Our favorite way to kick-off a visit to the park is at the trailhead (right near the visitor’s center) for the 30.5-mile Itusi Mountain Bike Trail System. At the end of this road, you’ll find one of the lake’s year-round public swimming areas and beach, which is just what you want in the middle of summer after a long ride. And if you don’t own equipment for recreational activities, no worries: rentals are available for pedal boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes.
Lake Norman is also great for group trips. The 21 camping sites include picnic tables and fire rings (family reunions, anyone?), and a community building comes with a kitchen, which can be rented for under $200 per day — perfect for low key, nature-themed weddings and birthday parties.
Lake Norman State Park Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May through August; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. November through February; and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. March, April, September, and October. To learn more, including free interpretive programs, visit ncparks.gov/lake-norman-state-park. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (704) 528-6350 with questions. For facility reservation information, call (877) 722-6762.