There’s an unexpected gem just around the corner from Stonecrest, nestled in a neighborhood with only a sign by the side of the road to tell you that you’ve arrived: Big Rock Nature Preserve. If you’re looking for an easily accessible but fully immersive outdoor adventure, this is a must do.
A lovely little respite of forest in the middle of suburbia, Big Rock Nature Preserve is a mostly shaded, short hiking trail that offers some challenging spots, a jaunt next to a creek, and most notably massive rock formations that are perfect for explorers of all ages.
Parking is along the road as you approach. Keep your eyes open for the sign because it’s very easy to miss the trail head! Once you pass Thornhill swim club on your left, slow down to park near the preserve entrance on the right. At first you might not feel like you’re in the right spot but just a few steps off the road, across the wooden bridge, and around the curve of the trail, you’ll see the rocks. It’s a truly magnificent sight that you really won’t be able to believe exists in the middle of Charlotte.
The rocks are assumed to have historically been a rendezvous point and campsite for some of the first residents of Mecklenburg County at least several thousand years ago. Made entirely of granite and rising quite high, I would suggest climbing with your kids to see the view and ensure their safety. There are some incredible spots that you can easily climb to the top with some significant drop offs. Don’t forget to have your camera ready for those smiling faces of accomplishment after climbing to the top! Once you’ve had your fun exploring the rocks, hit the trail for a hike. You’ll climb over roots, pass more rocks (don’t forget to explore them!) and eventually end up next to a creek bank. If you plan ahead you can pack a picnic (just remember to leave no trace!) to share down on one of the larger creek-side rocks. When the weather allows, dip your toes in the water and look for creatures.
Pack your sunscreen and bug spray for a longer adventure or drop by Big Rock for a quick visit. The rocks are easily accessible from where you park, even if it doesn’t seem that way from the road. We’ve had great luck in all seasons, weather, and times of day when visiting. The heat of the summer is minimized by the tree canopy, the sun shines through the trees warming you up in the winter, and just after it rains the mud is its own special kind of experience.
When we take adventures like this as a family, we tend to wear our rubber boots for extra grip, unplanned creek walks, mud, and protection from any unwanted bugs or plants. We leave a big cardboard box in the trunk to drop dirty boots in when we are finished and have extra shoes/clothes in the car.
While the preserve is only about 22 acres there’s a ton to explore with its exceptionally diverse landscape. From huge rocks to sandy creek banks and a trail that loops around, your whole family is bound to have an adventure at Big Rock Nature Preserve!