Here are the best hiking and biking spots in the queen city

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Erik Mitran nears the end of the trail during an annual festival hosted by Triangle Mountain Bikers at Lake Crabtree Park on June 21, 2015 in Raleigh, NC

Erik Mitran nears the end of the trail during an annual festival hosted by Triangle Mountain Bikers at Lake Crabtree Park on June 21, 2015 in Raleigh, NC

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The Charlotte Observer Service Journalism Office is committed to providing answers to the questions that matter to you and your community. In this space, requests submitted by readers – like the one below – will be reviewed daily by our team of journalists.

Living in a growing city like Charlotte can sometimes feel like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the city holds promise as a booming hub for culture, tourism and business. However, such exponential growth does not come without sacrifice.

More skyscrapers, parking lots and beer halls usually mean less room for outdoor activities in open spaces.

Even with the expansion of roads and bike lane initiatives, residents who cycle and hike may feel less comfortable in crowded areas. Many Charlotte residents have experienced an increase in traffic which poses various safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists.

Here are some of the best spots in and around Charlotte that hiking and biking enthusiasts might want to explore:

Charlotte

McDowell Nature Reserve

McDowell Nature Preserve is free and open to the public, however, camping on-site may require a fee from visitors. Located at 15222 York Rd., the grounds include a lake, nature center, designated campgrounds, and various trails for walking or biking. The reserve is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve

The Reedy Creek Preserve boasts 927 acres of woodland habitat and over 10 miles of hiking trails, making this easily navigable terrain an ideal destination for those who like to hike with a view. Cyclists are required to stay on paved roads and gravel trails within the reserve and are not permitted on natural surface trails. You can visit the reserve at 2986 Rocky River Rd. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Visiting the Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve is free.

Evergreen nature reserve

The Evergreen Nature Reserve sits on 77 acres of undeveloped land surrounded by urban development. The reserve’s hiking trails are nearly two miles long and relatively flat. The reserve is located just 10 minutes from the heart of Charlotte at 1336 Norland Rd. and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The Evergreen Nature Preserve does not charge entrance fees from visitors.

Lower McAlpine Creek Greenway

The Lower McAlpine Creek Greenway provides a vibrant haven away from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte. The trails are wide, well-maintained, and take visitors through nearly six miles of lush marshland and wooded greenways. Located at 12001 Shandon Cir., it is perfect for cyclists and those who want to stroll through the scenic territory. Free entry.

Sherman Branch ATV Park

If you’re up for a more vigorous biking experience, the Sherman Branch Mountain Biking Park, located at 12435 Rocky River Church Rd., might provide the thrill you’re looking for. An ideal starting point for beginners and an escape for established mountain bike enthusiasts, this forest bike park offers nearly 12 miles of trails for cyclists. The trail’s various inclines, ramps and jumps make it a real workout for beginner riders and experts alike. Sherman Branch Mountain Biking Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., free of charge. Visit the official Tarheel Trailblazers website to check trail conditions before taking a trip.

Renaissance Park

Renaissance Park is a forest bike park run by the Tarheel Trailblazers and hosts four miles of invigorating bike trails. Berms, jumps and climbs ensure an optimized MTB experience for intermediate riders. The park is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and admission is free. You can visit Renaissance Park at 1536 W. Tyvola Rd. in Charlotte, but be sure to visit the official Tarheel Trailblazers website to check the status of the trail as closures due to muddy conditions are not uncommon.

Around

Anne Springs Close Greenway – Fort Mill, SC

Comprising nearly 2,100 acres of lakes, ponds, woodlands and pastures, Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill offers plenty of space for outdoor activities. Included in its many amenities are trails for biking and hiking, kayaking, and horseback riding. Each Greenway trail is conveniently marked with a specific color to indicate trail usage. The yellow trails are reserved exclusively for hiking, the purple trails are used for horseback riding and hiking, while the red and green trails are used for mountain biking and hiking. The trails are open daily from 7 a.m. to sunset. Daily usage fees include a cost of $12 per visitor ages 13 and up and $6 for ages 5-12. The trails and nearly all amenities at Anne Springs Close Greenway can be used free of charge for registered members.

Colonel Francis Beatty Park – Matthews

Open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Colonel Francis Beatty Park offers nearly 10 km of trails for walking and cycling. The main trail in the park has very little elevation gain and can be walked in a single loop. You can visit the park at 4330 Weddington Rd. in Matthews, is free.

Mecklenburg North Park – Huntersville

North Mecklenburg Park, located at 16131 Old Statesville Rd., is a 98-acre area used primarily for recreation. The park is home to nearly three miles of trails for walking and biking and is considered moderately populated by other visitors. The trail features a variety of twists, turns, roots, and jumps for riders and is considered easy and non-strenuous for those choosing to hike instead. North Mecklenburg Park is free and open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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