In addition to the many Marion Area Parks, this area of North Carolina offers an abundance of parks and trails that will lead you to breathtaking overlooks, waterfall views and historic landmarks.
Whether you're in the mood for an easy hike or you're ready to scale more challenging terrain, you won't need to look far from your Lakewood home to get the best of these great outdoors.
Following is a brief list of parks and trails you may consider visiting...
Armstrong Creek - An easy / moderate 6 mile trail with primitive hiking.
Bad Fork - A moderate 8 mile primitive trail connecting Woods Mountain and Armstrong Creek Trails.
Betsy Ridge - An easy / moderate 9 mile Black Mountains view trail that meets the Little Buck Creek Trail and ends at Woods Mountain Trail.
Grandfather Mountain (http://www.grandfather.com/) - Choose from 11 trails varying in difficulty from a gentle walk in the woods to a rigorous trek across rugged peaks. Grandfather Mountain is the tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge and the only private park in the world designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.
Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway (http://www.mcdowelltrails.com/) - Located at the end of Sam Phillips Drive, the greenway's first phase opened September 20, 2010, and has a paved pathway and wooden fences running alongside the Catawba River. It has fishing piers overlooking the river and boardwalks running over the river's tributaries.
Kitsuma Peak - This is a short 20 minute hike with breathtaking views and unusual Carolina hemlocks.
Lead Mine Gap - A moderate 5 mile hike with mixed forest environment and long range views.
Little Buck Creek - This moderate to strenuous trail offers excellent views of Marion, Lake Tahoma and the Black Mountain range.
Mackey Mountain - A moderate to strenuous 16 mile hike with spectacular views located in a bear sanctuary.
Mountains to the Sea Trail - This hiking route includes a 14 mile steep downhill grade as well as several gentle descents and easy climbs. The two McDowell County segments of the Mountains to the Sea Trail are part of the overall 700 mile route.
Newberry Creek - An easy / moderate 5 miles scenic trail ending at Blue Ridge Parkway.
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (http://www.nps.gov/ovvi) - This is an historic trail covering four states and 300 miles runs. There are 57 accessible miles of trail as it runs through McDowell County between Lake James and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Linville Gorge - Multiple, strenuous trails will take you in and around Linville Gorge, Eastern America's most scenic and rugged gorge.
Woodlawn Fitness Trail - A 1.25 mile eaasy / moderate fitness trail consists of seven stations, with 2 exercises per station.
Catawba Falls - A 3 mile hike with two options, include a moderate hike to the lower falls or a more strenuous hike to upper falls. See the headwaters of the Catawba River and protected conservation easements, this 340 foot cascade includes an upper and lower falls with an upper 70 foot plunge.
Hickory Branch Trail Falls - 4 mile round trip, moderate hiking trail. Views of 20 foot waterfall can be seen from this trail at U.S. Forest Service campground, Curtis Creek Recreation Area.
Linville Falls - Experience the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge with its three-tiered waterfall plunging into Linville Gorge. The Falls Trail is an easy 1.6 miles, the Gorge Trail is a strenuous 1.4 miles, and the Plunge Basin Trail is a moderate 1 mile round trip.
Tom's Creek Falls - An easy 2 mile loop leading to gentle falls in picturesque area.
For more information on North Carolina trails, go to http://www.nps.gov/state/nc/
Waterfalls directory: http://www.mcdowellnc.org/waterfallsdir.htm
NC Wildlife Resource Commission http://www.ncwildlife.org/
McDowell County Hiking Directory http://www.mcdowellnc.org/directory2.htm#Hiking