Crowders Mountain State Park (Courtesy NC Division of Parks and Recreation)
About a half-hour drive west of Charlotte lies Crowders Mountain, the second highest point in Gaston County. Rock climbing at Crowder Mountain—with sheer vertical cliffs dropping 150 feet—promises to be a peak experience. Breathtaking views (on clear days you can see the Queen City!) await atop several hiking trails, which span more than 25 miles. Climbers must register with the park staff. Other activities at the park include camping, fishing and picnicking. Hours vary by season.