We hike for many reasons. One is to explore the unknown, such as a rare Piedmont prairie. You wouldn’t know it today, but prairies were once common throughout the Piedmont.
With a few small exceptions, those Piedmont prairies have long since disappeared, but efforts are underway to restore the grasslands in a few remnant locations. One of those locations is at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. The preserve has 16 miles of trail, but only one prairie, which the 4 miles described here circumnavigate.
"The Mountain Island Lake Trail at Latta Plantation offers both beauty and variety. The hike starts at the center of the preserve and passes over rolling terrain and beside the equestrian facility on its journey to the rocky shoreline of Mountain Island Lake. Leaving the waterfront, the path turns inland and travels through recovering farmland before retracing its route back to the heart of the plantation." Read more
"This pleasant balloon hike is a great excursion for families. The path starts at the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, where educational exhibits and native animal displays will get you excited about searching for specific plants and reptiles on the trail. From the nature center, the Hill Trail follows a rolling dirt road to connect with the Shady Trail.
The Shady Trail makes a large 1.6-mile loop, and passes the main park road that provides close access to a picnic site and the Carolina Raptor Center. The raptor center provides a great place to rest and learn about birds of prey before completing the hike." Read more
"The 1,345-acre Latta Plantation Nature Preserve offers an abundance of outdoor activities that include paddling, horseback riding, fishing, birding, and hiking. Along the trails, you will encounter several picnic shelters and fishing piers, so feel free to pack a lunch or bring your pole along for the hike. During the summer, you’d do well to bring along some bug spray. This hike combines several existing trails within the preserve, creating a route that includes most of the highlights of this popular destination. The trail starts in a shady and dense bottomland hardwood forest along the shore of Mountain Island Lake. It skirts past one of the region’s few remaining and restored Piedmont prairies (described later) and follows along the shore of Mountain Island Lake, where you will find several small beaches. This trail is best in the spring, before the heat hits Mecklenburg County, or in the fall, when the leaves in Piedmont country are turning color." Read more
"This route explores some of the most scenic trails in the northern half of Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. The hike starts on the Hill Trail but soon makes its way to the shore of Mountain Island Lake by following the Split Rock Trail. In this section you will have to alternate looking at the gorgeous lake views and staring at your feet, trying to navigate the rocky terrain.
The hike returns briefly inland on better terrain, before once again skirting on the shoreline on the Cove Trail. After spotting freshwater clamshells and nesting birds on the Cove Trail, you will veer south and pass an old well and restoration site on the journey back to the trailhead." Read more
"By combining four separate, short loop trails, this hike offers a wide variety of terrain and scenery. The first two loops leave from the horse trailer parking lot and take you on an information station hike on the Treasure Tree Trail, followed by a scenic and hilly traverse of the neighboring Beechwood Trail.
Next, you will need to shuttle your vehicle to the western boundary of the preserve, where the Audubon Trail and Cattail Trail explore the shoreline of Mountain Island Lake. The Faylinn Village portion of the Audubon Trail is a favorite with children, since they are encouraged to build an all- natural fairy hut on their hike through the forest." Read more
"If sitting on a large solitary boulder warmed by the sun and overlooking a beautiful lake sounds like a nice way to spend the afternoon, then this hike is for you. The path starts at the Buzzard Rock trailhead and immediately travels out to the Buzzard Rock outcropping and viewing area on Mountain Island Lake.
And if you like this spot, you will love the hike’s next waterfront destination at the secluded Wash Rock Overlook. Beyond Wash Rock, the trail travels through the forest to reach one final lake destination at the Catawba Trail boating dock, before looping back around to the trailhead." Read more
"There are so many terrific short loops at Latta Plantation, it is hard to pick a favorite. This hike features the four best loops at the plantation—split into two separate figure-eight formations. Enjoy the hardwood forests on the Beechwood and Treasure Tree Trails before taking a short 1-mile car shuttle to embrace the Mountain Island Lake shoreline on the Audubon and Cattail Trails.
There are four hiking circuits at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve measuring 1 mile or less that can be enjoyed together or as separate hikes. The itinerary here gives a description of each trail and a way to combine the paths if desired. All four hikes described below—especially the Audubon Trail—are great for young children. The first figure eight starts at the back of the horse trailer parking lot and combines the Beechwood and Treasure Tree Trails." Read more