Monday, July 20, 2015

Lake Norman State Park: Alder Trail (Blog Hike #530)

Trail: Alder Trail
Hike Location: Lake Norman State Park
Geographic Location: southwest of Troutman, NC
Length: 0.9 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: July 2015
Overview: A fairly flat hike out a peninsula in Lake Norman.

Directions to the trailhead: Roughly 30 miles north of Charlotte, take I-77 to US 21 (exit 42).  Exit and head north on US 21.  Drive US 21 north 2.9 miles to the town of Troutman and turn sharply left onto Wagner Street.  Wagner Street becomes Perth Rd. after you leave Troutman.  Drive Perth Rd. 1.6 miles to State Park Rd. and turn right on State Park Rd.  Brown state park signs mark all of these turns.  State Park Rd. leads into the park.  Park in the large blacktop parking lot in front of the Visitor Center.

The hike: For my general comments on Lake Norman State Park, see my hike on the park’s Lake Shore Trail.  If you want some nice lake views but the park’s other trails seem too long and difficult, the Alder Trail may be for you.  At only 0.9 miles, the Alder Trail offers a fairly flat and easy hike out a narrow peninsula in Lake Norman.  The secluded peninsula offers nice views over an undeveloped portion of the lake.
Gateway east of Visitor Center
            Two trails start at the wooden gateway just east of the Visitor Center.  The asphalt trail that goes through the gateway is the handicapped-accessible Dragonfly Trail; it is the park’s newest trail.  The Alder Trail is the gravel trail that starts to the right of the gateway.  The Dragonfly and Alder Trails come back together in 0.1 miles, so you could choose either route here.
            The Dragonfly and Alder Trails descend slightly to reach a major intersection.  The gravel trail descending to the right past some picnic tables will be our return route.  The paved trail going straight leads to an overlook but does not form a loop.  Our outbound route uses the dirt trail that goes left.  The Alder Trail is marked with plastic white diamonds, and they come in handy at intersections such as this one.
Alder Trail leaves the pavement
            The trail continues a gradual descent to arrive at the first Lake Norman overlook.  This newly constructed viewpoint overlooks a shallow inlet of Lake Norman.  On the warm afternoon I hiked this trail I saw very little activity here other than fish, which were literally jumping out of the water.
View from first lake overlook
            Continuing south, you pass some exposed rock outcrops as the lake stays in view through the trees to the left.  Some alder trees that give this trail its name appear in the forest here.  At 0.3 miles, the other arm of the loop enters from the right.  We will eventually use the trail going right as our return route, but first continue straight to reach the tip of the peninsula at 0.4 miles.  This area is rockier than you might expect.  A bench at the peninsula’s tip offers the trail’s best lake views.
Tip of peninsula
            Retrace your steps to the last trail intersection and turn left to begin the return route, which continues the lakeside character of the outbound route.  At 0.7 miles, a secondary concrete dam appears in the lake to your left.  At 0.8 miles, you reach a second gateway, where you need to turn right to climb slightly and close the loop.  A left turn and 0.1 miles of retracing your steps returns you to the Visitor Center to complete the hike.

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