Eight years our family has lived in Charlotte, yet only this week did I hear of this hidden gem, Big Rock Nature Preserve. We spent a delightful three hours there in seemingly perfect 70-degree weather!
The preserve is a petite 22 acres nestled in the midst of a suburban neighborhood, 13 minutes from our home and right down Elm Lane where one finds our pediatrician and the local Target store.
"Note: The preserve currently DOES NOT provide any parking or related amenities. There are no restrooms, parking, or other amenities. Limited roadside parking can be found along the marked boundary of the preserve.
"DO NOT park in the HOA pool and club house parking lot across from the preserve. Access is strictly prohibited and towing is enforced."
"Big Rock Nature Preserve's original 14-acres was purchased in 1994. An additional 9-acres was added in 2006 bringing the total acreage to 23. The large granite extrusions or "big rocks" are common throughout the Piedmont Plateau of the Carolinas and this is the largest known example in Mecklenburg County. Archeological evidence at the site reveals Native American habitation dating back 7,000 years. In 2009 the site received designation as a Historic Landmark by the Charlotte Historic Landmarks Commission (Details), the only natural feature to receive such a designation."
"Flora & Fauna
Big Rock Nature Preserve preserves habitat for numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The preserve is unique not only for its geologic formation, but it also contains an unusually low number of invasive species for an urban forest. Other interesting species encountered include Solomon's seal, St. John's-wort and strawberry bush. The property is also bisected by Four Mile Creek and provides which provides habitat for snapping turtles, swamp dogwood, and may apple."
I greatly miss nature. I was the gal who used to hike, carrying half my body weight in a pack--although my body weight was a lot less then than it is now! ha ha!--on ten-mile hikes in mountainous terrain most weekends for a long stretch in my 20s. Living in nature like that just hasn't fit well with my current station of life or with how weak my body is nowadays.
How tickled I was to find this little woodland oasis: Even a mom with a brood of little ones can drive a quarter of an hour, park on a nice, suburban street, and roll her stroller down to the Big Rock!
Our wildlife sightings consisted of a disabled blue butterfly, a fox, and--AS I WAS INFORMED AFTER THE FACT--a snake with a diamond pattern along its back (albeit a small 6") one which Mary poked with a stick until it slithered into a crevice. I believe that the entire 22 acres heard me shouting at her when she told me of her adventure.
We ate a picnic lunch on the rocks and were careful not to leave behind trash. I was pleased that I saw no trash in the entire Nature Preserve.
As one might have suspected, Mary was a fearless climber, with John her faithful sidekick.
Thomas mostly stayed on my back: an Ergo is helpful to have at Big Rock, as a stroller cannot go everywhere.
- There are no amenities there, so be sure to take kids to the potty beforehand.
- There is a creek. I did my best, but three of four fell in and got wet and muddy.
- The trail is stroller accessible using a good jogging stroller, to the point of the Big Rocks. Then one must abandon the stroller and trek along the trails toward the creek.
- A baby carrier like an Ergo is extremely helpful for toddlers two and under. My three-year-old was quite a capable trekker, but I was thinking to myself that I was grateful I didn't happen to have a one-year-old on this outing.