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Explore the Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, & Preserves in Charlotte, NC

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Local mom Bethany Winston reviews the Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, and Preserves in Charlotte, North Carolina. This free day-trip destination includes a treehouse-themed playground, hiking, and an indoor nature center.

Things to Do at Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center in Charlotte

Recently, my family discovered an amazing nature center and preserve about 6 miles northwest of downtown Charlotte: Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve located inside the large Reedy Creek Park. This county-owned park was completely free, including parking. While there might not be an admission fee, don’t make the mistake of thinking that means that this nature center is not worth the drive from Greenville.

Find a place to stay near Reedy Creek. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

Family-Friendly Things to Do at Reedy Creek Park

Playgrounds

Reedy Creek Park has three playgrounds that we discovered. The first playground was on our left almost immediately after entering the park. It’s a large playground with plenty of slides, ramps, and ladders. The play structures were not particularly high and I think even smaller children would enjoy it as long as they are comfortable climbing short ladders.

There was little shade on this playground and it was hot on the day we visited so my kids chose not to play long, but it was a large, interesting playground and I’m sure would have been a completely different experience if we had visited earlier in the day or during a cooler season of the year.

Playground at Reedy Creek Park

Adjacent to the playground, we also found basketball courts and picnic shelters. There was also a rather large dog park on our right before we reached the playground.

Just a little bit farther up the road, we found the parking lot for the Reedy Creek Nature Center. This area of the park was wooded (quite a relief due to the heat).

Outside the Reedy Creek Nature Center, we found a second playground that felt like a hidden magical world tucked away in the forest. The playground included natural-themed play structures such as artificial tree stumps and the main focal structure was a treehouse complete with a bridge.  My kids played for a good hour on this playground and probably would have been content to spend the day on it.

Later in our day, we drove up to the third playground which was beside a lake. This “playground” only had a couple of swings and a volleyball court, but it was an easy walk down to a beautiful lake with a fishing pier. We saw several families picnicking and fishing in this area.

Reedy Creek Nature Center

The Nature Center was small but it was free and even better air-conditioned. Inside the Nature Center, our children were able to look at animals and small science displays. We also found a quiet area for pretend play where our children could dress up as rangers and play in a pretend campsite.

The room had a couple of rocking chairs for adults too. It was very quiet on the day we visited and we had the spot to ourselves. Our kids had a lot of fun and didn’t want to leave even after a long playtime.

Inside of the Reedy Creek Nature Center at Reedy Creek Park

Hiking at Reedy Creek Park

After a long day of fun (we had already spent hours at Discovery Place in downtown Charlotte) our kids were too tired and hot for us to dare attempt sustained hiking, but the map showed several easy hikes on the preserve that we hope to try on another day.

One hike lead to a historic site and was only an hour’s walk. The grounds also had butterfly gardens, bird feeders, streams, vast wooded areas, and lakes. We were able to obtain a free map from the Nature Center so that we could still take a short stroll. The trail system was clearly marked and it was possible to take both short walks along the trails and longer hikes.

Trail system at Reedy Creek Park in Charlotte

Tips for Your Visit

  • If you visit on a hot day, be sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray. While the preserve does have a lot of shade, there are several open spaces with little shade.
  • Plan plenty of time if you want to get the full experience. The preserve alone is over 900 acres of woods. Fortunately, the park does have a decent road system and multiple parking lots, so you can drive to the parts of the park in this article if you are short on time or if your children are tired (like us).
  • Don’t forget your fishing supplies. The park has two fishing lakes. Visitors over 16 must have a fishing license.
  • The Nature Center has a gift shop for those who would like to purchase souvenirs.
  • Bikers will find plenty of bike-friendly areas but are limited to the gravel trails and paved roads.
The nature preserve at Reedy Creek Park in Charlotte

Hummingbird Festival at Reedy Creek Nature Center

Each August, a hummingbird festival is held at the Reedy Creek Nature Center. It includes bird banding, science experiments, bird hikes, art vendors, and storytelling sessions. The events are held throughout the week, and some require pre-registration. The front desk at the Nature Center recommended coming early to see the most hummingbirds.

About the Reedy Creek Nature Center & Preserve

Reedy Creek Park, Nature Center, and Preserve
2900 Rocky River Rd.
Charlotte, NC
980.314.1119

Hours:
Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday, 1-5 pm

Have you ever been to the Reedy Creek Nature Center?


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For more inexpensive day trip ideas see our list of day trips under $25 from Greenville.


Hiking Through History: Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

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Looking for a fun outing where you can enjoy the great outdoors and take in some history too? We’ve got just the place! Local mom Maria took her kids to Musgrove Mill Historic Site and is sharing her experience with us. This beautiful outdoor destination includes lots of territory to explore plus American history to share with your family.

This park is new to the free incentive program to get kids exploring the outdoors! Learn all about it in our review of the Kids in Parks Program

On a hot, humid August day in 1780, 200 Patriot militia defeated over 500 Loyalist troops at the Battle of Musgrove Mill. Today you can visit the beautiful Musgrove Mill State Historic Site to walk the steps of those soldiers and militiamen. If you do, you’ll also enjoy a beautiful, wooded hike alongside a clear, clean creek and waterfall.

A Day at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

You’ll want to begin your visit at the Visitor’s Center, where park rangers will play a short audio presentation about the battle, accompanied by a map with lighted markers, which will give your family a birds-eye view of the movement of both patriot and loyalist troops. Then you’ll need to choose to hike one of Musgrove Mill’s two trails. Will it be the one-mile hike to the loyalist camp along the Enoree River?  Or will it be the 1.3-mile battlefield trail beginning at Horseshoe Falls along Cedar Shoals Creek? My family is studying the Revolutionary War this fall and have visited several Southern Campaign battlefields, so we decided to follow the battlefield trail. We were not disappointed!

Hikers will find the camp trail at the end of the Visitor Center parking lot, but if your family decides to visit the falls and the battlefield trail, you’ll need to get back in your car and drive about three miles to cross the Enoree River and get to the park’s other parking lot. The ranger at the Visitor Center will provide you with a map! You can also follow the road signs for Horseshoe Falls. When you arrive at the trailhead, you will find a gravel parking lot and sign, just before the metal bridge that crosses the creek.

Musgrove Mill in South Carolina

The battlefield at Musgrove Mill

The battlefield trail begins with a couple of hundred yards of concrete, wheelchair-accessible trail that takes you to Horseshoe Falls. Hikers of the battlefield trail will continue on past the falls, where the trail is no longer paved. The battlefield trail is a 1.3-mile loop, with frequent signage that describes the backcountry’s roll in the Revolutionary War, the key players in the Battle of Musgrove Mill, and takes you to step by step through the battle.  You’ll walk the soldiers’ path to the ridge where the outnumbered patriot militia waited to attack the loyalists. Of the Revolutionary War sites my family has visited, these signs were the easiest for my children to understand. My 8-year-old was able to read the majority of them aloud to the rest of us, and the pictures were clear and helpful. It was wonderful to gain a clear understanding and appreciation for what happened that day on the exact ridge upon which we stood.

The battlefield hike does have some hills, but our little group didn’t find it too difficult. My 5-year-old was able to hike it without any difficulty, and my 3-year-old needed a piggyback ride for just the last bit of the loop. For young children, a carrier backpack would be helpful.

On our hike back to the car, we stopped at Horseshoe Falls to enjoy the waterfall and have a snack before heading for home. The nature-loving, rock skipping, critter hunting little ones among you will love exploring the edge of the sandy pool at the bottom of the falls.

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site is located at 398 State Park Road in Clinton.  The Horseshoe Falls and battlefield trail is open sunrise to sunset daily, and the gate to the visitor center and the camp trail is open 9 am – 6 pm daily.  The visitor center is open 10 am – 5 pm Friday through Sunday, and other times depending on staff availability. (We went on a Monday morning and there were two very helpful staff members at the Visitor’s Center.) There is a small fee for admission since it is part of the SC State Park system (if you have an SC State Park pass, it’s free).  You can find more information and directions here.

Curious to learn about the battle before you go? Check out this site, which gives an overview of the battle.

We hope you love your hike through a bit of American history. If you enjoy the trip, you’ll be happy to know that there are many state and national parks at the site of revolutionary war battles in the upstate and throughout South Carolina. You’ll find an excellent overview of the war in South Carolina, and links to sites you can visit today here.

Would your kids enjoy a historical field trip to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site?

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