Guide showcases region’s 32 best trails

Joshua Kinser has written “Five-Star Trails: Charlotte,” a pocket-sized guide packed with hiking recommendations for 32 of the region’s best trails.Joshua Kinser featured the Botanical Gardens at UNC Charlotte in his book, “Five-Star Trails: Charlotte.” It’s one of 32 trails in the hiking guide. (Justin Vick/MI Monitor photo)

The guide includes maps, directions, GPS coordinates, elevation profiles and tips for the best hikes for children, seclusion, history lovers and scenery.

Kinser, of Chimney Rock, is a writer, musician and wildlife biology field technician for the U.S. Forest Service. He’s been in the backcountry of Florida, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Montana’s Glacier National Park, and in California’s National Forest lands surrounding Yosemite National Park.

Kinser took time from his travels to answer a few questions about Charlotte-area trails.

You’ve been on some pretty adventurous hikes. How does an experienced hiker get excited about trails through Charlotte when there aren’t really mountains here?

I love the diversity of landscapes that you can find around Charlotte.

Actually, the mountains are a lot closer than most Charlotteans think. South Mountains State Park is just an hour’s drive from west Charlotte, and it is one of my favorite parks in western North Carolina.

I have hiked hundreds and hundreds of miles in Montana, all over the Hawaiian Islands, across most of Florida and nearly every trail in the Carolinas, and I can say without a doubt that I get very excited about hiking in Charlotte.

This area has more diversity in the types of trails you can hike than most places in the country. On top of that, Charlotte has one of the best greenway systems in the United States.

I love hiking in Charlotte, because you can spend the morning on a beautiful greenway trail that cuts through the heart of this modern city, then have lunch and hike on a mostly level trail that skirts Lake Norman at Jetton Park, and then end the day hiking to a 60-foot high waterfall at South Mountains State Park where you feel like you are in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.

Charlotte is diverse. You can get to the core of the city and get away, as well, all in one day. It’s wonderful.

How much sweat equity went into writing the book?

I hiked every single trail in this book and many more trails, as well. There were a lot of trails I hiked, mapped and wrote about, but then they just didn’t make the cut. They just didn’t stand up to the 32 trails that I included in the book.

The trails in this book are there for a reason, because they are my favorites. They may not be everyone’s favorites, but they are mine.

However, it takes much more time than just hiking the trails. I have to map these trails using a GPS system, and I have to take notes along the way. I also spend time talking with park rangers and experts about the geology, the flora and fauna in these areas, and the historical significance of the place.

When I write books, I want to take readers on a journey. This is about presenting the complete picture of a place to the reader, and in this case, this is the trail. I want to get the reader easily from point A to point B, but I also want them to learn something fascinating along the way. I want the reader to rediscover a place, even if they have hiked that trail a thousand times. There is always something new to discover; sometimes you just have to look in the right place or have the right guide to reveal what is hidden just beneath the surface.

What was your favorite trail in the Charlotte region?

Wow, there are so many favorites that I put in this book.

Apart from walking around the Fourth Ward and stopping for a beer and hot sandwich at Alexander Michael’s, I would have to say one of my favorite hikes, and this may surprise you, was the hike at the Reed Gold Mine. This is not a hard hike that starts in a beautiful forest. You cross a bridge over little meadow creek and then quickly reach the entrance to the mine.

This is a great trail for kids or anyone with a little sense of adventure, because you actually get to go inside the mine. I love doing this hike in summer because the temperature is so much cooler down in the mine and it gives you a break from the hot summer air. You get to explore the mine on your own, as well. There are very few mines and caverns that allow visitors to explore entirely on their own.

Once you come out of the mine, the trail follows along the picturesque creek and then arrives at an old stamp mill that you can also explore on your own. The trail is beautiful and you get to explore the history of the area along the way.

I like trails that are fun, adventurous and tell a good story, and there is hardly a better story than the one that this trail has to tell. Trust me, when the story starts out with a 12-year-old boy finding a 17-pound gold nugget in the creek, you know the trail is going to tell a great story.

What is the most beautiful trail in the Charlotte region?

It does sound cliché, but the trails in this book are all very beautiful in their own way.

How do you compare the unique beauty of seeing the Charlotte skyline peeking out of the trees in the distance from the top of Crowders Mountain to a charging waterfall in the middle of the wilderness of South Mountains State Park?

However, a special trail to me in its unique and astounding beauty is the Falls Mountain Trail in Morrow Mountain State Park. I love the tranquility and the peacefulness that you can find in particularly beautiful wilderness, and the Falls Mountain Trail has that perfect combination of natural beauty, solitude, physical challenge, and a changing landscape that keeps you engaged and amazed from the minute you step foot on the trail to the second you drive out of the park.

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