Posted by: Roby Robertson | January 15, 2008

Lake Norman State Park

lake norman state park

With the anticipation of a new year comes the traditional flurry of resolutions to live more healthfully and savor every day. If either of those resolutions sounds familiar, you can make the most of them by heading out to Lake Norman State Park in Troutman, where visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing, swimming and camping in a lush environment without a long drive and steep fees. Established in 1962 when Duke Power donated 1,328 acres of land on the northeastern shore of Lake Norman to the North Carolina state park system, Lake Norman State Park now covers almost 2,000 acres.“Before there were lake homes, this was the only place that people could come to enjoy the lake,” says Casey Rhinehart, the park superintendent, who has worked at and lived in the park for 17 years. “The old-timers talk about how wild this place was (with vegetation).”
Rhinehart began working at the park not long after Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989. Fallen trees rendered many of the trails useless and destroyed some of the minor infrastructure, such as picnic tables and shelters. The park staff worked for two years to recover from the damage. Soon after that work was completed, a state parks bond passed that allocated $30 million for parks.

Bonds give boost“It was a huge financial boost to parks all over the state,” Rhinehart says. “This park had stayed the same from 1960 to 1990, and that bond gave us money to build the community building. Not long after that, they passed the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (now the primary funding source for improving state parks), and we built the new swimming area with that money and made the campground showers handicapped-accessible.”
Today the park includes 13 miles of Lake Norman shoreline, with a swimming beach, its own 33-acre lake named Park Lake, a boat launch, a handicapped-accessible fishing pier, canoe and pedal boat rentals, almost 20 miles of hikable trails, including13 miles of mountain biking trails, tent, trailer and recreational vehicle campsites, showers, picnic areas and shelters, and a community building.

Contributions of volunteersWhile the park has eight full-time employees, volunteers have contributed significantly to its offerings. The popular mountain bike trail, named the Itusi Trail for the Catawba Indian word for hawk, was designed and built and is maintained by volunteers from various cycling clubs. Winding through the hardwood forests of the park, the trail offers a nice challenge, with gentle but steady climbs in the midst of beautiful scenery.
“When you get back on the trails, there are 150-year-old oaks and hickories,” Rhinehart says. “The topography is these rolling hills and creek bottoms. There are a lot of beautiful scenic vistas.”

Volunteers will break ground on the fourth phase of the mountain bike trails next winter, and they will include more technical features in the 2- to 4-mile route.
The additional trails are just one development Rhinehart hopes to see for the park in the near future.

“We are getting ready to go through a general management plan revision, and there will be time for public comment in terms of the future of the park. We are going to look at all the issues and push for a visitor center, facility upgrades, trail development on our newest land and creating greenway trails throughout the park. I would personally like to see something like a paved bike path that is level for kids and older people.”

As the area around the park continues to grow in population, Rhinehart suspects that the use of the park and its importance to the community will increase significantly. And once visitors discover the beauty and variety of the space, they are sure to return, sating their desire to live full and healthy lives.

Want to Go?Want to plan a visit to Lake Norman State Park or learn more about the North Carolina park system? Visit

Quick FactsLake Norman State Park
159 Inland Sea LaneTroutman, NC704-528-6350

Park hours
November-February, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
March and October, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
April, May, September, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
June-August, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day

Note: The gate that provides access to the swimming area, Cove picnic area (including the Osprey and Kingfisher shelters, the accessible fishing pier and Lake Shore trailhead) is kept closed on weekdays from December through March 14. Hikers may access the trail from the boat launch during these periods.

Park office hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays; closed state holidays.


Boating: Pedal boats and canoes are available for rent from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer, subject to staff availability. Privately owned boats and watercraft may use the boat launch area at the south end of the park. Use of the area is free, but cars must leave the parking area by the park’s closing time.

Camping: Tent pads, picnic tables and grills are available at 33 sites on a first-come, first-served basis for a fee. The family campground is open March 15-Nov. 30. Group tent sites for up to 25 people are available April-November.

Community building: A community building with a large meeting room, kitchen, restrooms and fireplace may be rented for events.Education and events: Rangers hold educational and interpretive programs about Lake Norman State Park. Special group programs can be arranged.Fishing: Popular game fish in Lake Norman include crappie, bluegill and yellow perch, as well as striped, largemouth and white bass. The smaller park lake also has some choice fishing spots. Regulations of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission apply for both lakes.

Hiking: Alder Trail is an easy 0.8-mile loop that begins at the Park Lake parking lot. Lake Shore Trail, a moderate 5-mile trail, begins at a parking lot near the Cove picnic area located off of Shortleaf Lane. Take the Short Turn trail to cut your hiking distance in half. Hiking also is allowed on the Itusi Trail, although hikers must yield to mountain bikers using this trail.

Biking: The 13-mile Itusi Trail is ideal for novices as well as accomplished riders. To protect the Itusi Trail from damage, the trail is closed whenever conditions are too wet to allow riders.
Picnicking: There are three picnic areas. One is near the swimming area and accessible fishing pier, one is near the entrance, and another is on a ridge across the cove from the swimming area. All have restrooms, tables and grills.

Swimming: A swim area in the south area of the park at the end of State Park Road near an accessible fishing pier and the pier picnic area includes a 125-yard-long sand beach, parking area and bathhouse with concession stand, restrooms, changing stalls, warm showers and lockers. The complex is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily April 1-Oct. 31. The concession stand is open from noon until 5:45 p.m. on spring and fall weekends. The park charges a fee to swim only when lifeguards are present. Pets are not allowed in the swim area, beach buildings or adjacent grassy hillsides and may not be left unattended anywhere in the park. Coolers are allowed, although glass and metal containers are prohibited.

Check for fees.

Contact your Lake Norman Agent at 704 451 7051 for Real Estate Options at Lake Norman.

Information courtesy of Rosie Molinary,Richard Rudisill and Lake Norman Magazine.

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