McDowell Nature Preserve

Fall Fun Outdoors

Explore thousands of activities at area parks this season

By Amy Rogers | Photos courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department

Welcome, fall! After a hot and humid summer, it’s finally time to embark on all the autumn adventures our region offers. Here’s some great news if you like kayaking, ax throwing, biking, hiking, sleeping under the stars and making s’mores around a crackling campfire.

All these activities and more are happening right now, in and around Ballantyne. When you think of your favorite park, what comes to mind? Do you picture a small patch of green where you can stroll near your home, or is it a lush, forested shoreline where you can launch your canoe into a placid lake?

Parks come in all shapes and sizes, from neighborhood spots designed to serve a nearby area to regional destinations with lots of amenities.

McDowell Nature Preserve

Ballantyne’s Backyard is a new community park with more than 100 acres of lush, open space. Developed on a former golf course, the site boasts walking and running trails, fish ponds, plenty of green space to stretch out, and a growing program of events and activities. It’s quickly become a favorite lunch-break spot, thanks to its easy neighborhood access and plentiful parking.

Surrounding Ballantyne and beyond, people who love the outdoors can explore a network of 230 parks and facilities located on more than 21,000 acres. These make up the award-winning Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation system. With activities that range from bocce to bird-watching throughout the year, here are some seasonal highlights not to miss.

“Nature at Night” is the signature family-friendly event hosted each fall at McDowell Nature Preserve. After a two-year pandemic pause, the after-dark fun is happening once again in person. October 15 will be an evening of night hiking, activities with animals, spooky storytelling, hayrides, hot dogs around the campfire and more.

Throughout the season, visitors to McDowell can either make a day trip or stay overnight to picnic, fish, hike along miles of walking trails and breathe in fresh, fall air while escaping the noise of city life just a few miles away. Anglers can rent tackle for a nominal charge. There are 56 campsites for primitive, car and RV camping.