If making time for play time is what Making. Living. Better. is all about, then Catawba County is the place to be. The Catawba County Park System’s four major parks (Bakers Mountain, Mountain Creek, Riverbend and St. Stephens) offer more than 1,500 acres of natural habitat to explore by foot, bike, paddle (and dog!) seven days a week.
But that’s just the starting point for your adventure. All told, Catawba County is home to 54 parks, three lakes (all linked by the majestic Catawba River), miles of trails and greenways, and a plethora of sports courts, skate parks, disc golf courses, splash pads, playgrounds, dog parks and more. If you love the outdoors, you’ll find endless ways to enjoy them in Catawba County. Find your adventure below – or better yet, come see for yourself!
Bordered along the north and east by 186 miles of Catawba River shoreline and three lakes, Catawba County’s extensive waterways are a natural playground for boating, paddling, fishing and watersports enthusiasts.
Emanating from the Wateree River in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 220-mile Catawba River winds along Catawba County’s northern and eastern borderline and is the source of the county’s three lakes. The river flows from western North Carolina through the Charlotte Piedmont area and into South Carolina. In addition to being a scenic natural resource and outdoor recreation host, the river is a significant source of the region’s hydroelectric power.
Lake Hickory, a local hot spot for water recreation, encompasses 4,223 acres along the northern edge of Hickory. The lake hosts multiple access points, including boat launches and commercial cruises, and will soon be home to the City of Hickory’s dynamic Riverwalk trail. A popular site for amateur and professional fishing tournaments, the lake is particularly renowned for its large mouth and striped bass.
Lookout Shoals Lake, affectionately known as Lake Lookout, is a 1,270 acre reservoir with nearly 40% of shoreline designated for preservation. Located along the Catawba River Blueway, the lake meanders through a large number of narrow coves ideal for exploration by paddle. It also offers great fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, catfish and striped bass.
Lake Norman is the largest man-made freshwater lake in North Carolina, covering more than 50 square miles along 520 miles of shoreline. The lakes offers a bounty of water recreational opportunities, from casual kayaking to organized fishing tournaments and commercial cruises.
Wondering where to dip in your toe, a fishing line, a paddle, or your boat? Check out these resources for ways to access our local waterways.
Catawba County is home to part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a planned 1,610-mile contiguous trail across 15 counties in North and South Carolina. Of the 126.6 miles planned in Catawba County, 28.6 have been completed. Most sections of trail in the county’s parks are included on the Carolina Thread Trail.
The Catawba County Park System offers an ideal three-day weekend for nature lovers. Start out with a hiking excursion to the peak at Bakers Mountain Park, followed by a day shredding the trails at Mountain Creek Park on your mountain bike. Spend your last day enjoying a leisurely paddle along the Catawba River or taking a relaxing walk through preserved native grasslands at Riverbend Park.
To help fill those before, after and in-between hours, Catawba County is home to an exceptional amount of arts, culture, dining, recreation and entertainment experiences for people of all ages. For ideas of what else to do while you’re here – where to stay, eat, shop, and explore – check out Visit Hickory Metro, our one-stop shop for enjoying all Catawba County has to offer.
Bakers Mountain Park is located at the highest elevation point (1,780 feet) in Catawba County. Known as a great place for hiking and birding, the 190-acre park’s 6-mile trail system climbs over creeks and through mature Chestnut Oak forest, leading to a mountaintop observation deck with stunning year-round views. The park also features a paved Literacy Trail perfect for getting youngsters engaged with the outdoors.
Catawba County’s newest outdoor destination, Mountain Creek Park, resides on 606 acres on the shores of Lake Norman in Sherrills Ford. Mountain biking is at the heart this park, which features a pump track and 18.7 miles of trails with enough connections to ensure you rarely have to ride the same route twice. Hikers, trail runners and others seeking an outdoor adventure are also welcome to enjoy the trails and the park’s other amenities, including kayak/canoe lake access, an adventure playground, pickleball courts and a dog park.
Riverbend Park was named after its idyllic location along 1.25 miles of Catawba River shoreline. Its 690 acres feature 19.7 miles of hiking and biking trails, kayak/canoe river access, a 2-acre dog park, and an observation deck perfect for viewing Oxford Dam or casting a line. Riverbend’s trail system winds through two distinct habitats – densely wooded upland forest and preserved native grasslands – which have become affectionately known as "trail runner’s heaven."
This suburban oasis provides 9 acres of escape into nature nestled on the outskirts of Hickory. Its most prominent feature is a popular one-acre dog park where Fido is free to romp through grassy fields while locals relax and catch up under the trees. The park also features a playground, horseshoe pits, paved Literacy Trail, and wooded 1/3 mile hiking loop.
In addition to the Catawba County Park System, our cities and towns offer a broad range of park experiences. From disc golf and splash pads to hiking, mountain biking, recreation centers and organized sports, our local parks ensure that access to play is never far away.