Riverbend Park located in the small North Carolinian town of Conover, is only a short one hour drive from Charlotte and features 690 acres with 1.25-miles of shoreline along the Catawba River, and 19.7 miles of walkable trails.
2020 has proven difficult in regards of finding trails that are not packed and with enough separation for appropriate social distancing. It appears everyone has gotten into hiking and exploring North Carolina during quarantine (which is wonderful). Unless you leave at the crack of dawn, on a week day, you most likely would miss the window of opportunity to enter a popular spot.
We found Riverbend Park in Conover by pure chance and didn’t really think it would be anything that spectacular. Once we started our adventure we were pleasantly surprised. The entrance to the Park is visible from the road and there is a pretty large parking lot along with bathroom facilities right as you enter. Additional parking is available if you continue down the road pass the main parking lot to your right.
We chose to park at the overflow parking as we had a picnic with us and were getting pretty hungry and the shaded spot under the large trees right before the entrance to the trailhead looked like the perfect place to enjoy it.
Once the littles were fed and happy, we began our hike following the pine needle carpeted path between the shrub. There are a little less than 20 miles of mostly moderate trails are available here from which you can choose. We decided on following the red trail (about 4 miles long) and then taking the blue one for a bit before coming back to the red one again. This way we optimized and got to take the walk by the river, pass the stream and into the woods for a short bit.
There are maps located along the way which will point you into the right direction depending on where you want to go and what you are wanting to see. If you get tired there are multiple benches scattered along the way for a shaded place to rest. They have been placed here thanks to an Eagle Scout project done years back. Little signs are located next to plants and bushed giving great information on what is before you and identifying various species of vegetation. There is a fishing pier and a kayak launch by the water.
There is a little stream at the about half mile mark from the beginning of the trail where the kids decided to play for some time digging for minerals and chasing the frogs and the little minnows. It felt great dipping our toes in the cold water in the 80 degree summer day listening to the kids giggles and the birds chirping.
After about an hour here we continued on the path. This next part of the trail passes by the river and isn’t in the woods so if you are here during the summer like we were make sure you apply a good amount of sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
The walk by the river is so peaceful and pretty and there are multiple opportunities to get down and close to the shoreline but make sure to be on high alert as the nearby dam opens occasionally bringing the water levels to sudden rise.
After some play by the water and shell collecting we stopped for a quick snack on one of the benches along the way before continuing on the trail under the shade of mature river birches and beech trees, over little bridges and back to the little stream for some more water play. We had the delight of spotting a family of deer but they were too fast and shy so we were not able to snap a good picture of them.
A few nice picnic areas and a large shed covering a number of tables as well as grills are available. A nice dog park ($20 annual fee is required to be able to use the dog park, but dogs are allowed for free on the trail and on a leash).
Riverbend Park is located at 6700 N NC Hwy 16 in Conover, NC and is open Daily from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. The Park is closed on Wednesday.