Looking for a break from the city? Try out Latta Nature Preserve! With over 1,460 acres of land, Latta Nature Preserve is the largest nature preserve in Mecklenburg County and a great place to plan your next day trip! First opened in 1981, the Latta Nature Preserve spans across a peninsula into Mountain Island Lake with a wide variety of vegetation and wildlife. Originally a cotton plantation used by Mr. James Latta in the 1800s, the preserve has grown to now protect various natural communities including the Beatties Ford Basic Forest natural heritage site. Now that you know some background information on the Latta Nature Preserve, we've put together a guide to walk you through all that you can do in the area's largest nature preserve.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
The Latta Nature Preserve offers over 16 miles of trails available for hiking and horseback riding to enjoy the beautiful scenery within the forest. Being the only public property open to horseback riding, visitors can bring their own horses to enjoy thirteen miles of trail. While the county does not provide horses for rental, visitors have ample space to bring trailers at the designated parking lot and start their adventure.
Gar Creek Access
While on the trails, you'll be surrounded by the beauty of the natural wildlife within the preserve with over 130 different species of plants and animals. Some of these species include bald eagles, wild turkeys, red foxes, gray foxes, red-spotted newts and minks! Popular trails include the Buzzard Rock Trail, which takes you to a waterfront view of Mountain Island Lake, and the Hill Trail, a two mile trail that can take you into the Latta Springs Neighborhood. You can even bring your pet along for the day, as hiking trails are open to dogs provided they remain on a leash. The Latta Nature Preserve is also home to the largest population of puttyroot orchids in Mecklenburg County. Overall, if you are a nature enthusiast, this is the place to be!
Trails are dog-inclusive
Get Out on the Water
For all the lake fanatics, the Latta Nature Preserve provides endless opportunities to get on the water. With two launch spots, those who enjoy paddling can get direct access into Gar Creek and Mountain Island Lake. Those who enjoy fishing, kayaking and paddling can get access to the water from the two launch spots, and participate in upcoming guide services listed here. Don't forget to pack lunch or grab take-out from one of our many great restaurants! There are a variety of picnic areas that are first-come-first-serve while the larger shelters are available by reservation (call 980-395-2877) with restrooms available nearby along with a sand volleyball court. An ADA accessible ramp is also available.
Fishing enthusiasts will love the bite on Mountain Island Lake, with numerous opportunities available including a fishing dock. Some of the species include largemouth bass, channel catfish and blue catfish. All anglers aged 16 and older will need a North Carolina fishing license.
Take a Step into History
For the history buffs, the Historic Latta Plantation is an incredible opportunity to experience life in North Carolina in the 1800s. The restored 19th century federal-style home, formerly settled by Mr. James Latta, includes the plantation house along with carriage barns, cabins and outbuildings. With over 40,000 annual visitors, the Latta Plantation offers special events, summer camps, workshops, and educational programs.
Ken, farm manager, with his Sheep
There is more than meets the eye when stepping onto the plantation, as each visitor can immerse themselves into the lifestyle in the 1800s through all of the offerings provided. Living history events paint the vivid picture of life in the Carolina backcountry, while summer camps provide children the opportunity to truly learn about the life of those in the Civil War era. An exclusive program offered at the Latta Plantation is the Life on the Farm program.
Home to several historic breeds of livestock, this program shows students the lifestyle of settlers in the 19th century Carolinas along with the importance of caring for animals on a farm. Some of the animals at Latta include chickens, hogs, a donkey and plenty of sheep! If you have a special event coming up, the Historic Latta Plantation provides a one-of-a-kind historical venue for weddings and celebrations! From any event ranging from weddings to corporate picnics to family reunions, Historic Latta Plantation serves as a beautiful historical backdrop for any special occasion in your life.
Soar into Fun
Home to the largest eagle aviary in the Southeast, you can bring the whole family out to see eagles, falcons, owls, hawks and many more birds of prey at the Carolina Raptor Center. Take a self-guided tour along the nature trail, which brings you to over 30 different species of birds of prey in the outdoor aviary.
The Carolina Raptor Center is located within 57 acres of the Latta Nature Preserve, and provides a wide host of environmental educational programs. The Raptor Center is dedicated to the rehabilitation, conservation and research of birds of prey, and has programs dedicated to all age ranges! The Carolina Raptor Center has a strong focus on rescuing birds of prey, with at least 800 to 1,000 injured birds being brought in to the Raptor Medical Center each year.
Carolina Raptor Center
Make sure to visit the new Quest Center, your one-stop destination for outdoor recreation and environmental education. Open from 7am to sunset, The Quest Center is partnered with the Carolina Raptor Center and here you will be able to take a hike or segway tour through the trails, visit exhibits on sustainability, or learn about the role of Mountain Island Lake in Charlotte's watershed!
Quest Center rendering
The Latta Nature Preserve is the home to multiple other amenities for incoming visitors, such as the outdoor amphitheater, discovery hall, gift shop and more! Before you go, take a trip by the National Wildlife Federation certified Backyard Habitat Garden where you can take a tour through the butterfly gardens and garden stream.
Couple at Latta Nature Preserve
Whether you're planning a fishing trip, bringing the horse out for a stroll, or simply taking in the nature, we hope to see you at the Latta Nature Preserve! Tag us in your day trips on social media @VisitLakeNorman for a chance to be featured.