History, Hiking and Drinks — The perfect day, from Crowders Mountain to Cavendish Brewing Co.
One close-by outdoor experience you won't want to miss up is Crowders Mountain State Park. A quick drive from Uptown Charlotte, sitting just above Veronet Vineyards and Winery, these trails—both challenging and family and pet friendly—offer 25-mile views of the surrounding Piedmont. Take in views like the Charlotte skyline to the east and the mountain peaks to the west, or head down to the nine-acre Lake Crawford for canoeing and to cast your luck at fishing then finish the day with local beer and pizza at nearby Cavendish Brewing.
A Mountain of History
Long before Crowders Mountain was an official state park the land was used primarily for agriculture products such as cotton, tobacco, corn, soybeans, and livestock. The mountain itself has a rich history spanning the late 1800s and early 1900s that, according to North Carolina State Parks “was the backdrop for a mineral spring resort, a seminary, an all-women’s college, and an African American college. The Pinnacle was used as a backstop for Camp Chronicle, a United States artillery range during the last few weeks of World War I.”
There are many families, particularly of African descent, that are vital to the history of Crowders Mountain and Gaston County as a whole, with one family in particular leaving a legacy that has shaped the county. Born as slaves, Jake and Rebecca Brevard fought their way to a free life and became “early African American/Cherokee Indian landowners in Gaston County,” owning farmland on the mountain.
Parents to 14 children, the Brevards were not only family but business people. After Jake Brevard’s 1912 death, Rebecca Brevard sold china she earned from working and purchased an additional twenty-three-and-one-quarter acres of land for her and her family. On February 10, 1941, she passed away in Crowders Mountain with her final resting place being Lincoln Academy Cemetery in Gastonia, North Carolina.
The history of this now-tourist destination doesn’t begin or end there. 1970 saw a group of student protesters come together to fight for and protect Crowders Mountain from a strip-mining campaign. The Gaston Gazette first reported that “Club members, joined by the Gaston County Conservation Society, began circulating petitions when they learned Crowders Mountain was being surveyed for strip mining. Plans rapidly emerged to march and protest the mining of the land.”
Knowing the history of Henry’s Knob, a South Carolina mountain that suffered from strip mining, these students refused to allow what happened there to happen to Crowders Mountain, leading to the eventual designation as a state park in 1974.
The Pinnacle and additional land were purchased in 1988 with an additional 2,000 acres purchased in the year 2000, connecting the park to Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park located in South Carolina, shaping the park to what we know it as today.
Choosing a Trail
This mountain, once carefully harvested and then adamantly protected, is nestled right within the Piedmont. This lone mountain range is comprised of two peaks: Crowders Mountain to the northeast and The Pinnacle to the west. With 10 trails to choose from, day-trippers and through-hikers alike can take in the lake views, hike the trails and spend time deep in nature just outside the city.
Entering the trail head at the Sparrow Springs Access and Visitors Center, hikers choose between two main trails at a split a quarter-mile in. The Pinnacle, the more strenuous of the two trails at the split, runs about four-miles round trip while the trail to the right—Crowders Mountain Trail—is a moderate six miles round-trip.
The Backside Trail, another strenuous hike, begins at the Linwood Access area and ends at the summit of Crowders Mountain. Those looking for a more challenging hike would be served well by both the Backside and Pinnacle Trails while the Family Camping Trail and Fern Trail, both less than one mile each, are great for families.
A few weeks ago, as fall was settling in, my family of four (and a friend) headed to Crowders Mountain to experience the history and hiking for ourselves. Though I'd recently visited Veronét Vineyards and had spent time admiring the mountain above, I'd not yet experience it on-foot. Choosing a less strenuous hike for the family made for a mindful, slow Sunday, one full of laughs, exploration and the bonding we so often miss as the busy weeks overtake us. Watching the kids take in the scent of the damp fall leaves and carelessly crunching acorns underfoot was a gentle reminder of those who'd raised families on this very land long before us and the gift the students of the 70's gave by their diligence for preservation.
Behind the Cavendish Community
Nearby Cavendish Brewing Company, 15-minutes from the visitor’s center, has a vast history all its own. Established in April 2017, this hip spot was once a Studebaker car dealership before becoming a Dodge dealership showroom. This spacious location, a building deep in downtown Gastonia's history, was scouted by owner Scott Cavendish. Looking for a space outside of the city that would be a perfect home for not only local beer and community, this historic building was converted into Gastonia's first and only brewery.
“I’ve had a passion for beer for over 20 years,” Cavendish says of his inspiration for starting a brewery. After reading books on his hobby of homebrewing, Cavendish eventually decided to take his life savings and invest in his passion while committing to keeping the building's integrity in tact.
Cavendish, a Charlotte resident, decided to open his brewery in a region that wasn’t yet saturated with breweries, so the former dealership was the perfect fit for his vision. “It had all of the right zoning requirements," Cavendish says and, like many Gaston County properties, "the price was right" and Cavendish purchased the block. Soon thereafter the iconic bright red building with purple and turquoise chairs lining the front porch which sets of the eclectic interior décor, along with the expansive patio, became a neighborhood hotspot.
From Trails to Brews
Cavendish Brewing Company’s award-winning beer draws not only hikers but those looking to escape the hustle of the nearby city. At the bar, guests can find 12 locally produced canned beers with 26 on tap alongside a selection of wine, kombucha and other beverages. Cavendish brews a variety of styles—hoppy, light, amber, dark, nitro, sour, funky—on top of the traditional Old World styles. The Oktoberfest Märzen or Grizzly Brown Ale are great jumping off points to dive into traditional European brews. In addition to drinks, Cavendish Brewing houses a restaurant with nachos, quesadillas and pizza (their best-seller).
As we made our way to the bar, after stopping to chat with a few friendly dogs, we settled on Foggy Mountain Cave-In, a New England style IPA and glasses of pinot grigio and sangria. From the kitchen, we grabbed a pizza and a warm pretzel (with garlic and hot cheese), which are great for patio sharing. With a variety of beverages to choose from, open outdoor space for the kids to play, and hearty food to fill up on after a long walk in the woods, Crowders and Cavendish pair perfectly for a Sunday afternoon.