Great Outdoors in the Triangle: Nature Trails and Natural Areas Edition
If you’re looking for a way to get out of the house and have a brief getaway, without having to take a plane or an extended road trip, you can always try your local park. The Triangle area has a number of great parks and natural areas to choose from - these are some great places to enjoy the world around you when you need some quiet time in nature.
Neuse River Trail
The Neuse River trail provides 28 miles of paved trails from the Falls Lake dam to the Wake County line in southeast Raleigh. With trails winding across boardwalks and suspension bridges over wetlands, hugging close to the Neuse River itself, many who frequent the Neuse River Trail consider it to be the crowning jewel of the Capital Area Greenway System.
There are plenty of access points for you to get started on your Neuse River adventure, and each mile along the trail provides beautiful scenery. To get started, you may want to consult this map of the trail, which provides information about parking, entry points, and even canoe launches for those wanting to spend a day on the water.
William B. Umstead State Park is one of North Carolina’s most-visited state parks, and it’s not hard to understand why. Umstead Park offers 22 miles of trails at a variety of difficulties, including the Potts Branch Trail, which meanders 1.3 miles through the park and follows the paths of three streams. If a walk in the park isn’t quite your thing, Umstead also includes areas open for horseback riding and mountain biking. There are also plenty of picnic spots in beautiful natural areas.
Eno River State Park
Eno River State Park is a gem of natural areas nestled about 10 miles from downtown Durham. The park offers about 30 miles of trails of varying lengths and difficulties that meander near the Eno River, a swift shallow stream that flows from northwest Orange County into Durham County. The trails in the park are marked with blazes painted on trees to keep you on the right track. In addition to the trails, there are also picnic shelters and campsites.
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve covers 140 acres and provides 3 miles of mulched nature trails that pass by a series of small overlooks. The preserve is home to a unique cluster of Eastern Hemlock trees as well as the Stevens Nature Center. The Nature Center provides interactive nature and historical exhibits as well as educational programs. The Nature Preserve gates open at 9:00 am and close at sunset.
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Occoneechee Mountain is the tallest spot in the Triangle, so trails here may require a little bit of climbing. The state natural area offers three miles of nature trails through forests and along river bluffs. Convenient picnic tables are available under shady oak trees, and park rangers hold regularly scheduled educational programs. For those who are into outdoor sports, fishing is available in quiet ponds and in the nearby Eno River.
Of course, these are just some of the beautiful trails and natural areas around the Triangle - there are many more!