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HIKING TRAILS
& Fun Hiking Adventures
in Chapel Hill, Durham Raleigh NC

Just another reason why North Carolina is a great place to live: there are so many beautiful parks, woodland areas, forests, nature trails & hiking paths! Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, Cary, Hillsborough, Chatham County and surrounding areas in North Carolina offer wonderful hiking trails, many with creeks and rivers. These are some of our favorites.

 
Brumley Nature Preserve (Triangle Land Conservancy)
A 613-acre preserve in Orange County, located in the Hillsborough, NC area
3055 New Hope Church Rd. Chapel Hill, NC 27514

15 miles of trails, with about half designated for hiking and the rest open to mountain bikes; meadows and pond; see old barns and the old foundations of homesites from the past; at least 260 different species of flora and fauna including frogs, turtles, beavers, muskrats, wild turkeys, and bobcats. 
Check out the Brumley Nature Preserve MAP / hiking trails here
 

NC Botanical Gardens Hiking Trails (trail paths begin adjacent to the gardens but not in the gardens), Chapel Hill, NC
100 Old Mason Farm Rd., Chapel Hill, NC

In Chapel Hill we are fortunate to have the beautiful Piedmont Nature Trail hiking trails literally right in the heart of town, but hidden away so that when we hike there it feels like we are in the mountains! 

The Piedmont Nature Trail begin right next to the NC Botanical Gardens (the trail starts at the parking lot), and there are several different trails you can follow.  If you are hiking with kids you could try the half-mile Streamside Trail, the 3/4 mile Oak Hickory Trail, or combine trails for a longer hike up into the hills and back. 

Kids love to skip stones standing on the sandy creek bed along the hiking paths; the creek and hiking paths feel relatively cool on hot summer days thanks to the beautiful lush green canopy of trees.  In the Fall the leaves are beautiful.  We love hiking at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill at any time of year. 

If we feel like we just need some fresh air and let the kids run around we just pop over to the hiking trails and go for a fun hike. It's an amazing jewel in the heart of Chapel Hill and we are fortunate to have these hiking trails literally just around the corner in Chapel Hill.  (You don't have to drive a long way for a lovely hike in Chapel Hill!) 

Of course the NC Botanical Garden itself is a wonderful destination for a leisurely walk and exploring with your family.  The NC Botanical Garden features a beautiful Children's Garden (work is in progress during renovations), as well as an education center with a children's corner with exhibits an interactive learning centers.  The NC Botanical Garden also features local artists' sculptures on display; always something wonderful to discover. 

Whether you go just for a hike, or just to see the gardens, or both, it's a great family-friendly place to relax, get some exercise and fresh air, and have fun with your kids.  (There is a picnic area near the parking lot, so it's also a convenient place for a picnic on a nice day.)

 

Duke Forest in Orange County, NC (spanning parts of Chapel Hill and Durham)
Hiking Paths begin at Whitfield Rd. and Mt. Sinai in Chapel Hill, NC
Especially when the weather is glorious, drive along Whitfield Rd. or Mt. Sinai in Chapel Hill / Durham NC and you will see lots of cars parked along the entry ways for the Duke Forest hiking paths, as well as happy hikers off for an adventures.  Local families treasure the Duke Forest hiking paths and kids enjoy going on a hiking adventure that's just around the corner from home.

 

Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
Mount Sinai Rd  (off NC Highway 86), parking on Mt. Sinai on the right just before New Hope Creek, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
The Johnston Mill Nature Preserve is a beautiful treasure for taking a hike on a beautiful day; one of our favorite places to meet with other families and their kids to go on an expedition! (It's just a few minutes from the Harris Teeter/Timberlyne - convenient to downtown Chapel Hill.)  This 296-acre Nature Preserve has three miles of hiking trails that meander through beautiful old forests, past historic mill sites, and along pretty creeks and streams.  The trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.  The parking area is located just over a mile east of NC Highway 86, and has a parking area on the right just before New Hope Creek on Mount Sinai.  For more information visit the Triangle Land Conservancy website (the website also features many other beautiful nature treasures in the Triangle.)

(919) 833-3662
 

Ayr Mount & Poet's Walk, Hillsborough, NC
376 St. Mary's Rd, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Poet's Walk at Ayr Mount is a lovely one-mile walking trail that meanders past the historic Ayr Mount Federal-Era plantation home (c. 1815), along the Eno River, through the woods, across meadows and past the pond and back up a grassy hill to Ayr Mount.  There are picnic tables and shady areas, and there is a wooden cubby at the beginning of the walk that is stocked with little pieces of paper and little pencils for you to bring along with you on your walk, and compose a poem to place in the box at the end of the walk upon your return.  Our children have written some really lovely poems on our walks at Ayr Mount.

Poet's Walk is open daily all year, from 9 am to 5 pm in winter months; and is open later in the Spring, Summer and Fall (until 6pm in Mar, Apr, Sept & Oct; until 7pm in May & Aug; until 8pm  in Jun & July). The trail is free / open daily year round. Dogs are allowed but must be on leashes.

Ayr Mount itself is a beautiful Federal-era home that was built around 1815 by William Kirkland of Ayr, Scotland. Ayr Mount has been restored and exquisitely furnished with period antiques, portraits and other rare antiques. Ayr Mount now is owned by Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, and the home is open for tours (Admittance Fee charged - as of 2011 the fee is $10 per person. Call first for hours and entry fees.) Group rates available. Free parking.
 

Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail
320 Elizabeth Brady Rd (at US Highway 70 and NC Highway 86), Hillsborough, NC 27278
The Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail is a beautiful setting with an interesting history, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The four-mile hiking trail around the 44-acre Occoneechee Speedway Trail site is tucked in forested land where Native Americans lived and where settlers hunted and farmed. The site was the home of horse training by Gen. Julian S. Carr, but is perhaps best known for having subsequently been the home of the original NASCAR stock-car racers' one-mile oval track for developing their driving skills, from 1948 through 1968.

Check out COOL photos of the race track on the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail website

1950's Occoneechee Speedway:


Enlarge View

Enlarge View

Check out the COOL 1951 VIDEO of the raceway, accompanied by a folk-country song all about the track and race experience in the old days at Occoneechee: http://www.historicspeedwaygroup.org/videos.html

According to one of these videos, North Carolina native race car driver Richard Petty is quoted as having said about the Occoneechee Speedway races: "When the races were over here [at Occoneechee] it probably took two weeks for all of the dust to settle in Hillsborough." Stock cars would race at 120 miles an hour around the dirt speedway - that's a lot of dust! However now the area has been taken over by Mother Nature, with lush hiking trails, but the visible ghost of the track and race track structures (including remains of the grandstands), as well as re-built Speedway structures, remain among the forest.

The Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail is open daily; hours vary by seasons; visit website linked above for details.

(919) 732-6886

 

Eno River State Park, Western Trails, Durham, NC
6101 Cole Mill Rd., Durham, NC
The Eno River State Park in Durham offers numerous trails both on the eastern and western sides; the Eno River western trails offer some shorter, easier hikes that are a good start if you are hiking with children.  The Buckquarter Creek trail takes you along the river, with beautiful views of the river and waterfalls.  Kids also love to go river stomping and discover the fish and river life at Few's Ford at the beginning/end of the Buckquarter Creek loop.  There are longer hiking trails as  well, including the Cole Mountain hike (a 3.5 mile loop) that crosses the river on a pedestrian suspension bridge. The Eno River State Park features picnic areas, and restrooms at the Visitor's Center.

Eno River State Park Western Trails - Trail Map

click to enlarge

NOTE: Don't miss the annual Eno River Festival every Summer, usually during the week of the 4th of July! The Eno River Festival features live music on stages throughout the park and next to the river, along with wonderful activities for kids including working with artisans at the pottery wheel, meeting native fish, frogs, salamanders and other Eno River critters, crafts, river stomping and lots more family fun.  The FESTIVAL is located at a DIFFERENT LOCATION along the Eno River from the hiking trails described above.  The annual Festival for the Eno takes place at the West Point on the Eno City Park on 5101 North Roxboro Road in Durham, North Carolina 27704

 

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Virginia Cates Rd (off Orange Grove Rd), Hillsborough, NC 27278
The Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area (Hillsborough, NC near Durham) has been recognized as one of the most important natural areas in the Triangle. (Researchers believe that the area's habitat has remained relatively unchanged since the last Ice Age due to the presence of the rare brown elfin butterfly, as well as several unique plant species.) With over 190 acres of woodland beauty, and 3 miles of trails, it is the highest point in Orange County (at 867 feet). The various habitats found on the mountain support species that are rare and significant in the region. Enjoy the flora and fauna, hiking, scheduled educational walks with Rangers, and fishing streams (N.C. Wildlife Resources Commisison regulations are enforced; N.C. fishing licenses required).

Open May-Aug, 8am-9pm; Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct, 8am-8pm; Nov-Feb, 8am-6pm; closed Christmas Day.

Directions to the Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Click here for the Trail Map


(919) 383-1686

 

American Tobacco Trails in Durham, NC and extending through Chatham & Wake Counties, NC
The American Tobacco Trail extends through Durham NC, Chatham County and Wake County, NC, and is popular with hikers, runners and bikers.  For a leisurely family hike, we like to park at the Museum of Life and Science (433 Murray Ave., Durham, NC), and head south on the recently opened "Bronto Trail," which features a large brontosaurus sculpture looking out at hikers as you pass by on the path.  If you follow the trail along Ellerbee Creek, you can visit the playground at Northgate Park. Further along the trail are the historic Durham Athletic Park and Central Park (featuring a Farmer's Market on Saturdays.)  The American Tobacco Trail has many hiking and biking paths extending from central points throughout the Triangle; you can also pick up the path beginning at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC for a leisurely walk after visiting the museum. It's so nice to include some fresh air and exercise to family outings.

Click here for American Tobacco Trails Maps

 

Hinshaw Greenway, Cary, NC
Marla Dorrel Park, 111 Thurston Dr., Cary, NC
The Hinshaw Greenway hiking trail links several neighborhoods on both sides of US Hwy 1/64, with a fenced walkway over the highway (very interesting for kids to see the little cars way down below; see a photo of the walkway/bridge below. This path is quite an adventure! We walked the path since we "discovered" the Greenway when we went to visit the nearby Kids Together Park.)  The Hinshaw Greenway begins at the Kids Together Park (part of the Marla Dorrel Park, off Cary Parkway near Tryon Rd., located behind the Lowe's Foods shopping center.) 

Check out this Youtube video - scenes from the Hinshaw Greenway

The Kids Together Park is a local family favorite featuring so many cool things for children to discover and explore, including a dragon structure, sand scooper play, and climbing structures.  There is a pavilion for picnics as well.  The Hinshaw Greenway hiking trail access point begins at the far left as you are facing the playground.  (There is not a loop, so you will need to turn around half-way through before your kids get too tired.) Then there is  more fun waiting at the playground when you return!

The Kids Together Park and Playground was designed to be handicapped-accessible; read the wonderful story about the genesis of Kids Together Playground here.

Click here for a Map of the Hinshaw Greenway in Cary, NC

 

Lake Johnson Park Trails, Raleigh NC
4601 Avent Ferry Rd., Raleigh, NC
The Lake Johnson Park Hiking Trails in Raleigh, NC feature both unpaved hiking (West Loop: 1.6 miles) and paved hiking (East Loop: 2.9 miles), with restrooms and picnic areas available.  You can also go paddleboating at the lake in Season, and geocaching.  For a leisurely family hike with kids, try the shorter West Loop (park at the pavilion then cross the road to the beginning of the trail.)  The West Loop hike goes along the lake, and ends the a long boardwalk over the lake. If you are into geocaching you can find treasure boxes along this hiking path. (You can find geocaching treasure caches by visiting www.geocaching.com; all you need is a hand-held GPS or a smart phone with a geocaching app.)

 

Bass Lake, Holly Springs, NC
900 Bass Lake Rd., Holly Springs, NC (a little further afield; approx. an hour drive from Chapel Hill)
Bass Lake offers beautiful hiking trails right along the shores of the lake.  The hiking trails begin right at the Visitor's Center and continue looping along the lake.  The visitor's center features a kids' educational center with live turtles, frogs and other critters; there are also picnic tables so you can plan a picnic after your hike. If you are into geocaching you can find treasure boxes along this hiking path. (You can find geocaching treasure caches by visiting www.geocaching.com; all you need is a hand-held GPS or a smart phone with a geocaching app.)

 

You may also like: Bike Paths and Biking in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, NC
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