Our Favorite Hikes Across the Triangle

Our Favorite Hikes Across the Triangle

As a father of four children under ten years old, one of our favorite ways to spend time outdoors as a family is to hike at our local parks. There is nothing better than packing up our backpacks and hiking sticks, loading up our vehicle, and traveling to a local park to explore new places and hike the trails, especially on a beautiful sunny day. Since relocating to the Triangle seven years ago, we have traveled across the area and have visited dozens of parks with hiking trails. From municipal parks to county parks to state parks to nature preserves, the Triangle has a trail for every ability, age, and family. The following are our favorite hikes across the Triangle.

Clemmons Educational State Forest – Clayton

Tree Cookie Exhibit at Clemmons Educational State Forest

Facts & Figures

Address: 2256 Old U.S. Hwy 70, Clayton, NC 27520

County: Johnston and Wake

Size: 825 acres, 1.289 square miles

Hours:

  • Saturday & Sunday: 11am-8pm
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday-Friday: 9am-5pm

Phone: (919) 553-5651

Websitehttps://www.ncesf.org/clemmons.html

Management: North Carolina Forest Service

Activities/Amenities:

  • Outdoor Education Workshops
  • Picnic Facilities
  • Ranger Conducted Classes
  • Trails
    • Forest Geology Trail with “Talking Rocks”
    • “Talking Tree” Trail
    • Forest Demonstration Trail
    • Watershed Extension Loop

Overview

Clemmons Educational State Forest is an 825-acre educational state forest in Clayton, North Carolina. Opened in 1976, it is North Carolina’s first educational state forest and is managed by the North Carolina Forest Service. Clemmons Educational State Forest offers a variety of educational and recreational opportunities free of charge. It is situated between the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions and features pine stands and hardwoods, along with streams and rock formations. There are a variety of accessible trails featuring exhibits that teach about trees and forest management practices, including the “talking trees” and “talking rocks” trails. Conveniently located on Old U.S. Hwy. 70 in Clayton, it is less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Raleigh, making it easily accessible to anyone in the Triangle.

Eno River State Park – Durham

View of Eno River at Eno River State Park

Facts & Figures

Address: 6101 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705

Counties: Durham, Orange

Size: 4,312 acres

Hours: Open daily from 7:30am to 9:30pm

Phone: (919) 383-1686

Websitehttps://www.ncparks.gov/eno-river-state-park/home

Management: North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Parks & Recreation

Activities/Amenities:

  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Paddling
  • Fishing
  • Picnicking

Overview

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Eno River State Park is a quick drive from Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, as well as other parts of the Triangle. At 4,312 acres, the state park offers five access areas along a 12-mile stretch of the Eno River. The park has a rich history with the river flowing through mature forests and historic mill and home sites. Nearly 30 miles of trails along the river provide a variety of activities including backcountry camping by permit, fishing, hiking, and paddling, and is a popular spot for photography and sightseeing.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve – Cary

View of Ravine at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Facts & Figures

Address: 2626 Kildaire Farm Rd, Cary, NC 27518

County: Wake

Size: 140 acres

Hours: Open daily from 9:00am to sunset

Phone: (919) 387-5980

Websiteshttps://www.townofcary.org/recreation-enjoyment/parks-greenways-environment/parks/stevens-nature-center-at-hemlock-bluffs-nature-preserve

https://www.hemlockbluffs.org

Management: Joint partnership between the Town of Cary, Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources and the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Parks & Recreation

Activities/Amenities:

  • Hiking
  • Nature Programs
  • Sightseeing

Overview

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is a joint project between the Town of Cary and the State of North Carolina. The majority of land is owned by the state, with a small parcel owned by the Town of Cary. The area is named for the Hemlock trees which grow in this area, which is rare and unique for the Piedmont region of North Carolina and is why they are protected. Hemlock trees typically grow in the Westernmost part of the state in the mountains, but a small forest of Hemlocks lie here in the heart of the Piedmont and Triangle area of North Carolina, making for a unique site.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve features the Stevens Nature Center, over three miles of hiking trails with interpretive signage, and observation decks with scenic overlooks. It is a great place for families with small children, as there are several short loops for hiking, many covered with wood chips.

Raven Rock State Park – Lillington

Rock Formations at Raven Rock State Park

Facts & Figures

Address: 3009 Raven Rock Road, Lillington, NC 27546

County: Harnett

Size: 4,810 acres

Hours: Open daily from 7:00am to 7:00pm

Phone: (910) 893-4888

Websitehttps://www.ncparks.gov/raven-rock-state-park/home

Management: North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Parks & Recreation

Activities/Amenities:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Paddling
  • Picnicking

Overview

Located along the Cape Fear River Valley in Lillington, NC in Harnett County, Raven Rock State Park offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities including camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, paddling, and picnicking. Less than an hour drive from Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Pinehurst, it is a popular place for family hiking. It is especially beautiful in the fall season when the leaves begin to change color. Hiking terrain varies from easy to difficult, with a variety of loops and trails for all ages. The Cape Fear River is also a popular spot for paddling. Although there is no river access to launch or land boats, the park does offer a canoe camping spot along the river. Check with the State Park Office for information. Nearby Cape Fear River Adventuresoffers tubing and paddling trips.

Williamson Nature Preserve – Raleigh

Old Farm Structures at Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve

Facts & Figures

Address: 4409 Mial Plantation Road, Raleigh, NC 27610

County: Wake and Johnston

Size: 405 acres

Hours: Open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm

Phone: (919) 908-8809

Websiteshttps://www.triangleland.org/explore/nature-preserves/williamson-preserve

Management: Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC)

Activities/Amenities:

  • Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Nature Exploration

Overview

Opened in late September 2020, the Bailey and Sarah Williamson Preserve is the Triangle Land Conservancy’s newest nature preserve in the Triangle area of North Carolina. With nine miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, the preserve is a prime place for exploring nature and wildlife. Situated on the border of Wake and Johnston Counties, the 405-acre preserve lies along the Neuse River and is accessible from the main parking lot off of Mial Plantation Road, as well as along the Neuse River Greenway. The preserve is managed by the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) “with a shared vision and commitment to open space by Wake County, the Land and Water Fund, Johnston County, the Environmental Enhancement Grant Program, individuals who supported TLC’s Our Water, Our Land campaign; and the Williamson family who donated more than 60% of the land’s value.”

Published by Explore NC

I am a father of four, a camp and outdoor recreation professional, and a freelance writer. I have over twenty years of experience in the outdoor industry and over a decade of experience as a freelance writer. I enjoy camping, cycling, golfing, hiking, kayaking, running, swimming, and triathlons, as well as traveling, volunteering, and writing. I live in Clayton, North Carolina.

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