There are few better ways to get your Zen on than spending an early-autumn afternoon deep in the woods, away from people and traffic and commotion and the stresses of everyday life, communing instead with giant oak trees and winding creeks, maybe a deer off in the distance.
Whether you're a novice or an old hand, the Triangle has a ton of places to hike, from easy nature walks to relatively steep inclines. (Relatively, of course, because we're not in the mountains.) Here we've compiled a list of our seven favorite hiking destinations, along with some basic info you'll need before heading out. Happy trails, everyone!
1. William B. Umstead State Park
Location: 8801 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh
Length: 7.2 miles (Sycamore Trail)
About: There are plenty of quality hiking options at Umstead, but our favorite is the Sycamore Trail, a seven-mile jaunt, parts of it along a winding creek, under a dense canopy of oak trees. Some hills, but nothing you can't handle.
2. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Location: 625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough
Length: 2.2 miles (Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail)
About: Occoneechee Mountain, the tallest spot in the Triangle, will require some climbing, but the payoff—an expansive view from the peak, some 350 feet above the Eno River—is worth the effort. It's not as foliage-rich as the Umstead or Eno parks, but it's often quite beautiful.
3. Eno River State Park
Location: 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham
Length: 3.75 miles (Cox Mountain Trail)
About: Like Umstead, the Eno River State Park offers a plethora of trail options; at just under four miles, the Cox Mountain Trail is the longest. It starts on a rickety elevation bridge above the Eno, then caps in a steep 270-foot climb to the hilltop. Another Eno option: the 2.6-mile Holden Mill Trail, which stands out for its protruding rock formations. After it rains, this can be especially tricky. Be careful.
4. Blue Jay Point County Park
Location: 3200 Pleasant Union Church Road, Raleigh
Length: 3.1 miles (Falls Lake Trail)
About: Part of the Mountains-to-Sea trail network, the Falls Lake Trail hugs the edges of Blue Jay Point County Park, looking out at several points into the vastness of Falls Lake. There are some short climbs, but also several places to stop, relax, and dip your toes in the water.
5. Durant Nature Preserve
Location: 8305 Camp Durant Road, Raleigh
Length: 1.88 miles (Border Trail)
About: There are five miles of trails within the Durant Nature Preserve, one of the lushest and most verdant places in the Triangle. The Border Trail runs for almost two miles around the park's circumference, edging along a creek and later wrapping around a lake. It's intersected by any number of smaller trails; take a day and get lost exploring.
6. New Hope Trail at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
Location: 280 State Park Road, Apex
Length: 8.1 miles (combined red and blue loops)
About: New Hope Trail—one of several trails in the Jordan Lake park—comprises two loops: the 5.4-mile red loop and the more challenging 2.7-mile blue loop, which features several steep hills. Magnificent lake vistas and lush hardwood forests abound.
7. Lake Crabtree County Park
Location: 1400 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville
Length: 6 miles (The Lake Trail)
About: There's another trail inside the park, the 9.4-mile multi-use Highland Trail, which is frequented by mountain bikers. But the Lake Trail, with its scenic overlooks, Black Creek Footbridge, and the way it wraps around Lake Crabtree, is probably your best bet for a relaxing late-summer excursion.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Happy Trails"