Hike NC, the hiking program launched in the fall of 2016 by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, is back with 60 hikes this spring. This weekend, Earth Day weekend, the spring season kicks off with seven hikes. While many of those hikes are aimed at beginners — the goal of the program is to get more people moving and outdoors — there are several good reasons for more experienced hikers to check out those hikes as well.
Discover new trails. One in particular caught our eye: Saturday’s hike on the Sand Live Oak Trail at coastal Carolina Beach State Park. “It is our newest trail,” says park ranger Carla Edwards, who will lead the hike. This trail takes you deeper into the park’s community of ancient live oaks, sprawling evergreen trees that seem to extend forever. You’ll encounter a variety of other coastal plant communities as well, including the park’s rare carnivorous plant gatherings. 3.5 miles.
Discover slap-your-forehead, why-haven’t-I-known-about-this-before? trails. Again this weekend, that includes Sunday’s 3-mile hike on the Bee Tree Trail at Pettigrew State Park. One of the state’s off-the-beaten-path gems, Pettigrew State Park is located south of Creswell, which is east of Plymouth, which — it’s on the way to the Outer Banks, off U.S. 64. Here, you’ll discover a rim of the massive old growth hardwoods that shielded Lake Phelps—at 16,000 acres the state’s second largest natural lake—from the prying eyes of early Europeans for years. You’ll find some of the oldest trees in the state here.
Slow down and learn a thing. You may hike a lot, but how well do you know the terrain through which you’ve hiked? Several Hike NC hikes have an educational component: On Saturday’s Wildflower Hike at South Mountains State Park, Ranger Lance Huss will lead a 3/4-mile hike along the Jacob Fork River, identifying the many wildflowers now in bloom. And if you want to hike a little farther afterward, you can hike the 2.7-mile High Shoals Falls Loop and check out its 80-foot namesake waterfall.
Discover trails in your own backyard. Again this weekend, on Sunday afternoon: a 4-mile hike on the Lake and Laurel Hills trails in Gaston County’s George Poston Park. One of the key partners in Hike NC is the N.C. Recreation and Parks Association, which represents the state’s various parks and rec departments. These NCRPA members have played a huge role in sponsoring hikes and getting more folks moving by showing off some of the great trails they have that you may not know about. “After doing Hike NC with you guys last year,” says Gaston County’s Josh Henderson, “we decided to implement our own hikes … because they have been highly attended.”
Break your routine. Are you in the habit of going to the same park and hiking the same trail? At Pilot Mountain State Park, for instance, folks drive lemming-like to the summit and hike the Ledge Spring Trail and other trails from the summit parking lot — even though on a brilliant spring weekend it can take a half hour just to find a parking spot. Well, your friends here at GetGoingNC and GetHiking! — did we mention that we are partners in Hike NC as well? — like the popular places, too, but we seek out the backdoor entrances. Saturday, we show you one of our favorite lesser-known entrances to Pilot Mountain. Where? You’ll have to visit the Hike NC website (details in a minute) to find out.
Not all of these hikes are beginner friendly. On May 5, our friends with the Buncombe County Parks and Rec. will lead a 6-mile hike on the Snowball Trail, high in the Craggy Mountains; on June 9, the same hike leaders will hike Sleepy Gap from the Walnut Cove Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway; and on May 6, we’re leading our favorite epic circuit in the Southeast: the 17.5-mile Doughton Park loop consisting of Cedar Ridge, Bluff Mountain and Grassy Gap Road trails. We’ll be adding some more challenging hikes over the next couple weeks.
We love being a part of Hike NC, for all the above reasons. If you love hiking, you should love Hike NC, too.
Learn more about the program at gohikenc.com. To find hikes this weekend and to register (it’s free; they just like to know how many to expect), click on the links below:
- Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. 3.5 miles. Easy to moderate
- Saturday, 2 p.m., Haw River State Park, Greensboro. 2 miles. Easy to moderate
- Saturday, 11 a.m., South Mountains State Park, Connelly Springs. 0.75 miles. Easy
- Saturday, 5 p.m., Pilot Mountain State Park (Yadkin River section), Pinnacle. 3 miles. Easy to moderate
- Sunday, 2 p.m., Pettigrew State Park, Creswell. 3 miles. Easy
- Sunday, 3 p.m., Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. 2.5 miles. Easy
- Sunday, 3 p.m., George Poston Park, Charlotte. 4 miles. Moderate