“You came all the way from Cary?” the woman exclaimed. “That’s, like, an hour away.”
She and a friend were asking directions from a guy who seemed to be something of an impromptu trail ambassador when I walked up. We were standing at about the midpoint of the 4.25-mile Glencoe section of the Haw River Trail, just downstream of the NC 62 bridge. Although an hour didn’t seem like that far to drive for a hike, it did occur to me that it might seem far on a day when the temperature and the humidity were both in the low 90s.
“Have you been here before?” the trail ambassador asked?
“Oh, yes,” I said. “In more hospitable weather.”
The Haw River Trail is a 70-mile work-in-progress that will eventually link two state parks: Haw River State Park to the north with Jordan Lake State Recreation Area to the south. About half of the trail will be part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
At present, less than 20 miles of the Haw River Trail exists. One of the longest stretches is the Glencoe section, which runs from (and along) the Indian Valley Golf Course downstream to the Stoney Creek Marina. It’s an entertaining stretch, for several reasons:
Part of it is on a golf course. On the north end, the trail traces at least three fairways of the Indian Valley Golf Course. (Please observe golf course hiking etiquette, including: speaking in hushed tones when play is in progress and standing still when a player is putting. Also: There is icy cold water at the No. 5 tee box.)
In the gentrifying mill town of Glencoe, the trail does a horseshoe up Hodges Road and back down Glencoe Street, giving you the opportunity to check out the revived mill homes.
Also in Glencoe, the trail passes the Textile Heritage Museum, fascinating look at the local and statewide textile industry. A great diversion that’s free. Hours are limited, though: 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Just over a mile downstream from Glencoe is the old and abandoned Carolina Mill.
Just beyond that, the trail departs from the dense jungle along the Haw and quickly climbs into a drier oak/hickory forest typical of the Piedmont.
Stoney Creek Marina.
I would not recommend this stretch of trail in 90/90 weather. Even a stout breeze has trouble penetrating the dense foliage along the trail and the occasional stretches of open trail can be broiling.
I would, however, recommend it for more civil weather, such as the weekend ahead, when temperatures are expected to cool into the 80s. I recommend starting mid-trail in Glencoe (you can pick up a trail map at the paddle access at River Road and NC 62), doing an out-and-back (upstream to the golf course, downstream to the marina), then checking out the museum.
A good outing for kids, btw: The trail offers a jungle escape, the textile museum has toys circa grandma & grandpa.