DIY weekend at N.C. State Parks

The view from atop Cliffs of the Neuse (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks).

A self-guided nature hike at Cliffs of the Neuse and a do-it-yourself canoe paddle at Haw River State Park leave you in control of your entertainment destiny. And if you’re not feeling particularly self-motivated, sleep in and let a ranger tell you about the fireflies at Elk Knob State Park.


I can’t count the number of times I’ve been walking in the woods, in a familiar spot, and suddenly surfaced and thought, Where the heck am I? Lost in thought on a hike — happens all the time. Apparently, the folks at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park are familiar with this phenomenon, for on Saturday they’re holding a Silent Hike. “Enjoy the summer sounds and get lost in your own thought,” says the coastal plain park’s Web site.  “The silent hike is a self-guided tour. There will be cards posted along the trail giving you a task to do or think about.”

I like the sound — or lack thereof — of that.

Logistics: Since it’s self-guided, you can do it whenever. Based on the forecast for Saturday (see below), you might want to do it earlier rather than later.

Saturday forecast: High of 90, 40 percent chance of rain and a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

Paddling Robin's Nest Lake (photo courtesy N.C. State Parks)


It’s a laid-back weekend in the North Carolina State Parks system: Show up after 12:30 p.m. at Haw River State Park on Sunday and you can take a canoe for a spin on Robin’s Nest Lake. Especially good for the inexperienced as a ranger will be on hand to show you the basics of paddling. Eight canoes means there’s probably no waiting, a bevy of PFDs and paddles means all the equipment is provided.

Logistics: Starts at 12:30 Saturday afternoon. Free. Meet at the main lodge. Here’s how to get there.

Sunday forecast: High of 93, 50 percent chance of rain.

Get lit at Elk Knob State Park.


You, light up the night … oh, sorry. Didn’t realize you were back FROM checking out the Haw River State Park Web site (above). I was just in a little reverie about my favorite summer insect, the firefly. And it looks like I’m not alone in my love of the luminous lampyridae, those winged beetles that light the summer night: Saturday evening Elk Knob State Park offers Fireflies — a Beacon in the Night. Come learn about what fires them up, then take a hike in search of the little  flashing flits.

Logistics: 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 4. Meet at the park office.

Saturday evening forecast: Overcast with a 40 percent chance of rain; bring a poncho.

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Those are GGNC’s thoughts for an active weekend. Find out other ways you can get out this weekend by browsing our super calendar, a collection of events calendars from throughout the state, below.

Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).


Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors
Searchable calendar lets you extend your reach to events throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast (or you can just limit it to North Carolina). Also lets you search a boatload of categories, ranging from Hiking, Mountain Biking and Climbing to Trail Running, Triathlon and Road Walking.

The Mountain Times
From the main page, click on “Calendars,” then Main Events.

Todd’s Calendar



Charlotte Observer events calendar
Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including Nature, Recreation, Recreation & Wellness, Running

Charlotte Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar includes a Sports & Recreation category.

Piedmont Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.

Comprehensive calendar searchable by category, including: Birding, Boating, Cycling, Nature, Rec & Wellness, Recreation, Running, Swimming, Tennis, Yoga.

Carolina Parent
Comprehensive calendar concentrating on things the family can do together.


Office of Environmental Education
One calendar for the numerous Environmental Education Centers statewide.

North Carolina State Parks
Lets you search for programs at the state’s parks, recreation areas and natural areas by location, by month, by topic. To reach the calendar from the home page, click on “Education,” then “Fun & Free Programs at Parks.”

National Forests in North Carolina
From the home page, click on Carolina Connections for news updates on the state’s four national forests as well as hints on recreational opportunities and a detailed rundown of recreation areas and the amenities at each.

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