This weekend: Yet another great weekend to GET OUT! 

Exploring by foot this weekend yields intriguing insights into a coastal island, a look at fall color where we often don’t look, and a double feature of geology and views on a unique North Carolina mountain.


Jones Island | coastal
Jones Island | coastal

We hike, in part, to explore (which is one reason the urge to go off trail can be so great). We love to see new things, love to see things that not a lot of other folks get to see. Hence, our recommendation for Saturday’s Jones Island Eco-Tour at Hammocks Beach State Park.

If you’ve spent much time in Swansboro, or explored the Cedar Point area of the Croatan National Forest, you’ve probably seen the forested, 24-acre island at the mouth of the White Oak River, just before it passes under NC 24. After a short boat ride, a ranger leads a walk around the island, which features various distinct habitats. “We will explore the island and the surrounding waters discussing about the wildlife and ecosystems of this unique island as well as its cultural history influences.”

Logistics: Jones Island Eco-Tour, Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m., Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro. Free, but space is limited and preregistration required, by calling 910.326.4881.

Saturday forecast: Temperatures in the low 50s under sunny skies.

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Looking ahead: North Carolina Birding Trail Hike, Halyburton Park, Wilmington, Dec. 15, 8 a.m. More info here.


fall2We’re used to looking to the treetops for our fall color. But there’s often good color in the understory. And that will be the focus of Sunday’s Fall Paint Hill Hike at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve.

As the Weymouth Woods website puts it: “The pine trees” — Weymouth Woods is known for its impressive tract of longleaf pines — “may stay green year round, but there are still many plants in the longleaf understory that put on a nice fall show. Join us for a 1.5 mile stroll around the Paint Hill tract of Weymouth Woods to enjoy an autumn afternoon in the Sandhills.”

Logistics: Fall Paint Hill Hike, Sunday, 3 p.m., Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Clear, with hikes in the low 60s.

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Looking ahead: Occoneechee Geology Hike, Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough, Dec. 17, 2 p.m. More info here.


View from Mount Jefferson
View from Mount Jefferson

Back in the day, we heard of people who would buy a ticket to the matinee down at the Bijou, then, when that show was over, they’d mill about in the restroom for half an hour and sneak into a later show. Reprehensible behavior that, again, we’d heard other people who were not ourself had done.

We’re wondering if some of those same folks might have similar thoughts about Saturday’s back-to-back program at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area in West Jefferson. At 2 p.m., a ranger takes you on a hike through the geologic wonders of the mountain’s unique metamorphic rocks. Then, at 4 p.m., a ranger holds court atop the mountain, pointing out the surrounding peaks and talking local history.

Should you be inclined to double-dip, no one will look at you askance: both programs are free.

Logistics: Saturday, Geology Hike at 2 p.m., Vista Viewing at 4 p.m., Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, West Jefferson. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Afternoon highs around 50 under clear skies.

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Looking ahead: Loons of Lake James Boat Tour, Lake James State Park, Nebo, Dec. 4, 1:45 p.m. More info here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed 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 coastal 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.


Great Outdoor Provision Co. 
Calendar includes three weekly events for each of its seven markets: Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem. Search by market.

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.

U.S. National Wildlife Refuges
Rundown, by month, of regular activities at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service refuges in North Carolina.

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