Butner: a walk with distance — and distancing

Sunday, we had a need for distance, while at the same time distancing. With the temperature being in the low 80s, with not a cloud to be seen, and with summer’s humidity still a few weeks out, we knew that a long hike amid no fellow hikers might be hard to come by.

But then, we also knew about the 40,000-acre Butner Game Lands north of Falls Lake.

Last fall, scouting new locations for our GetHiking! Winter Wild series of off-trail adventures, I   spent a couple of weekends exploring the Butner grounds. 

What I found most appealing about Butner is what most people would find the least appealing. What maps there are, as is the case with North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission game lands throughout the state, aren’t particularly detailed. They give you an idea of boundaries, you get a rough idea of where the main gravel roads go and where you can park. But as for how to get around, well, you’re pretty much on your own. Most game lands have access roads that are closed to vehicles but open to walking. It’s how the hunters get in, the birders, too. They’re used mainly by WRC to maintain these gamelands, acreage set aside to provide healthy habitats for fauna big, small, winged and gilled. You’ll find wide-open meadows, managed ponds, wetlands and forest. Those maintenance roads are how you get around.

My advice if you’ve never explored game lands: 

  • Find the aforementioned generic map of the area you’re interested in on their website. 
  • Locate an access point, marked with a “P.”
  • Drive to the access point: some include GPS coordinates; occasionally, there’s an address. Otherwise, you might have to use good-ol’ map skills.
  • At the trailhead, there may be a kiosk that includes a map of the area. Take a picture of the map with your smartphone so you’ll have it with you. Start exploring.
  • If you get lost, call up Google Maps. It will tell you where you are. You just have to figure out how to get to where you want to be.

Right now, with so many trails closed, these game lands are your best bet for a long walk in the wild. Start your search at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website, here.

One last thing: hunting season in North Carolina runs through May 31 (and starts up again 


To find game lands across the state, start at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website, here.

Learn more specifically about the Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land here.

For more on exploring in your immediate vicinity during these shelter-in-place times, check out our Explore Your Neighborhood: A Guide section here.

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