Ah, Fourth of July Weekend! The fireworks displays, the Festival for the Eno, the cookout gatherings … .
OK, so maybe we can’t celebrate our nation’s independence the way we usually do. But we can certainly celebrate our independence by getting out and exploring. And this year in particular by doing so in the true American spirit of being a maverick, a lone wolf. Someone who likes to get out and take an adventure of their own. Alone. Or at least six feet from anyone else.
That could be particularly tricky this holiday weekend, when getting out is what’s on just about everyone’s mind. That said, we’re going to build on our advice from back in May, tweaked to reflect the realities of July, about how to enjoy the trail in solitude:
- Avoid peak hours. Don’t go when everyone else is. Umstead State Park, for instance, recommends avoiding the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That said, most N.C. State Parks open at 8 a.m., a good time to go because the temperature is still relatively cool and, apparently, not that many people are there. At the state parks that have been closing when they reach capacity, most begin blocking the entrance around 10 a.m. Or, go late; again, with N.C. State Parks, most are now open until 9 p.m., some as late as 10. Take advantage of these later hours to get out. Remember to take a headlamp or flashlight.
- Avoid the main trailheads. Find the more remote trail access points to where you’re headed. In particular, look for trailheads that don’t have paved parking, are on gravel roads, don’t begin from a visitor center, don’t have restrooms. Study the map; you can find them.
- Avoid the main trails. Start from a more remote trailhead and you’ll be on a trail that likely doesn’t get much foot traffic — initially, at least. A lot of these trails will hook up with more popular trails eventually.
- Avoid parks near urban areas. Twelve state parks kept their trails open while the other 29 had to close at the beginning of the pandemic. Why? Because they were in more remote locals. You might want to focus on trails in those outlying parks, which you can find here. Besides, you’ve got the time for a little drive, and there’s some good exploring to be done in these lesser-visited parks.
- Avoid water. If your primary goal is to hike, then avoid trailheads with access to popular watering holes: they will be overrun on what is traditionally the hottest weekend of summer. (The forecast calls for highs in the low to mid 90s.)
Plan it right and you can have a great adventure and celebrate your independence to boot.
Have a great 4th!
The video: Sunrise, Sunset
Today’s video is from Wednesday evening’s Sunrise, Sunset Summer Series hike at Seven Mile Creek Nature Preserve in Orange County. The series celebrates the cooler temperatures of the day and the best light of the season on two sunrise hikes and six sunset hikes. While our Wednesday session, which began this week, is full, spots remain for our Tuesday session, which starts July 7. Learn more and sign up here.