Sometimes you just need a little outdoor time. Not a full weekend of exploring. Not even a whole day — even a half day. Sometimes just an hour, hour and a half will do.
That well could be the case this weekend, when temperatures are again expected to reach 90, when afternoon storms are again a threat. Under such circumstances, a quick outing into a scenic spot can do the trick.
We’ve selected 5 of our favorite quick-relief hikes in the region. They’re short — three are about 3 miles, the other two are 4 miles — and can be hiked, casually, in less than a couple hours. We provide a brief description, then a link to where you can procure our guide for each hike.
Duke Forest, Korstian Division, Gate 25. Whitfield Road, Durham. 3.2 miles. Most of the trails in Duke Forest are gravel service roads; there’s a smidge of that on this hike, but for the most part it’s nicely graded and maintained single track through mature forest with an especially scenic run along (and above) New Hope Creek. Check out the guide here.
Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area, Snow Camp (Alamance County). 3 miles. This new preserve opened in May by Alamance Parks offers the first opportunity to explore the isolated Cane Creek Mountains in the central Piedmont. They may top out below 1,000 feet, but that doesn’t mean these mountains can’t give you a mountain-like experience. Reservations required (to minimize crowds) through Aug. 14; you can just show up starting Aug. 15. Check out the guide here.
Knight Brown Nature Preserve, Stokesdale. 3.3 miles. The Triad has some nice, quick getaways, but most are along the Watershed Lakes on the north side of town and tend to attract crowds. Not Knight Brown. This compact 189-acre preserve is rimmed by forested walls that protect Belews Creek and the valley it runs through. A true gem, courtesy the Piedmont Land Conservancy. Check out the guide here.
Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake, Durham. 4 miles. Part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail’s 60-mile run along Falls Lake, this stretch between Red Mill Road and Old Oxford Road is actually 4.2 miles. We recommend starting at Red Mill Road and hiking west for 2 miles, to where the trail, having spent most of its time in bottomland forest, rises to a bluff overlooking the Eno River. Makes for a nice turnaround point. Check out the guide here.
Raven Rock State Park, Avents Creek Access, Lillington. 4 miles (with an additional 4-mile option). Avents Creek sits on the north bank of the Cape Fear River, across from the park’s main hub. As such, it gets a lot less traffic, and most of that is of the four-footed variety. Take the 4-mile West Loop and enjoy the best waterfall in the region, Jumping Fish Falls, which includes a 5-foot drop, a pool, a 3-foot drop. A rarity for the Piedmont. Check out the guide here.
Today’s video highlights another of our favorite short hikes, the 2.2-mile stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail between Six Forks Road and NC 98 in Raleigh. Learn more about that stretch here.