The weekend forecast: it’s another good one, another guaranteed to have the new converts to hiking flooding the trails and, in some cases, causing our state parks to restrict access. The solution: hike where they ain’t.
Here are five shorter hikes that are less well-known, less apt to be crowded this fine September weekend. We provide a brief description, then a link to where you can find more info on hiking it yourself.
1. Sycamore Trail: Bike & Bridle Access
Umstead State Park
Seriously!? The most popular state park in the North Carolina system? Maybe, but not the bike & bridle trailhead access off the Glenwood Avenue side of the park. Pass the Visitor Center, take the first left, the next right, then then next left and you’re deep inside the park in a gravel lot that offers access to a 4.5-mile lollipop loop of the Sycamore Trail.
Check out our guide for the hike here.
2. Knight Brown Nature Preserve
Piedmont Land Conservancy
Stokesdale (north of Greensboro)
Drop into a valley forged by Belews Creek and explore massive stands of beech, cascades, and the creek itself on three interconnected trails that total 3.3 miles. You start on the south rim and ascend two additional rims, but the scenic action here is mostly in a valley that shines regardless of season.
3. Duke Forest: Korstian Division Gate 25
The 7,000-acre Duke Forest, with parcels in three western Triangle counties, is ripe with hiking opportunities that fly largely under the radar. From Gate 25 on Whitfield Road, a fire road leads to single track that explores cascades along New Hope Creek, the bluffs above the creek, and mature hardwood forest. About a 3-mile hike.
4. Seven Mile Creek Natural Area
Located southwest of Hillsborough, this 360-acre preserve offers about 2 miles of hiking on trail that’s as foot-friendly as any around: it’s wide, it’s smooth, there are no heart-breaking climbs. The highlight: the area’s namesake creek, a smaller version of the river it feeds into about a mile downstream, the Eno.
Read our blog about Seven Mile Creek here.
5. Confluence Natural Area
Eno River Association
The “confluence” of the name is the spot where the east and west branches of the Eno River merge, a point located on the southwestern tip of this 200-acre preserve, host to meadows, mature hardwood forests and the Eno’s origins. Initially open only on weekends, the Eno River Association has opened the natural area for exploring daily. The video above offers a tour.
Read our blog on the Confluence Natural Area here.