There’s no rain in the forecast, but there are clouds. Clouds, with high temperatures, for the most part, in the low 60s. Cool weather coupled with our being on the cusp of spring and our desire to start hiking longer and farther, seems like a good time for a longer hike. And by “longer” for this time of year we mean in the 4- to 7-mile range. Nothing too strenuous, but just enough to push yourself, to get you building your hiking legs for peak hiking season.
So what makes for a good, early-season long hike? A variety of factors. Below, we list five of our favorite longer hikes and what makes them good for a first long hike of your hiking season.
- Horton Grove Nature Preserve, Bahama (north of Durham). A classic for a first long hike of the season because, with 7 connecting trails comprising 8 miles of hiking, if you get out there and discover you aren’t ready for a 5-miler, you can cut it short. Likewise, if you’re feeling strong after 5, why not hike every trail? Rolling terrain with no heartbreaking climbs.
- Bunter-Falls of Neuse Game Lands, Bahama. Flat, no crowds. That should be enough — but we’ll give you a smidge more. The hiking here is open, on gravel access roads that pass meadows and impoundment ponds designed to attract wildlife. Especially good on cool days (the exposure), especially good on Sundays (these are gamelands; currently, there is no hunting on Sundays — or from Memorial Day through Labor Day). And again, flat and no crowds. Our guide highlights a 4.5-mile hike.
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-hike Section L, Durham. This 3.2-mile stretch of the MST (6.4 miles out and back) is among the lesser-traveled stretches of the MST along Falls Lake in the Triangle. Why? Maybe because of its brief encounters with the lake? That’s the only reason we can figure; this gently rolling trail through maturing hardwoods is perfect for losing yourself (spiritually, not physically) in the woods.
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-hike Section P, Durham. Another great hike along Falls Lake that flies under the radar. From the Hickory Hill Boat Ramp head east through mostly hardwoods at first, mostly pine (in a pine savannah-type environment) after that. Flat, with foot-friendly trail tread throughout.
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-hike Section S, Durham. Possibly our favorite stretch of the MST along Falls Lake, this 4.8-mile stretch starts and ends on Red Mill Road, making for a quick shuttle — or a vigorous 9.6-mile out-and-back. Lots of variety as the trail passes through wetlands, along meadows, through bottomland woods, along railroad tracks, past signs of the area’s pre-reservoir human past.
Intrigued? Below are links where you can find more information on each of the hikes. You can also download our GetHiking! Guide to 5 Longer Hikes for Getting in Shape.
GetHiking! 5 Longer Hikes for Getting in Shape. Guides to each of the hikes listed, including an overview, recommended hikes, custom map, pertinent details (directions, facilities at the trailhead, etc.), and a short video introduction to the venue. Find it here.
- Horton Grove Nature Preserve (Triangle Land Conservancy), Bahama
- Butner-Fllas of Neuse Game Lands, Main Depot off Brickhouse Road (N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission), Bahama
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-hike Section L, Durham
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-hike Section P, Durham
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-hike Section S, Durham