Up for a hiking vacation? And not in 7 months, but 7 days?
On Friday, the first of 11 Year of the Trail NC Trail Days Weekend Festivals gets underway in Elizabethtown, southeast of Fayetteville. And if you’re thinking, There’s hiking down there?, then you really need to be there. Here’s why.
We kick off the weekend with a Friday night hike along the banks of a mysterious Carolina Bay. Saturday, we have guided hikes at two state parks, a state natural area, on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and at a state educational forest (in addition to a guided flatwater paddle trip and a mountain bike ride), followed by an evening of live music and great local food. Sunday, we provide all the information you need to explore on your own.
In addition, we’ll have local craft and outdoor vendors at our basecamp Saturday during the day in Elizabethtown and Saturday evening in nearby White Lake.
Late February is a great time to explore North Carolina’s Coastal Plain, with skies typically sunny and daytime highs near 60. Ideal conditions for exploring roughly 70 miles of local trail.
Options for beginning and experienced hikers alike. This is one of 11 NC Trail Days Weekend Festivals planned for 2023’s Year of the Trail by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and its Hometown Strong initiative.*
Here’s a full agenda for the weekend:
2 p.m. – Ribbon cutting for new bridge on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail linking Jones Lake State Park with Turnbull Creek Educational State Forest.
3 – 7 p.m. – Check-in at the Trail Weekend Headquarters at the Cape Fear Farmers Market, 106 MLK Dr., Elizabethtown and then explore this quaint town filled with locally owned shop and great places to eat. Welcome, food, vendors, information on Saturday events, disc golf demonstration, information on DIY hikes.
5:30 p.m. – Kickoff in downtown Elizabethtown featuring Earl B. Hunter Jr., founder of Black Folks Camp, Too, who will speak on, “Increasing More Unity in the Outdoor Community and Beyond: Campfire Conversations with Black Folks Camp Too.”
6:30 p.m. – Night hike at Jones Lake State Park, Cedar Loop Trail
9 a.m.–3 p.m. – Trail Weekend Festival Headquarters is open. Food, Vendors, information on Saturday events, information on DIY hikes, Elizabethtown Farmer’s Market, 106 MLK Dr., Elizabethtown.
10 a.m. – Hike at Jones Lake State Park on the 4-mile Bay Trail
11 a.m. – Guided mountain bike ride at Browns Creek Nature Park and Bike Trail
12:30 p.m. – Guided paddle on Jones Lake, Jones Lake State Park
2 p.m. – Guided hike on the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail
3 p.m. – Guided hike at Bay Tree Lake State Natural Area
4 p.m. – Guided hike at Singletary Lake State Park
4–8 p.m. Trail Weekend Headquarters Moves to White Lake, where there will be live music and food, New location is Camp Clearwater, 2038 White Lake Drive, Elizabethtown
4 p.m. – Guided hike at White Lake, on the multi-use path
5:30–7 p.m. – Mountain-to-Sea Trail Fundraiser at Camp Clearwater. Join us for some Southern Comfort Cuisine and fellowship as we share our experiences in Mother Nature’s Playground. $5.
6-8 p.m. Live music – Band TBA
9-11 a.m. – Beginning birding with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commssion’s N.C. Bird Atlas, at Bay Tree Lake State Natural Area.
Self-guided hikes, with information provided.
Find information on lodging discounts for Festival Weekend here.
Go here to register for individual events, all of which are free.
*Joe Miller, who owns and writes this blog, is an ecotourism adviser for Hometown Strong and is helping to organize the NC Trail Days Weekend Festivals.