water hikes

10 Adventures to Close Out Your Summer

Here’s a post we like to run in the waning days of August, as a reminder that while fall is near, you still have time to knock a few more items off your summer to-do list.

Labor Day weekend, which is in two weeks, marks the end of wearing white shoes and seersucker suits. It also marks the end of several summertime frivolities.

Of course, summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 23. Psychologically, though, it’s over with the passage of Labor Day weekend.

You have two weeks, then, to squeeze in all the things you meant to do this summer, but didn’t get around to. Here is a list of our top 10 things to do before you send your seersucker suit to the cleaners.

The fleet awaits at Raleigh’s Lake Johnson.

1. Go for a paddle. Most municipal and county lakes that rent boats either shutter those operations for the season after Labor Day or at least cut back their hours. But you can get in that longed-for paddle, often for very little moola. At Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh, for instance, you can take out a canoe or kayak for $7.50 for 90 minutes.

2. Hit your neighborhood pool. Few pools stay open past Labor Day, so get your toes wet this weekend or next.

Hanging Rock’s 12-acre lake

3. Swim in a lake. Several public and private lakes let you get in touch with your inner Tom Sawyer. Our favorite: the 12-acre lake at Hanging Rock State Park, which includes a beach, diving platform and cool, chlorine-free water.

4. Swim in a throw-back pool. We love the pool at Morrow Mountain State Park, in part because of its throw-back nature, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. We also love how much better the pool feels after hiking one of the park’s 11 trails (post-shower, of course).

Mount Mitchell: the top of the East Coast

5. Hike a high trail (Mountains). It may still be summer at lower elevations, but atop 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, enveloped by a state park and several trails? On Tuesday afternoon, the temperature up top was 54.8 degrees after an overnight low of 44.6. Didn’t think you’d be breaking out the fleece quite this early, did you? Who knows, you may even get an early peek at fall color this weekend.

6. Hike a high trail (Piedmont). Don’t have time to drive to the mountains? Piedmont residents can hike a higher, and a little cooler, trail close to home at Pilot Mountain State Park (elevation  2,421 feet), Hanging Rock State Park (2,579 feet), or Crowders Mountain State Park (1,706 feet). Details at ncparks.gov.

7. Hike a mountain trail while it’s still inaccessible. We love the Shining Rock area: 18,500 acres of wilderness, more than twice that much surrounding non-wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest. The best way to access Shining Rock is via a mile-high section of Blue Ridge Parkway, a section of the parkway often closed by snow and ice come winter. It’s a great time to visit. More info here.

8. Explore Wilson Creek. A group of us were talking this past weekend about how the window for hiking/wading/swimming the Wilson Creek area was rapidly closing. Wilson Creek is the 49,000-acre drainage at the base of Grandfather Mountain, and rainfall off the mountain’s massive southeast flank drains every which way through these rugged foothills. The abundance of creeks, pools and waterfalls marks the perfect summer sendoff. More info here.

9. Go car camping in the mountains. Warm days, cool nights, access to great hiking, rafting, mountain biking, fishing — you’ll find it all from your base in a mountain campground that will likely close for the season soon. Check out some of our favorites here.

10. Go stand up paddleboarding. You’ve wanted to all summer and now’s the time to do it! At Jordan Lake in Apex, for instance, Lyfsup offers rentals and instruction. Details here.

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