Hiking Trails – The Top 10 in the Triangle and Beyond

I have wrote on a few deep issues lately, I thought it might be time to lighten it up a little. Here are a few of my favorite hiking trails in the area. If you have not been, please check them out. All of them allow dogs in most places, as Lucy would not accept not going on a trail with us.

Cloud Chamber
The Cloud Chamber at the NCMA. (newraleigh.com)

1. NCMA Art Museum Outdoor Art Walk – Raleigh, NC
You can enter this paved and unpaved hiking trail that is a lot of fun. There at least 5 miles of unique landscapes and art sculptures, complete with a cloud chamber, babbling brooks, and the chance to see a lot of different wildlife. There are bikes on the paved portions, many places to dispose of dog matter, and many places to stop to take in nature. 

2. Stevens Nature Center – Hemlock Bluffs – Cary, NC
This set of two trails is a great place to visit if you want to stay in the city, but be in the middle of a quiet forest. It consists of two short trails, one with a lot of good stairs for cardio and a meandering bridge around a clear creek. This was the site of an old mill from the area and it has some really great signage explaining how the area was formed. I will give a warning, Copperheads abound at this park, so be aware, especially in September and October before the cold weather hits. 

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The prize at the end of the stairs down at Raven Rock State Park.

3. Raven Rock State Park – Mamers, NC
Raven Rock is our go to spot that is a little over an hour away. You will think you are lost on a country road before you find this diamond in the rough. This place has a lot of trails, cliffs, water access, rock formations, and is way out away from everything. I will let you know that this is a popular place, but even with the parking lot full, you will barely see that many people. 

Eno River fall foliage 4
Great view of the Eno River (from emformarvelous.com).

4. Sal’s Branch Trail – William Umstead State Park – Raleigh, NC
This is a great little trail that is part of the Umstead park on the Glenwood Avenue side. This is an unpaved and very root-filled trail, so try to wear shoes that can handle some light hiking. There are not a lot of scenic places, but it is a great place to get in some exercise.

5. Eno River State Park – Durham, NC
I only regret that we had not gone to this location sooner. It has the most beautiful river running alongside the trails. I love this place and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites of the twenty-five or so that we have hiked in NC. I think this would be the ideal place to make a day of it with a picnic, wear your swimsuit as there are a few places to wade. The trail is much different than others in that the terrain is at points rocky and at other points it is smooth. This is a must visit if you are staying a short time in the Triangle! 

6. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area – Hillsborough, NC
I was so glad that we found this little hiking gem. First off, let me say this place reminds you of a summer camp, it has ponds as a drive in and you feel like you are going on a retreat. The trail on the other hand is the most difficult trail in the Triangle. There are a few hill climbs that are strenuous but the sights are really worth it. I also really enjoyed the enormous boulders that are in this area. Take a GPS, if you have one, or at least your phone because some areas are not as close as others. 

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7. Medoc Mountain State Park, Hollister, NC
We visited here first right after a flood, so I know we did not get to see all of the best places. Albeit, I would love to go back soon. There are a few trails in the area and most of the trails are bordered by a river. There is also a very large area to have a picnic, play frisbee, etc… I would also add that this is near Roanoake Rapids, which is fun to see, as you can drive over them and see the famous rapids. 

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Triple Falls at Dupont State Forest

8. Dupont Forest – Cedar Mountain, NC
So you want to see some waterfalls, this is the place to go.  You will have the chance to see a lot of waterfalls that are extremely large. I would hike the whole six mile loop. You will notice that a few places have been in such movies as the Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans. This would be one of the few places that I would make sure to bring a snack, water, and be ready for a workout. It is so worth it in the end. I ill say that they do have horses on the trails, which was an added bonus for me. You have to visit this place at least once if you are in North Carolina. Also another great trail for your swimsuit, as there are many places to wade and swim. 

9. Carolina Beach State Park – Carolina Beach, NC
Okay, if you have a fascination with Little Shop of Horrors, like I did, you will love this trail. This is one of the few places you will ever see Venus Flytraps and Pitcher plants in the wild. The trail is very sunny, and extremely flat, but it is worth it if you go at the right times to see the plants. 

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The view from the top at Chimney Rock State Park.

10. Chimney Rock State Park – Chimney Rock, NC
The only dog restrictive one on the list. She was not allowed on the main featured trail, but on the lower trails, which are still incredible! This is also the only set of trails that requires an admission ticket, but it is so worth the price of admission. There have even been a few movies shot on this location. This is a short drive away from Asheville, but it is a must visit location for anyone who is seeing all the sites of North Carolina. You must visit this place once during peak leaf season, it is nothing short of inspiring.

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