Check out these scenic hiking trails in central North Carolina

10 July 2022

While the North Carolina mountains provide the best views and hiking trails in the state, the Triangle also has plenty of options for those wanting to save on gas.

Here are three options for those looking to stay in the Triangle, but still wanting incredible views on a hike:

William B. Umstead State Park

William B. Umstead State Park in Wake County has two separate entrances that visitors can access:

  • Crabtree Creek access and visitor center at 8801 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh.
  • Reedy Creek access at 2100 N. Harrison Ave. in Cary.

The park has over 20 trails for visitors to access, ranging from 0.40 miles to over 13 miles. According to North Carolina State Parks, “hikers, trail runners, bicyclists and equestrians cherish the extensive network of hiking and multi-use trails” at the park.


Those looking for a short hike can try the Oak Rock Trail, which is a 0.60 mile loop. The trail will cross a small stream and features stonework for a check dam and culvert.

Park visitors looking for a more challenging hike can go on the Sycamore Trail, which is a 7.20 mile loop. North Carolina State Parks says the trail mostly follows the Sycamore Creek and showcases sycamore trees growing at the park.

Umstead State Park - Things to do in Raleigh

Some animals visitors can expect to see at the park include great blue herons, beavers and deer. North Carolina State Parks also says William B. Umstead provides “a view into North Carolina’s unique flora and fauna.”

Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park has five access points in Durham for visitors:

  • Few’s Ford access and park office at 6101 Cole Mill Rd.
  • Cabelands access at 4950 Howe St.
  • Cole Mill access at 4390 Old Cole Mill Rd.
  • Pleasant Green access at 4770 Pleasant Green Rd.
  • Pump Station Access at 4023 Rivermont Rd.

North Carolina State Parks describes the park’s trails as a “journey into tranquility.” The park has over a dozen trails for visitors to choose from.

Those looking for a shorter hike can try the Cole Mill Trail, a 1 mile loop, which begins at the Cole Mill picnic area. The trail is described as an “easy climb along the river.”

A slightly longer trail – the 3.75 mile Cox Mountain Trail – begins at the Few’s Ford picnic area. Hikers will get to cross the river on a suspension foot bridge and will climb 270 feet in elevation from the river to the hilltop. Be careful though, North Carolina State Parks warns that a long, steep climb and descent is required on the trail.

Eno River State Park

While visiting the park, you might get lucky and see chipmunks, otters or a bobcat, according to North Carolina State Parks.

Flower loves are in luck with mountain laurel, Catawba rhododendron and ferns growing on slopes and bluffs in the park. In fact, those wanting a short, 0.80 mile hike can visit the Pump Station Trail, which is known “as the best spring wildflower trail in the park.” Visitors can access the trail at the Nancy Road Creek Bridge on Rivermont Road.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Access Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area from Hillsborough at 625 Virginia Cates Road.

The area has three miles of trails for visitors to explore riverside forests and bluffs. At 350 feet above the Eno River, the mountain summit is reportedly the highest point between Hillsborough and the Atlantic Ocean. It is also the highest point in Orange County.

The short 0.10 mile Overlook Trail will take visitors through “mature oak forest and scenic views,” North Carolina State Parks says.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

The longest trail is the Occoneeche Mountain Loop Trail, a 2.20 mile loop. North Carolina State Park says it’s an “exhilarating walk over steep terrain and along the peaceful Eno River.”

Acorns and berries produced by the chestnut oaks in the area means visitors can possibly see deer, groundhog and wild turkeys while visiting.

Nearby, visitors can get a glimpse into history at the Historic Occoneechee Speedway. Rusted cars can be found on the hiking trails by the speedway.

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