Take the trail less traveled at Hanging Rock State Park
Once you’ve snapped some photos on the park’s namesake knob, explore a trail just off the well-worn path. “A lot of folks stick to Hanging Rock Trail, which is beautiful, but Indian Creek Trail has fewer crowds, and plenty of beauty, too,” says Darren Schwartz, a store manager at Great Outdoor Provision Co. The dog-friendly trail takes two to four hours to complete and passes waterfalls, an abandoned cabin, and rhododendron blooms in spring.
Hanging Rock State Park
1790 Hanging Rock Park Road
Danbury, NC 27016
Toast marshmallows on secluded Spirit Island
If you want to spend the night on Spirit Island, you’ll have to work for it: Located in the middle of the Haw River near Graham, the only way to reach the campsite is by paddling. Make a reservation and rent your boat of choice from Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company, then begin the 4.5-mile journey upriver. Although there’s no running water or electricity, the island boasts camping platforms to keep tents dry, a fire ring, and plenty of privacy.
Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company
6079 Swepsonville-Saxapahaw Road
Graham, NC 27253
A message from our sponsor:
Cast a line at Old Kernersville Lake
“In North Carolina, where there’s water, there’s fish,” says Ward Swann, paddle sports manager at Great Outdoor Provision Co. Those in the Triad looking for accessible pier fishing head to Old Kernersville Lake. When you’re not catching (and releasing) largemouth bass and sunfish on the five-acre stocked lake, take a stroll along the park’s walking trails or have lunch at one of the park’s picnic tables.
Old Kernersville Lake
936 Lake Drive
Kernersville, NC 27284
Search for wildflowers in Knight Brown Nature Preserve
When the wildflowers begin to bloom, novice and intermediate hikers looking for a quick escape from Greensboro or Winston-Salem head to Knight Brown Nature Preserve in Rockingham County to enjoy flat walking trails and a diverse landscape of flora and fauna. The preserve, managed by the Piedmont Land Conservancy, is home to three trails totaling 2.7 miles. “It’s almost this enchanted forest,” Schwartz says. “It’s very peaceful and quiet for being so close to a metropolitan area.”
Knight Brown Nature Preserve
221 Waterfield Lane
Stokesdale, NC 27357
Watch birds from your boat on High Point Lake
The western shoreline of this 340-acre lake borders the Piedmont Environmental Center’s nature preserve, which, coupled with the wetlands in the lake’s northern region, makes it a great spot to paddle and observe wildlife. The lake attracts visitors looking for exercise, fishing, or both— kayak fishing continues to grow in popularity in the Triad, Swann says. Drop a line from your ’yak and wait for a largemouth bass or crappie to take the bait.
High Point City Lake Park
602 West Main Street
Jamestown, NC 27282
Teach a kid to pitch a tent at Pilot Mountain State Park
Families planning an outdoor expedition with young children will appreciate the assortment of amenities, clear signage, and clean facilities at Pilot Mountain’s campgrounds. “Parents should definitely not be intimidated by the word ‘camping,’” Schwartz says. “The camping is very family-friendly here. You really just have to worry about packing your personal gear and a couple of things for the kids.” Plus, parents don’t need to spend a full day hiking to take in the scenery. “The views of the summit from both the trails and the campgrounds are really nice,” Schwartz says.
Pilot Mountain State Park
1792 Pilot Knob Park Road
Pinnacle, NC 27043
Bike the Salem Lake Trail
This seven-mile trail is popular with early morning runners; however, cyclists should take note of the lack of elevation changes throughout the loop. The trail, which connects to the Salem Creek Greenway system, hugs the 365-acre Salem Lake, rewarding visitors with views of the water at every turn.
Salem Lake Trail
1001 Salem Lake Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Paddle the Dan River
With Class I, II, and III rapids, the Dan River provides plenty of excitement for experienced paddlers and novice paddlers looking for gentle currents, alike. Swann suggests putting in your boat near NC Highway 704 and paddling down the river in the spring or fall for scenic views and a dependable river flow. Or rent a boat from Dan River Company and enjoy a half-day of paddling along the high cliffs and woods lining the river.
3737 Wesley D. Webster Highway (NC Highway 704)
Lawsonville, NC 27053
Enjoy a diverse mix of pastimes at Cedarock Park
This Alamance County outpost is home to a variety of activities to keep every adventurer entertained. Highlights include two disc golf courses, six miles of equestrian trails, mountain biking trails, boat rentals, and a restored 19th-century historical farm.
4242 R Dean Coleman Road
Burlington, NC 27215
Weekdays: (336) 229-2410
Weekends: (336) 570-6759
Take a dip in Belews Lake
The unusually warm waters of Belews Lake have been attracting visitors since 1973, when the lake was developed as a means to cool Belews Creek Steam Station. The lake offers two public boat ramps: Piney Bluff and Pine Hall. Swann recommends putting in at Piney Bluff and taking a left for the best paddle. Belews Lake is also open to motorized boats, swimmers, and water-skiers.
2610 Pine Hall Road
Belews Creek, NC 27009