EDITOR’S NOTE: Several cities have limited access to parks, trails, and recreation facilities due to COVID-19. Because regulations are changing frequently, click on the links provided for updated information before
EDITOR’S NOTE: Several cities have limited access to parks, trails, and recreation facilities due to COVID-19. Because regulations are changing frequently, click on the links provided for updated information before making any hiking plans.
For a downloadable checklist of this guide that you can print, take with you, or screenshot, click here.
You don’t have to trek into the middle of nowhere to stretch your legs in nature. These nine trails are a quick trip from our biggest cities — and some wind right through the heart of urban areas! — proving that you’re never far from a spectacular outdoor experience in North Carolina.
Want to snap a selfie while standing in two states at once? Now’s your chance: Twelve Mile Creek Trail follows along its namesake creek, which creates a natural border between North and South Carolina. Start at Harvey Clay Nesbitt Park in Waxhaw and follow the nearly 2-mile trail, which turns into the Twelve Mile Creek Trail on the opposite side of the creek in Lancaster, South Carolina. The highlight of the hike is a stunning 170-foot suspension bridge spanning the state line.
Just minutes from downtown Winston-Salem you’ll find a pretty lake tucked into the woods. Start at the Point parking lot and follow the wide, flat, 7-mile loop around the 365-acre Salem Lake. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs along the way to learn more about local wildlife. If you’re looking for a longer journey, the trail also connects to the Salem Creek Greenway, a 5.2-mile paved path that heads straight into downtown.
Take a hike through history at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, the location of an important battle during the American Revolution. Weaving through grassy fields and old-growth woods, past monuments and battlefield sites, a 2.5-mile trail highlights what happened at the site on March 15, 1781. For a peaceful, solemn walk, go early in the morning; you’ll feel transported to another time.
Take in gorgeous views of the Neuse River as you walk through wetlands, along boardwalks, across suspension bridges, and past historic sites on this 27.5-mile paved trail — the longest in the state. A segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Neuse River Greenway extends from Falls Lake to the Wake/Johnston County line. And pssst, to access the more secluded areas of the trail, start at Anderson Point Park in Raleigh.
Start your hike along this 6-mile paved trail at the North Carolina Museum of Art, a 164-acre property featuring an incredible sculpture park. Follow the trail past the campuses of Meredith College and North Carolina State University until it ends at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts downtown. The Art to Heart Corridor is part of the East Coast Greenway, a developing trail system running 3,000 miles from Canada to Florida.
The Glen Burney Trail follows along what is believed to have been a Native American pathway, which was later used as a local route to access logging operations — so be sure to look for the stonework laid by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. From the trailhead in downtown Blowing Rock, follow the 1.2-mile strenuous route past ruins and across streams to reach Glen Burney Falls. Just remember: What goes down must come up!
This moderate 1-mile loop follows Buckeye Creek along an old railroad path that dates back to the 1920s — and its easy-to-access location makes it one of the most popular trails in town. Stroll through the apple orchard behind the Buckeye Recreation Center and follow the steps down toward the creek for amazing views of Buckeye Creek Falls. Stop to watch the water cascading down the rocks before hiking back up.
This 1800s-era cotton plantation-turned-living history museum is part of an approximately 1,500-acre nature preserve less than 13 miles from Uptown Charlotte. Each of the 16 miles of hiking trails offers a different experience of the park. For flowers and sunshine, try the Split Rock Trail, a 1-mile loop off of the Hill and Piedmont Prairie trails where a field of endangered Schweinitz’s sunflowers — a native wildflower — is in full bloom from mid-September to mid-October. Latta Plantation is also popular with equestrians, so expect to share the trails with some four-legged friends out for their morning hikes.
Look for sailboats and kayaks gliding across the water as you walk along the shore of Lake Crabtree on the 6-mile-long Lake Trail, located just 12 miles from downtown Raleigh. A portion of the moderate trail — the longest in the park — is shared with the Crabtree Creek Greenways, which features a 730-foot boardwalk crossing over the lake.