A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

  You don’t have to trek into the middle of nowhere to stretch your legs in nature. These eight trails are a quick trip from our biggest cities — and

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

  You don’t have to trek into the middle of nowhere to stretch your legs in nature. These eight trails are a quick trip from our biggest cities — and

8 Urban Hikes for a Breath of Fresh Air


You don’t have to trek into the middle of nowhere to stretch your legs in nature. These eight 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.


Twelve Mile Creek Greenway 

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. 


Salem Lake Trail

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.


Guilford Courthouse National Military Park 

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.


Neuse River Greenway Trail

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.


Art to Heart Corridor

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.


Glen Burney Trail
Blowing Rock

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!


Falls Trail
Beech Mountain

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.


Lake Crabtree County Park

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.

This story was published on Apr 27, 2020

Jodi Helmer

North Carolina-based journalist Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment.