A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Three Easy State Park Trails CCC Loop Trail • Cole Mill Trail • Hickory Nut Falls Trail [caption id="attachment_167257" align="alignnone" width="1140"] At Singletary Lake State Park, visitors can explore the

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Three Easy State Park Trails CCC Loop Trail • Cole Mill Trail • Hickory Nut Falls Trail [caption id="attachment_167257" align="alignnone" width="1140"] At Singletary Lake State Park, visitors can explore the

3 Easy State Park Trails

Three Easy State Park Trails

CCC Loop TrailCole Mill TrailHickory Nut Falls Trail

At Singletary Lake State Park, visitors can explore the 572-acre lake via kayak or canoe. photograph by Chansak Joe/iStock/Getty Images Plus

CCC Loop Trail

Singletary Lake State Park, Bladen County

Urged on by a gentle breeze, rippling water laps against the pilings of a wooden pier that juts out into Singletary Lake, one of the mysterious Carolina bays whose origins elude scientists. Where the pier meets the shore, the easy, one-mile CCC Loop Trail — named for the Civilian Conservation Corps, which built some of the facilities at Singletary Lake State Park — begins to follow the shoreline. Here, cedar, gum, and poplar trees are skirted by bay shrubs. Looking closely, hikers might spot carnivorous pitcher plants and Venus flytraps or the paw prints of a black bear in the white sand. They might catch a glimpse of playful otters foraging in the lake or an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker peeking out from its nesting cavity in a longleaf pine. The far end of the trail loops through a shady forest of these towering conifers — the path blanketed with patches of lichen — before the trees thin out, the white sand returns, and the trail leads back to where it started. — Rebecca Woltz

6707 NC Highway 53 East
Kelly, NC 28448

During a hike in Eno River State Park via any of its five accesses, you might stumble upon historic structures like home sites, a mill, and remnants of a pump station. photograph by Tarheelson/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Cole Mill Trail

Eno River State Park, Durham County

Eno River State Park — a Piedmont gem and tranquil respite in the middle of urban Durham — contains some of the best wildflower and birding opportunities in the area. For a nearly effortless excursion, explore the Cole Mill Trail. The 1.2-mile loop is an easy, short hike that, aside from a quick climb through the forest, follows alongside the Eno and remains mostly flat. A popular route for birders and anglers, the route features plenty of spots for hikers — and their furry, leashed friends — to wade into the river and spy turtles in the shallows. Be sure look out across the opposite riverbank to see laurel and rhododendron on the shady, north-facing bluffs — and keep an eye out for natural trip hazards, like roots. — Katie Schanze

6101 Cole Mill Road
Durham, NC 27705

Hickory Nut Falls at Chimney Rock State Park was featured in the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans. photograph by alex grichenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Hickory Nut Falls Trail

Chimney Rock State Park, Rutherford County

On a trip to Chimney Rock State Park, there’s no question that you’ll climb the 499 steps (or walk through a nearly 200-foot man-made tunnel and take a 26-story elevator followed by 40 steps) to reach the top of the iconic monolith — the Chimney Rock — which towers 315 feet over the mountainside and offers sweeping views of Hickory Nut Gorge and the Rocky Broad River as it flows into Lake Lure. It’s worth the effort! But if you’re in search of a way to cool off afterward, consider the gently rolling trail to the base of Hickory Nut Falls. Shaded by deep forest, this 1.4-mile round-trip hike features rest areas and picnic tables, and you’ll be enveloped by native rhododendron and mountain laurels. Your reward is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, which drops more than 400 feet over a solid mass of Henderson gneiss. A small set of stairs at the base will lead you right into the cooling mist. — Katie Schanze

431 Main Street
Chimney Rock, NC 28720

This story was published on Apr 12, 2023

Rebecca Woltz

Rebecca is the staff writer at Our State.

Katie Schanze

Katie Schanze is an associate editor and digital content editor at Our State.