Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
May 2020

Escape into the great outdoors within city limits. North Carolina’s state and county parks offer miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, boating areas, equestrian adventures, and more. Many of these excursions are in or near Raleigh and Durham, so there’s no need to take a long road trip to experience the state’s natural attractions. From pristine rivers to nearby mountain peaks, here are the best places to head outdoors in the area.

Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve

This pristine oasis in Raleigh includes 157 acres of land along Falls Lake dedicated to preserving nature and promoting wildlife education. Binoculars, kites and more equipment are available on loan to help enhance hikes on various short, accessible trails.


Lake Crabtree County Park

This expansive area surrounding a 520-acre lake is resplendent with nature. Hikers can enjoy ample picnic facilities, and also bike, fish or boat. The park’s staff leads free hikes for all ages so first-timers can be accompanied by a guide and learn more about the local outdoors.


Eno River State Park 

In nearby Hillsborough, Eno River State Park is a go-to for locals looking to rejuvenate in nature. Nearly thirty miles of trails are available for hikers, and when river conditions are right, kayaking and canoeing is also permitted. Those eager to ascend can start climbing the three-mile trail in Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, where excellent views are the reward for an occasionally steep hike.


William B. Umstead State Park

Over twenty miles of hiking trails offer almost endless opportunities to explore the wooded area. Trails are reserved for hikers, but multi-use areas also allow for biking and horseback riding. Trails range from short loops to more ambitious routes, for those who want to spend anywhere from an hour to a half-day on a hike. 


Neuse River Greenway Trail

Urbanites who want a paved trail that’s almost impossible to get lost on can hike through the 38-mile scenic walk alongside the Neuse River. The winding boardwalk will take hikers through wetlands, agricultural fields, historic sites and more. The greenway is also a slice of North Carolina’s “Mountains-to-Sea Trail,” which runs from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.


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