The North Carolina Museum of Art Trails
Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607
The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) located off Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh, NC provides the perfect combination of exercise, outdoors and art. Groups of all ages can enjoy what this 160-acre park has to offer. From paved walking and biking trails to unpaved terrain leading to various art installations throughout the museum grounds, some of which are hidden in the woods. The park does offer some challenging obstacles for visitors but it is more than adequate for those looking to get outside and move around in an aesthetically pleasing environment. In addition to the paths and trails, guests may also be interested in checking out the cloud chamber which allows guests to walk among the trees with nothing more but the help of sunshine (you’ll have to come check this out to see how it really works).
Lake Crabtree Trails
Address: 1400 Aviation Pkwy Morrisville, NC 27560
Lake Crabtree County Park is located on 215 acres next to the 520-acre Lake Crabtree. There are a total of 16 miles of walking trails with a six-mile loop around the circumference of the lake itself. There are also several smaller loops open to cyclists interested in a ride around the area. The trails’ scenic highlights include the Heather Lee Carr Memorial and the Black Creek footbridge, each providing a nice overlook those passing through. On average, one could expect to complete the main trail in two and a half to three hours when traveling at normal walking pace. Additionally, there are plenty of places to go fishing and stop for a nice picnic, so come prepared for a day of outdoor activity.
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
Address: 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd. Cary, NC 27518
The Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is a jointly owned 140-acre park by the Town of Cary and the North Carolina State Park System with an emphasis on preserving a population of hemlock trees and other vegetation commonly found in western NC. It has four primary trails ranging in distances of 0.7 to 1.2 miles, all offering a different experience to those who choose to travel them.
Swift Creek Loop Trail (0.8 mi) – This trail provides great views of the hemlock trees, East Bluff and Swift Creek while offering decent exercise. Hikers must take around 100 stairs both down and up the trail but once this is accomplished the trail is generally flat and easy to travel.
Chestnut Oak Loop Trail (1.2 mi) – The longest and most challenging trail in the nature preserve, the Chestnut Oak Loop trail winds through the upland forest with many ravines, ridges and creeks. Hikers can expect steep inclines and often mud due to the hilly nature of the path. This trail isn’t said to be too difficult for the average hiker but is definitely more demanding than the other options at the preserve.
Beech Tree Cove Trail (0.9 mi) – This trail is fairly easy-going and stroller-accessible. The terrain is generally flat and heavily mulched making for a light walk. There is also an overlook available to walkers and joggers located 41 steps down. This trail is accessed via the Chestnut Oak Loop Trail.
West Hemlock Overlook Trail (0.7 mi) – This trail is also well-mulched with generally consistent terrain. It includes an overlook that can be accessed after traveling 17 stairs.
William B. Umstead State Park
Address: 8801 Glenwood Avenue Raleigh, NC 27617
This state park has more than 20 miles of trails that fit just about everyone’s preferences. With routes of varying difficulty, acceptable for horseback riding, cycling and hiking, William B. Umstead State Park is easily one of the most diverse outdoor locations in the Raleigh area. There are plenty of shorter trails less than a mile in length but the park is highlighted by two particularly challenging ones, the Company Mill Trail (5.8 mi) and the Sycamore Trail (7.2 mi) that can take up most of an afternoon to navigate.
If you’re looking to make a weekend out of it, the park offers more than just trails. Stay a while and enjoy either the primitive campsites (no amenities) where you can pitch a tent or come with a large group and rent one of the cabins (amenities). Additionally, there are three man-made lakes in the center of the park,the largest aptly named “Big Lake,” offering canoe and rowboat rentals. All lakes are stocked and fishing is permitted. On top of this there are plenty of picnic and gathering spaces for guests to relax and have a bite to eat.
Neuse River Greenway Trail
Address: Neuse River Greenway Trail, Raleigh, NC 27604
This paved 27.5-mile Raleigh trail is part of the city’s Capital Area Greenway System and a segment of the larger Mountains-to-Sea Trail that runs across North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. There are beautiful views of large green pastures and scenic bridges to cross. As you travel this route there will be ample opportunity for fishing and canoeing, so come prepared if you enjoy those activities. For those looking to extend their adventure the Neuse River Greenway Trail connects directly to Abbotts Creek Trail, Buffalo Road Athletic Park, Anderson Point Park and Milburnie Dam.
Use this map to see where each one of these featured parks and trails is located in the Raleigh area.