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Raleigh and the Triangle

The Triangle refers to the area in the Piedmont of central North Carolina including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.  These major cities make up the three "points" of the triangle, but the Triangle also includes smaller towns such as Cary, Wake Forest, and Hillsborough.  The Triangle is sometimes referred to as Research Triangle due to the density of institutions of higher education, including North Carolina State University, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and others, and the concentration of high-tech, biotech, and pharmaceutical firms in the region.   For the purposes of this page, I consider the Triangle to include Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnston, Granville, Chatham, and Lee counties.


The greater Triangle region has a number of city, county, state, and private parks that provide great opportunities for hiking and enjoying nature without a long drive for residents.  This map shows some of the places that I've hiked at and made a page for.

City of Raleigh Parks:

Raleigh is sometimes referred to as a city within a park.  As such, there's no shortage of city parks and greenways to go for stroll.  Here are a few that I have made websites for.

Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve: A small nature preserve near Falls Lake with about 2 miles of trails and an environmental education center.

Capital Area Greenway: With more than 100 miles of paved and unpaved trails, the Capital Area Greenway snakes through almost all parts of the city.  Neuse River Trail, the longest in the system, is part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the East Coast Greenway follows several of the system's trails.

Durant Nature Park: A small park in North Raleigh near I-540 and US-1 (Capital Blvd.) with several miles of trails around two lakes.

Lake Johnson: A park near downtown Raleigh and NC State campus with paved and unpaved greenway trails around the lake.  Paddleboats are also available for rent during the summer season.

Lake Lynn:  Lake Lynn is a park in North Raleigh near I-540 and US-70 (Glenwood Ave.) with a 2-mile paved and boardwalk greenway trail surrounding the lake.  It's a great place for a relaxing walk and to see wildlife including ducks, geese, and herons.

Shelley Lake: A park in North Raleigh off Millbrook Road with a paved greenway trail surrounding the lake.

Town of Morrisville Parks:

Morrisville is nestled between Raleigh and Cary and is home to RDU International Airport.  It's a rapidly growing suburbs and they're starting to develop and parks and greenways system.

Morrisville Greenway:  The Morrisville Greenway currently consists of two trails, totaling about 3.5 miles of paved trails.

Wake County Parks:

American Tobacco Trail: The Wake County section of this rails-to-trails project is managed by Wake County Parks.  The entire trail is more than 22 miles long and runs to downtown Durham.

Blue Jay Point County Park: A park in North Raleigh consisting of a peninsula on Falls Lake.  The park has hiking trails, playgrounds, and an educational center.

Crowder District Park: A small park in Apex with 33 acres of landscaped grounds, hardwood forests and a 3-acre pond.

Harris Lake County Park: A park in New Hill south of Apex off US-1.  The park has designated hiking trails, bike trails, and a campsite.

Lake Crabtree County Park:  A park in Morrisville near RDU airport and I-40.  The park has many off-road bicycle trails and a longer hiking trail that goes around the lake.

Turnipseed Nature Preserve: A small nature preserve in southeastern Wake County near Wendell with several miles of hiking trails.

Orange County Parks:

Little River Regional Park: A park north of Durham managed by Orange County as a partnership with Durham County.  The park has several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails along the Little River.

State Parks:

Eno River State Park: A state park northwest of Durham with miles of trails along the scenic Eno River.

Falls Lake State Recreation Area: A state recreation area located along Falls Lake, the reservoir for Raleigh.  The area has access for boating and water activities, as well as 60-mile trail along the southern portion of the lake that is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Lower Haw River State Natural Area: A state natural area managed as a satellite of Jordan Lake, it protects Haw River from Bynum to Jordan Lake.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area: A state recreation area on Jordan Lake, a 14,000 acre reservoir in Chatham County.  There are more than 1000 campsites, as well as numerous boat ramps, picnic areas, swim beaches, and hiking trails.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area:  A state natural area managed as a satellite of Eno River State Park with a few miles of hiking trails around Occoneechee Mountain, the highest point in the Triangle.

William B. Umstead State Park: A state park nestled between Raleigh, Cary and RDU airport with miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and biking, as well as campsites, picnic shelters and canoe rentals.  An oasis of nature amidst an increasingly urbanized area.

Triangle Land Conservancy Preserves:

Horton Grove Nature Preserve: A nature preserve in northern Durham County that protects the former agricultural land around Stagville Plantation.

Johnston Mill Nature Preserve: A nature preserve in Orange County that protects a section of New Hope Creek.

Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve: A small nature preserve along Swift Creek in Cary.

White Pines Nature Preserve: A small nature preserve south of Pittsboro in Chatham County, known for its population of White Pines.

Eno River Association:

Eno River Association has been involved in protecting many parcels of land along the Eno River and its tributaries.  Most of the land is now part of the state park or other parks, but the association has one preserve open to the public.

Confluence Natural Area:  A 200-acre preserve at the confluence of East and West Forks of Eno River.

NC Botanical Garden Preserves:

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve: A small preserve along a stretch of the Eno River where high pH soils lead to rare plants for the area.  A section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs through the preserve.

University Forests:

Carl Alwin Schenck Memorial Forest: A NC State University teaching and research forest located near the Wade Avenue split off I-40.

Duke Forest: A 7,000-acre forest owned by Duke University spread around 6 tracts in Durham, Orange, and Alamance Counties.

State Game Lands:

State Game Lands are managed by NC Wildlife Resources Commission.  As these areas are open to hunting, wear blaze orange when hiking during hunting season.

Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land: Butner-Falls of Neuse Game Land surrounds Falls Lake.  The 60-mile Falls Lake Trail, part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs along the south shore of the lake.

Army Corps of Engineers:

The US Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District manages flood control reservoirs in the Research Triangle region.

Falls Lake:  Falls Lake is a 12,000-acre lake used for flood control and water supply for Raleigh and surrounding communities.  The Army Corps of Engineers manages several miles of trails around the dam, including part of the 60-mile Falls Lake Trail along the lake's southern shore.

External Links:

City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources website: https://www.raleighnc.gov/parks/content/Departments/Articles/ParksandRecreation.html

Raleigh Tourism website: http://www.visitraleigh.com/

Wake County Parks website: http://www.wakegov.com/parks/default.htm
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