“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey
Enjoying nature is an important part of staying healthy. Kids who are not exposed to the great outdoors have been proven to suffer from more depression and attention deficit disorder than their outdoorsy peers. I would guess the same is true for adults.
When was the last time you stepped outside for a walk in the woods, some fresh air, and natural vitamin D?
The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience. The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.
As an outdoor enthusiast, these have been some of my favorite haunts during my time at UNC. A big thanks to my good friend, Nick, who helped compile this info.
Do you have suggestions for other spots? Additional info I should include about these? Pass along your thoughts in the comments.
Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside!
|Name of area||Activities available||Distance from UNC||Highlights|
|Battle Park||Hiking and Trail Running||On Campus||Located on the east side of campus and downhill from the Coker Arboretum. The park is named for Kemp Plummer Battle, president of UNC from 1876 to 1891. The park symbolizes the important connection between nature and art at UNC. Download a trail map.|
|Mason Farm Biological Reserve||Hiking and Trail Running||2 miles, 3 minutes||Located south east of the Botanical Gardens and Totten Center. A permit and a key card for the gate must be obtained from the Totten Center for $5. Bicycles or motorized vehicles, pets, and removal of wildlife are not allowed.|
|Bolin Creek & Sewell School Trails||Riding, Hiking, and Trail Running||7 miles; 15 minutes||Creek walks and fundraisers occur with the “Friends of Bolin Creek” group. Check them out at http://bolincreek.org/blog/.|
|Duke Forest||Hiking, Trail Running, Fishing, Horseback riding, and Mountain biking||10 miles; 20 minutes||Duke Forest is used primarily for teaching and research laboratory but also included limited public recreation. Group activities must be approved in advance.|
|Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area||Hiking, Trail Running, Fishing, and Picnicking||15 miles; 25 minutes||The Occoneechee Mountain summit is the highest point in Orange Country with 190 acres of land and nearly 3 miles of trails. No fees are charges for the use of this park’s facilities. However, visitors must be 18 years or older to register as campers.|
|William B. Umstead State Park||Boating, Fishing, Horseback Riding, Hiking, Trail Running, Camping, Picnicking, Cycling||20 miles; 25 minutes||There are shelters, campsites, canoes, and kayaks that can be reserved for a reasonable fee.|
|Grandfather Mountain State Park||Camping (backcountry and car) and Hiking||180 miles; 3 hrs, 15 minutes||Camping is allowed at 13 backpack camping sites along the trail system. Campers must leave their vehicles at the designated locations since no vehicle can be left overnight in the Grandfather Mountain attraction. Grandfather Mountain State Park offers more than 12 miles of trails. Most of these trails are challenging and therefore, hikers must use the trails’ ladder and cables in some of the steeper sections.There are no fees for hiking or camping permits, but hikers and campers must be able to produce a valid permit when on state park trails or campsites. To find out where to get a permit, visit: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/grmo/permits.php|
|Eno River State Park||Hiking, Trail running, Camping, Fishing, and Canoeing||20 miles; 30 minutes||For facilities and fees: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/enri/facilities.php. Reservations for camping are not required but recommended.|
|Haw River||Fishing, Canoeing, Swimming, Horseback riding, and Paddling||25 miles; 30 minutes||Haw River has recently made an impressive reversal from a heavily industrial polluted river to a home for a variety of wildlife.|
|Falls Lake State Recreation Area||Boating, Hiking, Camping, Picnicking,CommunityBuilding, Swimming, and Cycling||30 miles; 40 minutes||Entrance Fee: Car = $5/day; Bus or Van = $10/day
Campsite Rentals: $18/day
|Hanging Rock State Park||Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Picnicking, Camping, Swimming, and Climbing||100 miles; 2 hours||Rowboat/Canoe Rentals: $5 for the first hour and $3 for each additional hourCabin Rentals: Accommodates up to 6 people for $83/day; by reservation only and minimum two-night stay required. $14 per personCampsite Rentals: $18/daySwimming: $4/day|
|Uwharrie National Forest||Camping (backcountry and car), Off-road vehicle use, Boating, Hunting, and Fishing||105 miles; 2 hours||The Uwharrie National Forestwas purchased by the federal government in 1931 during the Great Depression and became popular after large gold discoveries in nearby mines. Badin Lake offers numerous recreation activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and hunting.|
|Stone Mountain State Park||Camping, Trails, Education and Events, Exhibits and Historic Sites, Fishing, Picnicking, and Rock Climbing||140 miles; 2.5 hours||Fishing (Special Catch and Release): $15/day per section. Campsite Rentals: $18/day|
|Roanoke River||Canoeing, Camping (platforms; reservation required), Hiking, Fishing, Hunting and Paddling||160 miles; 2.5 hours||Roanoke River Brochure|
|Grayson Highlands State Park||Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Boating, Hunting, and Horseback Trails||170 miles, 3 hours||Parking, admission, and boat launching fees. Cabin and Lodge fees. Bonus: wild ponies.|
|Wilson Creek||Hiking, Camping (backcountry and car), Backpacking, Kayaking, Canoeing, Mountain biking, Horseback Riding, Tubing, Swimming, and Fishing||190 miles; 3.5 hours||Wilson Creek was once used as summer hunting grounds for the Cherokee Indians. Now, it serves as a wilderness area for numerous activities and events. Trails in the Wilson Creek area are rugged.|
|Mt. Rogers, Virginia||Camping (backcountry and car), Fishing and Hunting, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, and Scenic Driving||190 miles; 4 hours|
|Linville Gorge Wilderness||Hiking, Camping (back country), Climbing, Mountain Biking, and Fishing||200 miles; 3 hours and 45 minutes||Camping: A permit is required to camp overnight on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays between May 1st and October 31st with a 3 days and 2 nights maximum length of stay. To make reservations please call the Grandfather District Ranger at 828-652-4841 or 2144 to secure a permit.|
|Cape Hatteras National Seashore||Camping, Fishing, Swimming, Off-road vehicle use, Hunting, Shelling, Birding, Kayaking, Canoeing, Windsurfing, and Lighthouse tours||215 miles; 4 hours||Vehicles are permitted on ocean beaches from 6 am to 10 pm, May 1st to September 15th. A night driving permit is required between 10 pm and 6 am. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Climbing Fees Adults: $7 Children under 12: $3.50 Windsurfing equipment is available for rent.|
|Middle Prong & Shining Rock||Hiking, and Camping (backcountry)||255 miles; 4 hours and 15 minutes||There are no developed campgrounds in the Middle Prong Wilderness and therefore, backcountry camping is allowed. No open fires are permitted.|
|Panthertown Valley||Hiking, Fishing, and Camping (backcountry)||275 miles; 4 hours||Panthertown Valley is great for hiking, as it features an array of threatened and endangered species and natural communities. Overnight camping and catch-and-release fishing are allowed in Panthertown, as long as regulations are followed to ensure the safety of the sensitive areas. Map available for $12|
|Great Smoky Mountains National Park||Camping (backcountry and car), Lodging, Hiking, Fishing, Picnicking, Wildlife viewing, and Auto touring||315 miles; 5 hours and 44 minutes||The Smokies have a very biological diverse environment from big animals like bears, deer and elk, to microscopic organisms. There are about 1,500 nears that live in the park. Download a copy of the Smokies Trip Planner.|