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Written by Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau   
Monday, April 01, 2019 05:41 PM

Go Outside and Play

Orange County is so beautiful it could be an advertisement for nature itself. Museums, great shopping, sports teams, and fancy hotels bring visitors here by the thousands, as well they should. But it’s what’s outside that sustains us. And it’s rare to find a bucolic wonderland so close to a cultural mecca. It’s not just the best of both worlds here — it’s the best of all worlds.

A recent University of Georgia study asked Southerners why they valued wilderness areas. Protecting water and air quality, safeguarding wildlife and rare species habitats, providing scenic beauty, and preserving areas for future generations were the most important benefits of wilderness. Hiking was the most common use of wilderness areas, (84%), followed by photography, swimming, and camping – all of which can be found right here, minutes from home or your cushy hotel room.

 Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Hillsborough 

How to Enjoy the Outdoors This Spring in Orange County

The 2-mile scenic hiking trail at Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area cuts through the woods, following the Eno River, up to the overlook where you can sit on the rocks or benches and see across Orange County for miles. Eno River State Park has almost 28 miles of mostly wooded trails, and Little River Regional Park and Natural Area features over 7 miles of hiking trails and single-track mountain biking trails. You’ll also enjoy visiting the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail, a vintage NASCAR dirt racetrack that’s been converted to a park with trails. There are 3 miles of flat, dirt tracks ideal for running or walking, including the original oval loop around the speedway. Today, it’s surrounded by tall swaying pines.

The Hillsborough Riverwalk, Poet’s Walk at Ayr Mount, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden are also beautiful places for an easy stroll.

It’s no secret that getting outside – wearing a hat and a little sunblock! – can rejuvenate and enliven. But it also creates great memories of your trip. North Carolina’s famous natural beauty lends itself to all sorts of exciting outdoor adventures.

Here are a Few Suggestions for the Coming Month

Hillsborough Riverwalk 

A paved, accessible, urban greenway that stretches about 1.8 miles along the Eno River between Gold Park in western Hillsborough and trails east of town. It’s a popular trail for walking, jogging, and cycling, and provides pedestrian connections between several neighborhoods. 

In Orange County, North Carolina, the gently urban center is elbow-to-elbow with a wilderness that has remained nearly unchanged for centuries. It’s why living here feels like such a blessing, and why visiting feels like a breezy, sun-dappled gift.

Johnston Nature Mill Preserve

In the 96-acre Johnston Mill Nature Preserve you’ll find many of the same natural features that you will at its bigger, better-known neighbors Eno River State Park and Duke Forest – just minus the crowds. Take New Hope Creek, a two-mile stretch of which meanders through the northeast portion of the preserve. 

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, with its miles of trails, riverside forests, mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets, and sky-touching bluffs is a quick and easy foray into the freshly blooming spring.

Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park – like its namesake -- flows near the urban areas of Durham and Orange counties with five scattered access areas, each just minutes from town. The Eno River’s waters roll through mature forests, historic mill and home sites, and river bluffs covered with flowering shrubs, across fords used by early settlers. The park offers nearly 30 miles of trails along a swift, shallow stream popular with anglers, photographers, and sightseers.

George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve

The George and Julia Brumley Family Nature Preserve is a 613-acre preserve in western Orange County, approximately 2 miles southeast of the town of Hillsborough. 

  • Southern Parking Lot: 3055 New Hope Church Rd. Chapel Hill, NC 27514
  • Northern Parking Lot: 3620 Old State Hwy 10, Chapel Hill, 27514


For more ideas on where to hike, check-out Blogger Michelle Rogers.

The Triangle Land Conservancy sees this North Carolina Triangle region as an increasingly healthy and vibrant place to live where wild and working lands are protected, and everyone has access to open space, clean water, and local food.