With mild year-round weather and tons of city, county, and state parks, North Carolina’s Research Triangle — made up of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill — offers plenty to do. Cool off in one of the many lakes and rivers in the summer, or enjoy some rugged outdoor adventures like hiking, fishing, and mountain biking all year round. Can’t wait to start exploring? Here are a few great outdoor spots to check out near Raleigh.
1. Eno River State Park
Locals love Eno River State Park for canoeing, rafting, and hiking. The park has five access areas, all close to Durham. If you visit in the spring — or any time after a good rain — you can test your mettle on Level I, II, and III class rapids.
The weather in the area is nice most of the time, so you shouldn’t have to worry about missing out on hikes for bad weather. You can trek through hardwood forests to the top of Cox Mountain or hike the easier Bobbitt Hole Trail, with glimpses of the gushing river. When you’re done, cool down in one of the park’s two picnic areas.
2. Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure
Zip, climb, and swing like Tarzan at Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure, an interactive experience that’s perfect for outdoorsy types. Spend about two to three hours sailing through the forest on zip lines and Tarzan swings and tackling obstacles suspended 40 to 50 feet in the trees. If you have little ones in tow, take them on the Treetop Junior course, suitable for kids under 10.
3. Jordan Lake
Jordan Lake is one big body of water — 14,000 acres, to be exact. The large reservoir has more than 1,000 campsites, including sites for RV hookups and tent camping. Seven beaches attract Triangle residents in the summer months for swimming and sunbathing, and 14 ramps provide easy access for boats. If you prefer dry land, explore the 14 miles of hiking trails. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle soaring over the water.
4. Lake Crabtree County Park
Kayakers who don’t want to bob around in the wake of speedboats head to Lake Crabtree, where motors with more than 5 horsepower aren’t allowed. From the dam northwest to the passage under Aviation Parkway, you have a mile of open water to get in an excellent workout.
Because the water is shallow — no more than 12 feet, on average — Lake Crabtree is a great spot for beginning kayakers. Rent a kayak or canoe on the park’s waterfront during boat rental season, from early May to late September.
5. Winter Wonderland at Bond Park
Can’t remember the last time you raced downhill on a sled? Relive those precious childhood memories at Bond Park in Cary. In late January, the hill across from Bond Park Community Center is typically covered in snow made from ground ice. It’s not enough to make a snowman, but plenty for speedy snow-tubing.
If you’re confident you remember what to do, hop in a tube, and sail down from the top of the hill. If not, join the younger crowd, and start about halfway down.
6. White Pines Nature Preserve
The white pine used to be common in North Carolina — about 10,000 or so years ago. Now, white pine is usually found on higher, cooler ground, except for a few hearty examples sticking it out in White Pines Nature Preserve, about 42 miles outside of Raleigh.
Hike the 2.4-mile White Pines loop if you want to stroll through the forest and admire the native flowers and trees. You’ll see bright green ferns and flowering shrubs huddling along the Rocky River. Wildflowers cover the slopes in spring, and if you’re a wildlife watcher, the preserve is home to a variety of birds, mammals, and endangered fish.
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