Being out in nature is great for your health, both physically and mentally. Here are some of my favorite beautiful places in the Hillsborough and Chapel Hill area to enjoy a scenic walk. All of them have free admission and are open year-round.
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area – This scenic trail goes through the woods, along the peaceful Eno River, and up to the overlook where you’ll get to sit on the rocks or benches and see for miles across Orange County. 625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough. For more, see my story here.
Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail – This unique 44-acre site was a NASCAR dirt racetrack that was in use from 1948-68 and in 2003 converted to a park with trails. There are 3 miles of flat, dirt tracks ideal to run or walk, including the original oval loop around the speedway. Today, it’s surrounded by tall pines. 320 Elizabeth Brady Road, Hillsborough. See my story here.
Hillsborough Riverwalk – Part of the Mountains to Sea trail, the Riverwalk is a paved, accessible urban greenway that stretches about 2 miles along the Eno River. It is a popular trail for walking, jogging and cycling. The main entrance is by the Eno River Parking Deck (free), 228 S Churton St., Hillsborough.
Blackwood Farm Park – Located on Rt. 86, south of Hillsborough (New Hope Church Rd. exit 263 on I-40), the park is 152 acres of forest trails and open spaces situated on an historic farm property. See my story here. (Note: Use THIS address for your GPS, not the one on their website: 4215 NC 86, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.)
Little River Regional Park and Natural Area – This 391-acre rural site is operated by both Orange and Durham counties, on former tobacco farmland along the Little River. It features over 7 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of single-track mountain biking trails. 301 Little River Park Way, Rougemont.
Eno River State Park
Eno River State Park – This mostly wooded park straddles Orange and Durham counties. It features almost 28 miles of trail, parts of which follow along the banks of the tranquil Eno River. Trails range from .5 mile to about 6. 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham. Read my story here.
NC Botanical Gardens
North Carolina Botanical Gardens – Owned by the University of North Carolina (but located off campus, with plenty of free parking), the display gardens are part of a 1,000-acre collection of gardens and natural areas. The Gardens feature several habitats representing different ecological regions of the state, including coastal and mountains. 100 Old Mason Farm Rd, Chapel Hill. See my story here.