Are you growing tired of the Raleigh skyline? Maybe this is the perfect time to throw on a warm winter coat and escape for a weekend adventure in one of North Carolina’s beautiful parks. Not sure where to go? Here are five parks within a two hour drive of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Because of its beauty and convenience, this park has become a regular escape for Raleigh residents. That means it can get pretty crowded at times – especially the parking – so if you’re looking for solidarity, Lake Johnson may not be the place for you. It’s best suited for some quick exercise on the 3.5-mile loop trail, a catch-and-release fishing expedition, or an aquatic lake adventure on rentable kayaks during the summer months.
If you’re a Raleigh-native, you’ve probably spent some quality time in Umstead. For anyone who hasn’t, this 5,579-acre state park features hiking trails, mountain biking trails, three man-made lakes for fishing, shelters for picnics, and even overnight primitive campgrounds. Although it’s only 11.5-miles away from the center of Raleigh, the park is a great place to detach and decompress from city life.
The Eno River State Park is a 3,900 acre woodland meant for hiking, camping, canoeing, and fishing, like most state parks. However, unlike the other parks on our list, the Eno offers an intriguing slice of North Carolina history. If you love visiting historic mills and homesteads, this is the park for you. And if you’re more into hiking, Eno River State Park has over 30-miles of trail to explore.
Now we’re moving on to a real park. Uwharrie is 51,000 acre National North Carolina Forest. That means you can expect to see everything from gorgeous canopies of oak to deadly timber rattlesnakes. If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, the 20-mile Uwharrie Trail is calling you out. On this trail you’ll see views from Dark Mountain, visit abandoned gold mines, and hunker down along the trail at night to rest. Be sure to bring plenty of bug spray and mesh clothing to avoid ticks and other pests!
We know we said this list would only contain hikes within two hours of Raleigh (it’s about 2 and ½ hours away), but we couldn’t keep Hanging Rock State Park off the list – It’s that spectacular. The short hike to the top of Hanging Rock isn’t easy, but the views at the top are worth every step. Hanging Rock State Park is also home to a few small waterfalls, a stocked lake for fishing and canoeing, and plenty of hiking trails to keep you busy. As a bonus, the park is only about 45-minutes away from downtown Winston-Salem, an area bursting with good art, good food, and delicious coffee.
The rest is up to you!
Now you’ve just got to choose where to go! These are all great parks, so you really can’t go wrong. Just make sure you research and prepare for whatever park you do choose. Hiking and visiting parks is fun, but you could die if you’re not careful. Just saying.