When we first visited Eno River State Park, it quickly became clear that this was not just another place to visit in North Carolina. It’s filled with some of our favorite hikes, and a short drive from downtown Durham. The park is a can’t-miss for people seeking outdoor fun in Bull City. And since there are many ways to enjoy the Eno, we thought it was high time to share some of our favorites. We even mix in some pop culture along with our favorite trails, water activities, and more from this awesome North Carolina state park.
Eno River State Park
The 4,200-acre Eno River State Park opened in 1975 and working together with the City of Durham-managed West Point on the Eno, preserves 14 miles of the 42-mile long Eno River. It’s named after the Eno People, who lived along the river before European exploration. The Eno River Association serves as the park’s stewards, continuing the fight for conservation and to leave something behind for generations beyond you and me.
The Eno River and Stranger Things
If you’re into the critically acclaimed TV series Stranger Things, you might’ve heard the Eno River mentioned. That’s because the show’s creators are from Durham, and the Eno is not the only Bull City easter egg they drop.
Here are a few more places in Hawkins that reference real spots in Durham!
Getting to Eno River State Park is fairly simple. There are five access points, including Cabe Lands, Cole Mill, Fews Ford, Pleasant Green, and Pump Station. If I were to visit for the first time, I’d just look up the trail I want (ex. Cox Mountain Trail) and use Google Maps to get me there.
Eno River Trails
I base where I’m going on which of the 16 designated Eno River State Park trails I plan on exploring. Our favorites include the most photogenic and popular with visitors beyond us, and here they are in no particular order.
1.50 Mile Loop | Red Circle Blaze
Buckquarter Creek might be my favorite trail in Eno River State Park. It starts at Few’s Ford, where many people go swimming during the summer. Before looping away from the river, this is where you’ll find some of the Eno’s most beautiful rapids (pictured, top).
3.75 Mile Loop | Blue Circle Blaze
A lot of people also love Cox Mountain Trail, and not just for its picturesque suspension footbridge. After crossing the river, there’s a nice path that intersects with Fanny’s Ford Trail (1 Mile Loop, Purple Circle Blaze), which you can use to spend more time walking along the river. Continue on Cox Mountain Trail and it’ll take you through the woods until looping back toward the river and the bridge.
6.1 Miles One Way | Yellow Circle
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs through Laurel Bluffs, which is the longest Eno River trail. It connects to three others along the way, including Pump Station, Cabe Lands, and Eno Quarry. Keep in mind that the quarry is popular for swimming, but the steep and muddy cliffs and deep water make it very dangerous.
1 Mile Loop | Yellow Circle Blaze
One of the park’s easier hikes, Cole Mill Trail takes you along the river and through the woods. You’ll end up on the opposite end of the parking lot and picnic area, depending on where you started.
1.5 Mile Loop | Red Circle Blaze
Pump Station is one of the more non-descript trails of Eno River State Park, but one of the most popular. It’s a short loop, full of beautiful wildflowers in spring, and a cool look at an abandoned pump station’s ruins, hence the name.
More Hiking Options
There are also guided hikes throughout the year, which you can keep up with here. If you’ve gone hiking in Eno River State Park, we’d love to know your favorite trails in the comments section.
Swimming at Eno River State Park
There are a few more ways to enjoy the park, and one of the most popular is swimming at Few’s Ford, especially on hot days. Many adventurous souls head to the quarry for this. Just keep in mind that it’s pretty dangerous and we, unfortunately, see occasional reports of swimmers losing their lives at this spot.
Paddling and Fishing
You can also paddle some parts of the Eno, depending on water levels. More info can be found here. I’ve also seen quite a few people cast fishing and wading in the water doing some fly fishing. You can catch various bass and sunfish here.
Note: NC Wildlife Resources Commission regulations do apply inside the park. Check their website for updated info.
Backpack camping and group camping are both available at Eno River State Park.
For backpackers, there are five sites available at both the Fanny’s Ford Campground and the Piper Creek Campground.
Groups can choose from the Cox Mountain Group Camp (26-person maximum) and the Buckquarter Creek Group Camp (2 sites, 15-person maximum at each). Reservations are required for group campsites.
Note: the park’s gates do close at designated times, so keep that in mind if you’re not staying the night or need to pop out for a minute.
Final Thoughts and Yours, Too
Eno River State Park remains our favorite in North Carolina, and not just because it’s close to home. Sure, we’ve made tons of memories here and plan to create more, but its scenery, backstory, and everything else make this a truly special place. We love visiting throughout the year and always look forward to our next time walking along the Eno. And if you get a chance to explore this park, you might just bump into us along one of the trails, near the swimming, or around the campgrounds.
Until you do, what’s the first thing you’d like to do at Eno River State Park? If you’ve been before, what’s your favorite part about this awesome park? Let us know in the comments, where we look forward to chatting about this awesome place in North Carolina!