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Falls Lake State Recreational Area (and the Best Things to Do There!)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on May 16, 2024.

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Falls Lake State Recreational Area is the perfect getaway from some of North Carolina’s biggest urban centers. The NC State Parks-managed reservoir sits in Durham and Wake Counties, within 30 minutes of downtown Durham and 45 minutes from Raleigh.

If you want to visit this gorgeous North Carolina State Park, we’ve created this travel guide for you!

Here’s how we have organized the guide:

  • What is Falls Lake State Recreational Area?
  • Things to Know Before Visiting (Parking)
  • Things to Do at Falls Lake State Recreational Area
  • Nearby Attractions

Whether you’re a nearby resident, a frequent visitor, or a newbie, we know this NC travel guide will help you find the best things to do at Falls Lake State Recreational Area! 

Read More: Great Lakes in North Carolina (+ Our Top 5 Picks)

Where is Falls Lake State Recreational Area?

Visitor Center Address: 13304 Creedmoor Rd, Wake Forest, NC
Official Website

Falls Lake is a massive manmade reservoir in Central NC, spanning Durham and Wake Counties, with a small portion in Granville County. The State Recreational Area’s accesses are closest to the towns of Creedmoor in Granville County and Wake Forest in Franklin County and Wake County.

The access points are also within a short drive from the biggest cities in NC’s Research Triangle, including:

You can visually travel to Falls Lake via the following maps that we’ve created using Google Maps:

The History of Falls Lake

From the 1930s, the mighty Neuse River was known to flood the area that Falls Lake occupies today. The floods caused substantial damage to roads, farmland, and other properties.

To prevent future flooding, the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dam on the River in 1981, creating a lake that now supplies water to the region and keeps the area healthy.

Today, a dam sits west of the Neuse River’s headwaters, which are formed by the confluence of the Eno River and Flat River.

While the building of Falls Lake helped solve one problem, many local property owners lost significant lands to the Government via eminent domain. Locals felt the land was acquired at underestimated prices, a claim further justified by skyrocketing property prices after the construction of Falls Lake.

Visiting Today

Today, the lake is part of Falls Lake State Recreational Area, which encompasses the 12,000-acre lake and 26,000 acres of surrounding forests. The area offers many activities on land and water, including hiking, biking, and boating.

Things to Know Before Visiting

Before visiting Falls Lake, here are some things you should know to recreate responsibly.

Leave No Trace

Falls Lake State Recreational Area NC Leave No Trace Exhibit Visitor Center

When you visit Falls Lake State Recreational Area, please leave no trace. Trash does NOT belong anywhere in the lake or on its shores.

You can even go further and pick up trash if you see it. That act will make you feel better and help us maintain this beautiful place today and for future generations.

Parking Info and Accesses

The park office is located in the center of the recreational area (13304 Creedmoor Rd, Wake Forest, NC) and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the week.

Seven other accesses around the area have parking for visitors and campers.

  • Beaverdam Access (14600 Creedmoor Road, Wake Forest, NC): Beaverdam Lake and the access point are on the north side of Falls Lake along Highway 50. There’s plenty of parking along the shoreline, a non-gas motor boat ramp, fishing, and swimming access.
  • Sandling Beach Access (14601 Creedmoor Road, Wake Forest, NC): Sandling Beach is on the other side of Highway 50, across from Beaverdam. There is no boat ramp here, but there is parking, beach access, and swimming opportunities.
  • Highway 50 Access (13900 Creedmoor Road, Wake Forest, NC): Highway 50 cuts across Falls Lake and has parking access right after exiting the bridge. There is a boat ramp, picnic areas, and restrooms.
  • Rolling View Access (4201 Baptist Road, Durham, NC): Rolling View is on the south side of the lake and has lots of parking. Visitors can enjoy the sandy beaches and convenient access to hiking trails, playgrounds, amphitheaters, and bathhouses in this area.
  • Shinleaf Access (13708 New Light Road, Wake Forest, NC): Shinleaf is a campground with parking, lots of hiking, and canoe access for registered campers.
  • B.W. Wells Campground (1630 Bent Road, Wake Forest, NC): B.W. Wells is across the narrow channel from Shinleaf. It has about a dozen group campsites, parking, and boat ramps.
  • Holly Point Campground (14424 New Light Road, Wake Forest, NC): Holly Point is also near Shinleaf and B.W. Wells. It’s a large campsite with picnic areas, hiking trails, playgrounds, and boat access.

B.W. Wells and Holly Point accesses are only open to registered campers. Regular visitors can enjoy the activities at the other five accesses.

Read More: 20 Amazing Day Trips in North Carolina

Things to Do at Falls Lake State Recreational Area

With thousands of acres to explore, knowing what to do at Falls Lake State Recreational Area can be hard. In this section, we’ll explain everything you can enjoy here and where to find them all.

Start at the Visitor Center

The Falls Lake Visitor Center is a great place to start if you’re figuring out where to start your adventures. Inside, you’ll find maps, exhibits, and staff who will answer any questions about the park.

Behind the Visitor Center is a short paved walkway leading to a pier, perfect for fishing and basking in the lake’s beautiful scenery.

Birdwatching

Falls Lake State Recreational Area Visitor Center

Falls Lake State Recreation Area is a birdwatcher’s dream. Located along an important migration corridor, the park is home to many wonderful bird species.

You may see great blue herons in the lake or spot a bald eagle soaring near the Rolling View access. Smaller birds like warblers, finches, and woodpeckers flit through the woods.

Read More: Sylvan Heights Bird Park (How to See 2,000 Exotic Bird Species and More!)

Boating

Falls Lake Kayak

Boating is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Falls Lake. Boat ramps are located at Beaverdam (non-gas motors only), Highway 50, and Rolling View accesses. Campers at B.W. Wells and Holly Point can also use those boat ramps.

Non-motorized boats, such as kayaks and canoes, can be launched from the beach area at Sandling Beach.

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

Camping at Falls Lake

We briefly touched upon the campsites in our parking information, but camping is such a big part of the park that it deserves its section. Four campgrounds surround the lake, with different styles and amenities.

  • Tent, Trailer, and RV Camping: There are over 300 campsites scattered between Holly Point and Rolling View campgrounds. Every site has a picnic table, outdoor grill, tent pad, and central bathhouses. Prices range from $26 to $ 33 a night, depending on if you’re staying at a site with electric and water RV hookups. Holly Point offers 89 campsites with water and 30-amp electric hookups, while Rolling View has 80 campsites with water and 30-amp electric hookups.
  • Backpack Camping: The Shinleaf Campground is perfect for campers seeking a more authentic wilderness experience. Shinleaf has 46 tent camping sites accessible via a hike. It’s about $26 a night, and each site has picnic tables, grills, and a group bathhouse.
  • Group Camping: For larger parties, group camping is available at Rolling View, Shinleaf, and B.W. Wells campgrounds. These sites only allow for tent camping with space for 35 people. Rolling View and B.W. Wells have a combined 15 campsites that are hike-in only and have water at each site. Shinleaf has nine group sites that are drive-up and has water nearby. Book a reservation in advance for $65 a night.

Falls Lake State Recreational Area Booking Info

Fishing

Falls Lake State Recreational Area NC Fishing Pier

Fishers will love the large selection of largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish waiting at Falls Lake. There are fishing docks at every access, some available to all visitors and some for campers.

You can also launch your boat from the Highway 50 access and fish in the middle of the lake. A North Carolina Inland Fishing License is required to fish in the park.

Hiking

Falls Lake trail

Falls Lake State Recreation Area has 25 miles of hiking trails weaving throughout the park. The famed statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs along the southern coast of Falls Lake and through many of the park’s trails.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the hiking trails at Falls Lake:

  • Duck Cove / Beaverdam K.I.P. Track Trail (Easy): 0.6 Miles One Way
  • Fox Trot Trail (Easy): 1.5 Mile Loop
  • Rolling View K.I.P. Track Trail (Easy): 0.75 Mile Loop
  • Rolling View Trail (Easy): 2 Miles One Way
  • Sandling Beach Lake Trail (Easy): 1.5 Mile One Way
  • Shinleaf Point Trail (Moderate): 1 Mile One Way
  • Woodland Nature Trail (Moderate): 0.75 Mile Loop

Camper-only hiking trails are available at the B.W. Wells and Holly Point accesses campgrounds.

  • B.W. Wells Long Loop Trail (Moderate): 1.4 Mile Loop
  • B.W. Wells Short Loop Trail (Moderate): 0.8 Mile Loop
  • Holly Point Trail (Moderate): 1.1 Mile One Way

Read More: Hiking Near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (25 of the Best Trails for All!)

Mountain Biking

In addition to hiking, Falls Lake boasts an impressive network of biking trails. Five trails, covering 14 miles, are part of the Beaverdam Mountain Bike Trails system.

Bikers can park at the Beaverdam access to enter one of the trails. These five trails are as follows:

  • Inner Loop (Intermediate): 1.1 Miles
  • Outer Loop (Intermediate): 2.2 Miles
  • West Loop (Intermediate): 2.3 Miles
  • South Loop (Advanced): 7.3 Miles
    • Drop Zone, located off of South Loop (Advanced): 0.9 Miles

Falls Lake bike trails occasionally close for various reasons (including weather), so we recommend checking the state park website for updates before visiting.

Picnicking

Enjoy a picnic lunch in the natural beauty of Falls Lake State Recreational Area.

Picnic tables, grills, water, restrooms, and parking are scattered throughout Highway 50, Beaverdam, Rolling View, and Sandling Beach accesses.

Picnic shelters for larger parties are also available at the Beaverdam, Rolling View, and Highway 50 accesses.

Read More: The Best Things to Do in Medoc Mountain State Park in Halifax County (Hiking, Big Foot, and More!)

Swimming at the Beach

Falls Lake State Recreational Area NC Beach

With over 5,000 acres of coastline included within the park, there are plenty of opportunities for relaxing on the beach and swimming.

Beaches and designated swimming areas can be found at the following accesses:

  • Beaverdam
  • Holly Point (Open only to campers)
  • Rolling View
  • Sandling Beach

Read More: The Best Beaches in North Carolina (+ Our Personal Tips)

Ready to Visit Falls Lake State Recreational Area?

Falls Lake State Recreational Area is one of the nicest outdoor areas in Central North Carolina. We’ve been coming here for years to kayak, swim, fish, and hike.

We know you’ll love this place if you’ve never been before. If you are familiar with Falls Lake, we’d love to hear from you.

Let us know about your favorite things to do in the comments. Remember to share your adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

More Things to Do Nearby

We’ve featured Falls Lake and surrounding places (including Durham and Raleigh) in many of our NC Travel Guides. Here are a few examples.

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