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

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 14, 2024.

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If you’re looking for an escape in the Research Triangle, there are so many hikes near Raleigh and Durham (also Chapel Hill!) to add to your bucket list. And with this wealth of choices, we thought you might need a hand in picking one to start with.

So that’s why we’ve included our favorites, from laid-back walks to more intense state park trails requiring heart-pounding cardio. And to help more, we’ve added a mention of each trail’s claim to fame. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into before heading out.

We’ve broken these hiking trails down by place to keep things organized for you. The section covering Raleigh hikes is just below the map, followed by the Durham and Chapel Hill sections:

  • Raleigh Hikes
  • Durham Hikes
  • Chapel Hill Hikes

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in North Carolina and are wondering, “What are the best hikes near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Hiking Near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill

Best Hikes Near Raleigh

Our guide first takes us to North Carolina’s capital city, where more than 180 miles of hikes await in Raleigh and its surroundings.

Here are a few of our favorite places to hike near Raleigh NC.

Read More: Airbnbs in Raleigh

Art to Heart Trail

Perfect For: Strollers, Running, Bike Rides, Art lovers

a large archwat at the Museum of Art Park Raleigh NC

One of our absolute favorite trails in Raleigh is the Art to Heart Trail. Starting at the North Carolina Museum of Art (pictured above) and weaving through the city to downtown Raleigh, this trail passes some truly beautiful landmarks.

Along the way, before ending in the heart of Raleigh, the almost 6-mile paved trail goes past Meredith College, NC State University, and Pullen Park.

Read More: Things to do with kids in Raleigh

Fred G Bond Park

Perfect For: Boating, Walking, Jogging, Biking, Picnics

a small lakefront area with paddleboats lined along the shore

At 310 acres, Cary‘s Bond Park is one of the largest municipal parks in Wake County. With a 1.5-mile trail looping around Bond Lake, a man-made freshwater lake, biking and jogging are popular in Spring and Fall.

With more than 4.2 miles of trails, a boathouse, and a Community Center, Bond Park really is a cornerstone in the Cary community.

Read More: 15+ Important Tips to Enjoy the NC State Fair

Green Hills County Park

Perfect For: Running, Biking, Views

As a former landfill turned green space, Leslie Knope would be so proud of Green Hills County Park. This 73-acre green space has 1.8 miles of paved trails and 2 miles of mountain biking trails. A short and steep rocky climb offers a 360-degree view of Wake County and the downtown Raleigh skyline.

This park also connects to the Neuse River Greenway, which we’ll mention more about shortly!

Read More: Central North Carolina (and 100+ Amazing Places to Visit)

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Perfect For: Slow walks, Summer shade, Families

A small path through the woods at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve Cary ini NC

The three miles of trails at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary aren’t the only draw to this awesome forest. This 140-acre park contains nearly 200 Eastern Hemlock trees that are something of an anomaly for the area. There is also a great children’s area, a cool recycled art garden, and the 3,700-square-foot Stevens Nature Center here.

Back to hiking, you can choose from the Chestnut Oak Loops (1.2 miles), Swift Creek Loop (0.8), Beech Tree Cove (0.9), and West Hemlock Overlook (0.7). The Hemlock Bluffs is a great hike near Raleigh!

Read More: The Mayton in Cary (+ 7 Things We Love About Staying Here!)

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Perfect For: Hiking, Trail Running, Shade, Water Views

Calm waters on the Jordan Lake Resovoir

While there are many paths along the 14,000-acre reservoir known as Jordan Lake, one of the most popular and challenging ones is the New Hope Trail. Two loops of note are a 5.4-mile red one and a more strenuous 2.7-mile blue loop.

Hikers and trail runners will see incredible views of Jordan Lake while enjoying the shady hardwood forest.

Read More: Day Trips from Raleigh

Lake Crabtree Trails

Perfect For: Picnics, Cycling, Families

our daughter walking along a trail at Lake Crabtree County Park

Lake Crabtree County Park is the first county park and home to some of the most beautiful nature that Raleigh has to offer!

The Lake Trail is a six-mile loop that serves as both a forest escape and a cycle-friendly greenway. In addition to the six-mile loop, Lake Crabtree includes 10 additional miles of multi-use paths ideal for mountain biking!

Even if you didn’t bring a bike, make sure to pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful lake views here.

Read More: Day Trips from Durham

Lake Johnson Park

Perfect For: Slow Walks, Dogs, Trail Running

peering through two trees onto Lake Johnson Park

With a three-mile paved greenway loop and two miles of unpaved trails, Lake Johnson Park near NC State University is an amazing outdoor escape in Raleigh! The most beautiful and must-see spot here is the 700-foot-long boardwalk that cuts across the lake.

Read More: The Best Restaurants in Raleigh for Date Night and Casual Bites

Neuse River Greenway

Perfect For: Biking, Long Runs, Families

a white fence lining the bike path and curving into the distance.

Stretching from Falls Lake in North Raleigh to the Wake County line, we first explored the Neuse River Greenway Trail when hunting for sunflowers. While that fun has since moved to Dorothea Dix Park, the 27.5-mile-long Neuse River Greenway still offers tons of space to enjoy yourself!

Weaving through the countryside, over suspension bridges, and around the beautiful Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, the Neuse River Greenway is a gem collection of Raleigh trails.

If you lack a bike, start at the Falls Lake Trailhead and visit The Bike Guy for a rental!

Read More: 13 Beautiful Sunflower Fields in NC (When + Where to Find Them)

Shelley Lake Park

Perfect For: Sunset, Families, Walking, Running

a small boardwalk near Shelly Lake Park

Perfect for walkers and joggers, Shelley Lake Park is a partially shaded two-mile loop in North Raleigh. Nice and flat, this trail in Raleigh is perfect for a sunset stroll!

You can start your walk from the parking lot next to the trail or connect via the Sertoma Arts Center trail parking lot.

Read More: Date Night in Raleigh: 16 Romantically Paired Activities in Oak City

William B Umstead State Park

Perfect For: Trail Running, Mountain biking, Shade

William B Umstead State Park Raleigh NC Chainsaw Art

The 5,000 acres of William B Umstead Park hosts some of the best hiking trails near Raleigh. Umstead’s 13 miles of multi-use paths are perfect for horseback riding, jogging, and cycling, but they’re only the beginning of this park.

More than 22 miles of foot traffic hiking trails await, with many of them flat. However, some rolling hills sometimes combine for a more mountain-like experience.

Personally, we recommend hopping on the Graylyn Multi-Use Trail to find the chainsaw art! Our guide to Umstead outlines exactly how to reach it and enjoy the entire park in more detail!

Read More: 25+ Great Lakes in North Carolina (+ Our Top 5 Picks)

Hiking Near Durham, NC

Many of these hiking trails near Durham surround the city’s residential areas, Duke University, and others around the town’s outskirts. Many of them were also included in our guide covering free things to do in Durham.

Al Buehler Trail

Perfect For: Running, Jogging

While on Erwin Road, you’ll pass a busy park lot near the Duke Faculty Club that leads to one of Durham’s most popular running trails. The almost 3-mile gravel trail loops around the Washington Duke Golf Course and has challenging hills.

This is one of the best hikes near Durham NC for those looking to get their heart pounding!

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

American Tobacco Trail

Perfect For: Walking, Running, Biking, Strollers

While the American Tobacco Trail crosses Durham, Wake, and Chatham counties, we decided to include it in the former section of hiking trails. The 22.6-mile trail is 10 feet wide and mostly paved.

It follows the old CSX railroad, with the north end starting in downtown Durham at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The south end begins in New Hill, Wake County.

Read More: The Best Breakfast in Durham and 15+ Essential Restaurants to Start Your Day!

Duke Forest

Perfect For: Walking, Familes, Running, Shade

a dance move/yoga pose in a path near Durham

When we first moved to Durham, our apartment backed up to an entrance to Duke Forest. It was an absolutely lovely way to spend weekend mornings strolling the trails with a hot cup of coffee.

Duke Forest is managed by Duke University and consists of over 7,000 acres of forested land. In order to get a full view of the trails, you’ll need to order their recreation maps, but generally, you can find access points along Whitfield Road, Erwin Road, Mt. Sinai Road, and Highway 751.

Eno River State Park

Perfect For: Hiking, Walking, Families, Swimming, Fishing

Buckquarter Creek Trail is one of our favorite hikes near Raleigh NC

With more than 30 miles of hiking trails at Eno River State Park, you can guarantee a wonderful escape in nature. With multiple entrances, each trail is unique and offers something different.

We love all of Eno River State Park’s trails, but here are a few places we love. Our favorite trails include Buckquarter Creek (pictured above), Cole Mill, and Cox Mountain. The latter features a cable suspension bridge that crosses the Eno.

The Eno deserves a special shoutout in our guide covering things to do with kids in Durham!

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Horton Grove Nature Preserve

Perfect For: Walking, Hiking, Photography, Families

The entrance to Horton Grove Nature Reserve

Horton Grove Nature Preserve is ideal for walking and hiking, and a fantastic kid-friendly trail. The 0.8-mile That Makes Sense Trail includes informative signs that are both fun and educational! Level up and print out their Scavenger Hunt before you go for even more fun!

There are more than 8 miles of trails to explore at Horton Grove. It’s the Triangle Land Conservancy’s largest preserve and a beautiful nature oasis in North Durham.

West Point on the Eno

Perfect For: Families, Picnics, Playing in the River, Photographs, Boating

a massive bark among the 404 acres at Eno hiking area in NC

With 404 acres of wooded land and one of the best entryways to the Eno for wading, West Point on the Eno is a popular Durham hiking spot. A 1778 working grist mill, a dammed stretch of river, and a steel bridge that offers incredible views of the park are just part of the fun.

Stop by, and you’ll see why we think West Point on the Eno is perfect for families or an escape from the city. And if you’re looking for even more fun, rent a boat from Frog Hollow Outdoors at the Outpost!

Hiking In and Near Chapel Hill, NC

You’ll love these Chapel Hill hiking trails in and near Chapel Hill. Some sit right near the campus of UNC while others are scattered around Orange County, including in and around Hillsborough.

Bolin Creek

Perfect For: Families, Strollers, Walking, Biking, Running

Starting at the Chapel Hill Community Center, Bolin Creek Trail is one of our favorite walks in the area. The paved 1.5-mile trail weaves through the backyards of Chapel Hill residences, but not too close for comfort.

We really enjoy burning off some steam at the playground before hitting the trail! Don’t forget to take a pit stop off the trail for some delicious coffee from Caffé Driade. You can access the trail from Driade’s rear entrance.

Brumley Nature Preserve

Perfect For: Families, Biking, Hiking, Walking, Shaded, Water Views

Brumley Forest Nature Preserve is an amazing place to hike near Raleigh NC

Two miles south of Hillsborough but technically in Chapel Hill, Brumley Nature Preserve is a wooded collection of 613 acres. Divided into two sections (North and South), there are over 15 miles of hiking and biking trails to explore!

If you’re into biking, check out Brumley South. Both accesses allow all visitors, but Brumley North is specifically meant for hiking.

Carolina North Forest

Perfect For: Walking, Biking, Hiking, Trail Running, Shade

Carl walking through the towering trees of UNC's campus

Located on UNC’s North campus, Carolina North Forest features 750 acres of wooded land to explore. Slip away from the hustle and bustle of Chapel Hill to this wooded wonderland!

The nearly 4-mile-long Wormhole trail is a nice one on the side on the side near the former Horace Williams Airport. It’s a wonderful way to spend a morning in Chapel Hill.

Hillsborough Riverwalk

Perfect For: Walking, Running, Strollers

a small child looking through the fence into the shrubs around Hillsborough Riverwalk

Stretching almost 2 miles from Dimmocks Mill Road to Gold Park, the Riverwalk is one of the most popular things to do in Hillsborough. Wandering along the Eno River, this greenway is perfect for families.

When she was 2 weeks old, it was even the first outdoor trail we took our newborn on!

Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail

Perfect For: Strollers, Running, Families

an old-timer car and a small child in the woods.

A truly hidden hike in Orange County is the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail! The mile-long oval loop (Speedway Trace) was the first NASCAR Superspeedway and was also considered one of the most dangerous tracks.

Today, you can see remnants of several cars, the stands and walk the wide tree-covered path that once made racing history.

Hollow Rock Nature Park

Perfect For: Walking, Hiking, Families, Trail Running

While relatively small in size, Hollow Rock Nature Park is a wonderful spot! Nearly hugging the Durham county line, this Orange County park features two main trails that are both under a mile long and mostly flat.

It’s also a great park to link to Durham’s Duke Forest trails.

Johnston Mill Nature Preserve

Perfect For: Trail Running, Families, Water Play, Nature

a creek diverting around a small landmass with the roots of a tree holding it together

With similar terrain, it’s easy to think of Johnston Mill Nature Preserve as the Eno River State Park of Chapel Hill. The 296-acre property the Triangle Land Conservancy maintains is distinct from its state park brethren, with a lovely variety of scenes waiting for you.

Here, you can follow the creek, listen to the roar of the water, and truly find yourself amongst the trees. There are approximately 3-1/2 miles of trails, but you can cover much of it quickly!

Morgan Creek Trail/ Fan Branch Trail

Perfect For: Families, Some Strollers (Partially Paved), Walking, Jogging

Less than a mile long but worth the drive, Morgan Creek Trail is a beautiful paved trail that ends at the community space Merritt’s Pasture. Parking is available off of Fordham Blvd.

You can also connect to Fan Branch Trail from this one to extend your walk! Fan Branch Trail is 1.6 miles and leads to Southern Village, making it a fantastic trail to end with a meal.

On the flip side, starting at Fan Branch and walking it off toward Morgan Creek would be great. Your choice!

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Perfect For: Hiking, Trail Running

Conveniently located near I-85, Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is a fantastic trail near Durham and Hillsborough. With a 350-foot change in elevation, Occoneechee Mountain has one of the area’s only true mountain peak overlooks.

The 2.2-mile Mountain Loop leads to that overlook. On this trail, you’ll also enjoy a peaceful walk along the Eno River.

Final Thoughts

a small child climbing on the mushrooms int he park near the hiking trails

We think these hiking trails are the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors in the Triangle. And while you may not find sweeping mountain vistas in this part of Central North Carolina, these parks offer plenty to explore and tons of miles to be logged.

We’d love to know your favorites if you’ve explored these hiking trails near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Let us know in the comments, and if there’s one (or more) we need to add, feel free to tell us. We’re always happy to investigate by exploring our awesome state!

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