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Historic Yates Mill County Park in Raleigh: Our Capital City’s Picturesque Escape

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on April 18, 2024.

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Historic Yates Mill County Park in Raleigh (4620 Lake Wheeler Rd) is a special place and perfect for nature lovers of all ages. Its 174 acres are surrounded by beautiful farmland, making this a picturesque, bucket list-worthy escape from our capital city.

We love this spot so much that we’ve also included it in our NC Bucket List Book!

It’s technically managed as a native wildlife refuge, but the original structures of Yates Mill add to the ways a visitor like you can explore and learn. Hikes along the millpond are popular and one of our favorite FREE things to do in Raleigh.

Exploring the mill itself is also possible, and for a small fee, you can take a historical tour to learn even more about the history and process of the mill!

Regardless of how you spend your time, Yates Mill is here for you to enjoy throughout the year.

Read More: 30+ Amazing Things to Do in Raleigh (Award-Winning Restaurants, Museums, and More!)

Historic Yates Mill County Park

Organization Note: If you’re searching for something specific about Yates Mill, here’s how we’ve organized this guide.

  • Background Info
  • Continuous Process Milling (How the Mill Worked)
  • Things to Do at Historic Yates Mill County Park Today
  • Additional Things to Know Before You Visit (Pets and Photography)
  • Nearby Things to Do

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

Background Info

The Back of Yates Mill offers a nice view.

Yates Mill is a fully restored 1756 gristmill and the only surviving and operable gristmill in Wake County. As a prime example of automated milling systems (see “Continuous Process Milling” below), Yates Mill ground corn and wheat until 1953.

Samuel Pearson built the mill, and the namesake Yates family owned it from 1819 until 1947. The legendary businessman and philanthropist AE Finley owned the property before selling it to North Carolina State University in 1963.

It sat empty and unused until Yates Mill Associates was formed to restore the mill in 1989. YMA, Wake County, and NC State University have brought Yates Mill back to represent its mid-1800s heyday.

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

Continuous Process Milling

The most popular view from behind the mill. A wooden building with a water mill in front of it.

We won’t spoil the tour for you, but want to share a little bit about continuous process milling, a system invented by Oliver Evans. This was the process that ran Yates Mill for much of its existence.

The mill ran on water for power and depended on five devices for production. They included a hopper, bucket elevator, conveyor belt, Archimedean screws, and descenders.

This process reduced the number of workers required and increased the flour output from grain.

Things to Do

Yates Mill Hiking Trails

Mill Pond Trail

a large lake with trees lining the sidelines

The Mill Pond Trail is a 1-mile accessible path that loops around the 20-acre pond. With plenty of picnic tables and beautiful views of the water, this trail is the most popular at Yates Mill.

While most of the trail is an accessible gravel path, there are several stairs and rocks around the mill itself.

High Ridge Trail

For those looking for a more strenuous hike, the High Ridge Trail is a 0.8-mile natural path through dense forest. Start counterclockwise from the pond boardwalk, and you can turn the trail into a loop with the Mill Pond Trail.

That will make the total distance 1.25 miles.

Steep Hill Creek

Lastly, a two-mile out-and-back trail meanders along Steep Hill Creek and through more of North Carolina’s beautiful wetlands.

AE Finley Center for Education & Research

Visitors and Students love the AE Finley Center at Yates Mill.

The AE Finley Center for Education & Research is the beautiful building in front of Yates Mill. This 2,220-square-foot exhibit hall is free to browse and contains artifacts, local history, and interactive displays.

The Finley Center also serves as a research facility and auditorium for North Carolina State University faculty and students.

Yates Mill Tours (In-Person)

our daughter running in the small field in front of Yates Mill

If you want to learn more while visiting Yates Mill, you can join a tour! They’ll be led by 19th-century costumed interpreters and are one of the best ways to deepen your connection to the mill.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for Seniors, and $3 for children ages 7 to 16. Proceeds from the tours (and any merchandise purchases) go toward maintenance, restoration, and repairs.

Here are a few of the Yates Mill tours you can join:

  • Corn Grinding Tours are held the third weekend of each month, on Saturdays from 10:00 am to noon. On Saturday and Sunday, the tour takes place every 20 minutes between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm.
  • Mill Heritage Tours run every Sunday and Sunday from March to November, excluding Corn-Grinding weekends. The hour-long tours begin at 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Saturdays and 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Sundays.

Yates Mill Pond Fishing

And if you brought your pole (limit one per person), you can fish at the historic Yates Mill in Raleigh, NC. The pond boardwalk and upper boardwalk are the two designated areas for fishing.

No smoking, no minnows for bait, no bank fishing, and no cast nets are allowed. Also, please respect the pond and its surroundings and leave no trace.

Note: A valid NC fishing license is required for anglers ages 16 and up.

Failure to follow these guidelines can result in a permanent loss of fishing privilege at Yates Mill.

Additional Things to Know Before You Visit

Yates Mill view from the hiking trail across the pond
  • For Professional photography, a permit is required.
  • Pets are not allowed due to the wildlife refuge status of the park.

Ready to Enjoy Yates Mill?

We hope you can make some time to explore Yates Mill, even if you’ve been before. If you walk around this awesome place often, we’d love to know what you think of it.

And if you haven’t visited yet, what’s stopping you?

Nearby Things to Do

Across the street from Yates Mill is the Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum. At this NC State-run agritourism spot, you can learn about the historic Yates Mill Park, NC, and we’ll also show you the dairy and how it is produced. Of course, you can’t leave without a couple of scoops of NC State’s Howling Cow Ice Cream!

And since Yates Mill is only five miles south of downtown Raleigh, we think you should know about all the ways to enjoy the city! We’ve also created guides to Oak City’s breweries, ways to enjoy a date night, and how to have an awesome weekend in Raleigh.

And if you’re hungry, we’ve also got you covered for some of the best restaurants in Raleigh!

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