Last Updated on September 8, 2021
Last Updated on September 8, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
What are the best outdoor things to do in Durham? After seeing that question asked all the time, we created this guide to settle it once and for all.
Aside from the growing downtown and bustling food scene, more and more people are wanting to know what to do outside here.
So that’s why we decided to share our favorites, with included in our free things to do in Durham guide. Here, we’re sharing parks, a refurbished industrial space, and one of our favorite ballparks in this guide, so let’s get to it!
This guide is a part of our series on Durham, one of our favorite cities in North Carolina for so many reasons. If you’re looking for a fun place to stay while exploring, check out these Durham Airbnbs.
Outdoor Things to Do in Durham NC
American Tobacco Campus
The American Tobacco Campus tops our list of best places to walk around in Downtown Durham. We usually take people there if they’re visiting from out of town.
This former industrial hub has been refurbished into a space that houses tech companies, residents, and paths for visitors to enjoy. Personally, we like starting at Mellow Mushroom and walking up along the stream that runs there all the way up to the Burt’s Bees headquarters.
If you’ve never been to this part of Durham before, please do yourself a favor and go now.
American Tobacco Trail
Folks seeking outside time (especially with strollers) will love the 22.6-mile American Tobacco Trail. 10 miles of trails cut through Durham before moving on to Chatham and Wake Counties.
In Durham, the trail starts at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. There are multiple other ways to access the ATT away from downtown. One example includes Solite Park off Fayetteville Road in South Durham.
The trail is part of the East Coast Greenway that starts in Maine and goes all the way down to Florida, so that’s cool, too, right?
We also included the American Tobacco Trail and a few more of these outdoor spots in our guide to hiking near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
You can also walk around Bennett Place (aka Bennett Farm), also known as the scene of the largest Confederate troop surrender to end the civil war.
Both Bennett Place and Museum of Life and Science featured in our guide to North Carolina’s awesome museums.
Though officially managed as a living laboratory and outdoor classroom for university students, Duke Forest hosts some nice and flat nature walks within its 7,000 acres.
Among its six designated areas, we spent many days walking Duke Forest trails found within the Durham Division. That section is just off Highway 751 before and after Constitution Drive.
If you see cars parked along the side of the road, that’s your hint that Duke Forest’s paths are nearby.
Bonus: You can also find the Al Buehler Trail nearby, which has a little incline and is great for hiking and mountain bikes.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Watching Bulls games tops many people’s “what to do in Durham” lists, and we’d be crazy to leave it out. We love coming to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for Minor League Baseball games throughout spring and summer.
However, we also love walking around the area when no games are being played. You can walk around the areas that overlook the outfield, especially the big bull sign that stands over the left field wall.
If you’re in town during the season, a Durham Bulls schedule will come in handy if you want to catch a game.
Durham Central Park
The city’s Parks and Recreation offices manage some of the best outdoor parks in Durham. And if you’re counting, you have nearly 70 to choose from.
More City Parks
We’re also fans of West Point on the Eno, which is managed by the city, too!
Eno River State Park
Eno River State Park is the ultimate outdoor space in Durham, with some parts in Orange County, too. You can access it throughout many parts of North Durham.
Depending on which way you enter, you have a chance to go camping, swimming, or hiking in one of North Carolina’s best state parks.
Our personal hiking favorites include Cox Mountain for the really cool footbridge that crosses the river, Cole Mill and Buckquarter Creek for nice views of the river, and Pump Station for its abundance of wildflowers.
Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve is one of the lesser-known things to do outside in Durham. Sitting out on the outskirts of North Durham, it’s managed the NC Botanical Garden.
It’s a unique place, thanks to the rare plants that grow in a soil typically found in the midwestern US. The Eno River surrounds this 84-acre preserve on three sides and most of the paths follow along the water before turning away to loop back to the beginning.
Museum of Life and Science
Walking around the outside loop will take you by the Dinosaur Trail before moving on to lemurs, bears, and red wolves. Of course, you have to stop by the Magic Wings Butterfly House.
There’s also a train that you and the kids can ride before hanging out in Hideaway Woods.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Duke Gardens is a very popular wedding destination and visited by over 300,000 people annually.
Our Thoughts and Yours
As you can see, we love all the outdoor things to do in Durham and keep searching for new ones all the time. How about you, though?
Where would you go first when staying in Durham? If you already live here and want to chime in on your favorite things to do, let us know in the comments section below:)