The air is finally cooling down, the leaves are changing color and assignments are piling up. Looking to take a break and explore the natural wonders of Durham and the surrounding area? Welcome to The Chronicle’s guide to some of the best hikes near campus.
Shelley Lake Trail
If you’re looking to go for a stroll around a lake, the Shelley Lake Trail in Raleigh just 30 minutes from campus is calling your name. The trail follows along the lakefront, through the forest, along creeks, and inside a tunnel, providing visitors with gorgeous views along the 2.2 mile stretch.
Cox Mountain Trail at Eno
For those seeking a new photo to post on Instagram, make sure to check out the Cox Mountain Trail at Eno State Park. The trail head is under 15 minutes away from campus and the trail itself is 3.8 miles long. This path takes visitors along a scenic suspension bridge over the Eno River and through forested paths. Due to the elevation change and variety of terrain, don’t underestimate this hike; bring water!
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Occoneechee, just 17 minutes away in Hillsborough, offers three miles of trails that pass along riversides, over the highest peaks in the area and through thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron. This is a moderate trail that summits a rocky ridgeline atop a small mountain. Views are best this time of year while the leaves are still changing color.
Al Buehler Trail
If you don’t have a car on campus, don’t fret: many hikes in the area are still accessible. While the Duke Forest is a great place to adventure on weekends, the Al Buehler Trail is an exceptional spot for a mid-week restart. The 2.91-mile loop begins at the driveway to the Washington Duke Inn and circumnavigates the golf course. While there, hikers may encounter a few gnarly hills (and probably a runner or two).
Falls Lake Trail
If you’re looking for a longer hike to recharge after a long week of exams, check out Falls Lake Trail at Falls Lake State Recreation Area, about 30 minutes from campus. At the Recreation Area, numerous trails follow along the shore of Falls Lake, and the Mountains-to-Sea path intersects with these trails for anyone looking to extend their hike.
Horton Grove Nature Preserve
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Just 26 minutes from campus, the Horton Grove Nature Preserve features a 7.1 mile trail for those seeking a lengthier trek. But don’t be fooled by the distance—the elevation change across the trail is only 416 feet. The preserve is on a plot of land that was formerly one of the largest plantations in the state; all of the trails are named after Black families that were enslaved by the plantation owners.
Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.