Little River Regional Park Trails

There are precious few hiking opportunities in northern Durham and Orange Counties counties, which is unfortunate. The Piedmont hills here rise a little higher, the air temperature a wisp cooler (sometimes to the point where a winter rain throws cold water on a hike in Raleigh, it blankets northern Durham/Orange with an inviting layer of snow). Fortunately, there is at least one option: Little River Regional Park.

This relatively new (2004) 391-acre park includes 7 miles of hiking trail and 7 miles of mountain bike trail. Separate but equal, both networks use use the park’s geography to their separate advantages. The mountain bike trail makes use of Little River’s steeper slopes to create a network with quick climbs and steep drops. On the hiking end, those same geographic attributes are dealt with by trail content to take it’s time getting to the ridgeline and getting back down. All the better for savoring this rich preserve. A 5-mile hike exposes you to a good cross-section of what Little River has to offer:

• South River Loop Trail, 1.8 miles: You get a taste of the Little River on this hike and good exposure to the hardwood forest that dominates the preserve.

• Ridge Trail, 1.5 miles: The trail reaches the highest part of the preserve, topping out just under 600 feet and exposing you to a mix of hardwoods and pines — and the cool breezes that often grace the area.

• North River Loop, 1.2 miles: Trail descends from the ridgeline down to the North Fork of the Little River, a mountainlike passage of boulders abutting a steep bluff rising from the river’s east bank. Take advantage of the bench along the trail’s northwest loop that overlooks the river below. A nice spot to sit and contemplate.

• Homestead Trail, 0.1 miles: A short connector on the North River Loop that takes in the preserve’s human past.

A quarter mile trail from the main parking area takes you to the trailhead for the trails mentioned above.

More info: Triangle Land Conservancy; Orange County Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks & Recreation (site manager), (park office); Eno River Association

Maps: Triangle Land Conservancy, also available at park office.

Getting there from downtown Chapel Hill

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 40 minutes from downtown Chapel Hill
Time to complete: 2-3 hours
Address: 301 Little River Park Way
City: Rougemont
State: N.C.
Zip: 27572
Latitude: 36 09.777
Longitude: 78 58.199