25 Top Hikes in the Triad Area

Looking for a good place to hike? In the Triad you needn’t look far. Here’s a rundown the top 25 hikes and trail networks in the region totaling about 140 miles. All are natural surface trails; they range in length from just over a mile to 25 miles. Some offer passage along lake shores rimmed with hardwoods, many are through typical rolling Piedmont countryside, and several explore ancient mountain ranges that once topped 20,000 feet but over time have worn to a tenth of their peak elevations.

Our GetHiking! Triad hiking group will be hiking these trails in the coming months. Find out more about the group — and sign up to join us — at GetHiking! Triad.

 

Alamance County

Cedarock Park: Cedar Rock Trail | 2.5 miles
Burlington
Come for the hiking, stay for a whole lot of other stuff. First, the hiking: The trail has a surprising amount of diversity, with some good climbs, a nice wetlands and an old dam that makes for a nice spot to reflect. Also within this 414-acre park you’ll find two 18-hole disc golf courses, a mountain bike trail, a horse trail, canoe rentals, fishing and lots of wide-open areas to play.
More info here.

Davidson County

2. Piedmont Environmental Center | 11 miles
High Point
The center was launched in the early ‘70s as a plant and animal preserve adjacent to High Point City Lake. The trails — and the first educational programs in the county — were soon to follow. Today, the center offers a series of well-marked loop options that offer lake views, forest trekking and wetlands exploration.

More info here.

Forsyth County

3. Horizons Park | 2.5 miles
Rural Hall
Usually when you have picnic shelters, picnic tables, softball fields, volleyball courts, a playground an 18-hole disc golf course, play fields and more crammed into a 492-acre park, there’s not much room for anything else. Not the case at Horizons Park, where they’ve managed to weave in a 2.5-mile hiking trail.
More info here.

4. Salem Lake | 7 miles
Winston-Salem
Sometimes you want a long hike minus the long drive. In fact, wouldn’t it be great to be able to sneak in a fast 7 miles over lunch? It can happen at Salem Lake, which is just 10 minutes from downtown where the natural surface trail is wide, relatively flat and fast. Which isn’t to say it isn’t scenic; once you escape the dam there’s plenty of forest and Salem Lake to appreciate. Aerobics and aesthetics — that’s what Salem Lake is about.
More info here.

Guilford County

5. Hagan Stone Park: Louise Chatfield Trail | 4.3 miles
Greensboro
Various trails penetrate this 409-acre park on the southeast side of town; we like the Louise Chatfield Trail because it circumnavigates the entire park, brushing up against some of its highlights (camping, playgrounds) but largely avoiding this packed park’s many amenities and visitors. A good portion of the trail includes the park’s popular 5K cross-country course, used for high school and collegiate competitions.
More info here.

6. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Piedmont Trail | 3.2 miles
Greensboro
The west end of this trail, accessible off Strawberry Road, begins in an open field choked with kudzu. After a couple hundred yards it makes use of a narrow ribbon of woods bound by the lake to the south and some really big houses to the north. Midway, the houses disappear and the trail continues through a relatively mature hardwood forest to its conclusion at Lake Brandt Road. The trail is mostly flat and the friendly tread, largely devoid of rocks and roots, makes it popular with runners. Good lake views, good passages through forest.
More info here.

7. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Osprey Trail | 2.3 miles
Greensboro
One thing about the Watershed Lakes trails: they are popular, especially on a spring or fall weekend. But it’s still possible to escape the crowds; you just have to know where to go. One trail less traveled, though it’s hard to figure why, is the Osprey Trail along the south shore of Lake Townsend. The Osprey trail gets close to the lake, it gets away from the lake, it goes through wetlands, it crosses black water creeks. There’s a lot to see on this trail — just not many people.
More info here.

8. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Nat Greene Trail | 3.6 miles
One of the oldest trails along the lake, the Nat Greene is also one of the most popular. Running between the Lake Brandt Marina and Old Battleground Road, the trail has the usual Watershed Lakes mix of water and mixed hardwood forest, and can be combined with a number of other trails — the Atlantic & Yadkin Rail-Trail, the Palmetto Trail and the Wild Turkey Trail for starters — to create an epic weekend adventure.
More info here.

9. Greensboro Watershed Lakes: Laurel Bluff Trail | 3.5 miles
Greensboro
This is one of six Watershed trails that constitutes the Mountains-to-Sea Trail through northern Greensboro. Some day, you’ll be able to hop on the Laurel Bluff Trail and hike west to Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee line or go east to Jockey’s Ridge on the Atlantic. For now, you can hike east to Bryan Park or west to Bur-Mil Park, though you’ll find plenty of scenic hiking just on this 3.5-mile stretch of trail.
More info here.

10. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park | 2.5 miles
Greensboro
The national military park may only advertise 2.5 miles of trail, but you can easily wind up walking twice that. The trail network takes in eight sites at the park, site of the March 15, 1781, battle of Guilford Courthouse, a turning point in the Revolutionary War. As you pass the various monuments and battle locations it’s easy to lose track of where you are on these narrow, paved trails. It’s even more of a challenge if you don’t pick up a trail map at the Visitor Center. The human history is impressive, that natural history is as well.
More info here.

11. Summerville Rail-Trail (northern tip of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway) | 1.4 miles (out and back)
Greensboro
This is the ideal starter trail for the person intrigued by the notion of hiking but, for whatever reason, doesn’t think they could possibly be a hiker. First, there’s a big, paved parking lot off U.S. 220. Second, the entire trail is paved. Third, the trail is almost completely flat. Now, the purists may be protesting that you don’t hike on paved trail, you walk on paved trail. Let us not quibble; this trail feels like a hike for its short life, a life that will soon lengthen as the trail tunnels under U.S. 220 (the tunnel is already there, in fact) and continues up to Summerfield Elementary School.
More info here.

12. Mayo River State Park | 2 miles
Mayodan
The Mayo Mountain Ridge Trail, the new state park’s only hiking trail, is an elongated loop that heads out from the Visitor Center along a gentle ridgeline, penetrating a hardwood forest that offers good color in the fall and nice views in winter. The return picks up a small creek. The park’s newness and distance from the Triad make it a good bet for solitude.
More info here.

Randolph County

13. Uwharrie National Forest: Birkhead Mountains Wilderness | 7.4 miles
Asheboro
Technically, by federal decree, this is a wilderness, though some might quibble with the occasional trail markers and signs of the area’s human past. But don’t let a sign or two of civilization keep you from this 5,160-acre oasis on the northern tip of the Uwharrie National Forest. The climbs are greater than you’ll find in much of the Piedmont, there’s a rocky ridge or two harkening back to the Uwharrie’s heyday as a 20,000-foot-high mountain range (top elevation on the trail today is 750 feet) and you’ll experience some of the region’s older hardwood forests.
More info here.

Randolph/Montgomery counties

15. Morrow Mountain State Park: Sugarloaf/Morrow Mountain Trails | 5.4 miles
Albemarle
A part of the old Uwharrie Mountain Range, this two-for-one peak-bagger starts with a mellow ridgeline climb up Sugarloaf Mountain followed by a fast descent through a choked mountain laurel thicket. There’s recovery time along the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, then the long we-don’t-need-no-stinkin’-switchbacks climb up Morrow Mountain. Good views await, especially in winter when the canopy is bare.
More info here.

16. Morrow Mountain State Park: Fall Mountain Trail | 4.1 miles
Albemarle
Hiked counterclockwise, you enjoy a mellow climb up Fall Mountain followed by a quick descent. The end of the hike is a nice walk along Lake Tillery. Hiking, for the most part, is through a maturing hardwood forest. Overall, the park has 15 miles of hiking trails and another 16 miles of bridle trails, which can also be hiked.
More info here.

Stokes County

17. Hanging Rock State Park: Moore’s Wall Loop Trail | 4.3 miles
Danbury
Like a good view but not that crowds that often accompany it? At Hanging Rock State Park, which tops out about 1,800 feet above the surrounding countryside, the masses go for instant gratification — in the form of panoramic views — atop Hanging Rock via the 1.3-mile Hanging Rock Trail (see below). Invest a little sweat equity, though, and you can have similar views from atop Moore’s Knob with a 4.3-mile investment on the Moore’s Wall Loop Trail. Hike it counterclockwise and you’ll enjoy a long, not-all-that-taxing climb up the rocky ridge leading to Moore’s Knob. Great views await. Eighteen miles of trail total at Hanging Rock, all worthy of your time.
More info here.

18. Hanging Rock State Park: Hanging Rock Trail | 1.3 miles
Danbury
It’s almost as if this trail doesn’t want to scare you off, starting as it does on a couple  hundred feet of greenway-like asphalt. Then it gradually reveals its true self, turning into a friendly natural surface path, then a more challenging natural surface path, and then, at the end, a friendly scramble to the top of Hanging Rock. Bring your camera — and a leash if you have small children because there are no guardrails atop Hanging Rock.
More info here.

Surry County

19. Pilot Mountain State Park:  Ledge Spring Trail | 2 miles
Pinnacle
It may only be two miles but it will feel like more when you’re done. From the mountaintop parking lot hike the trail counterclockwise, heading down a long staircase, then hanging a left where the Grindstone Trail comes up from the base of the mountain. Shortly, you’ll encounter the cliff faces that make Pilot Mountain so popular with rock climbers in the region. The trail returns to the lot near the Little Pinnacle Overlook; check it out and throw in the 0.8-mile Jomeokee Trail circling the park’s 2,420-foot namesake for a complete Pilot Mountain experience.
More info here.

20. Pilot Mountain State Park: Grindstone/Ledge Spring/Jomeokee trails | 5.8 miles
Pinnacle
As we mentioned above, the Ledge Spring Trail is a good challenge for two miles. But if you want a really good challenge (and pooh-pooh driving to the top of a mountain to hike it), start at the Grindstone Trail at the park office. Climb three miles and pick up the Ledge Spring Trail to check out the aforementioned climbers. Summit on the Jomeokee Trail. Make it a brief celebration, though: you still have the return trip to make.
More info here.

21. Pilot Mountain State Park: Corridor Trail | 6.6 miles
Pinnacle
Were you aware that Pilot Mountain State Park has two sections? You’re likely familiar with the Mountain Section, host to the park’s most popular trails, including those mentioned above. There’s also the River Section, nearly 7 miles south along the Yadkin River. And there’s a narrow corridor linking the two sections, a corridor that includes the aptly named Corridor Trail, open to both foot and hoof traffic. A long, remote stretch that gets you away from Pilot’s everpresent masses.
More info here.

Surry/Stokes County

22. Sauratown Trail (Mountains-to-Sea Trail) | 25 miles
The Sauratown Trail links Pilot Mountain State Park on the west with Hanging Rock State Park to the east (skirting Sauratown Mountain in between). Initially, it was created as a bridle trail, opened later to hikers. The stretch along the base of Sauratown Mountain heading into Hanging Rock is especially scenic, with a good (for the Piedmont) waterfall and secluded stretches. The trail is closed during hunting season (Nov. 9 through Jan. 1, 2014) and when the trails are wet. Your best bet for navigating the trail is to check out the map on the Sauratown Trails Association website (see below).
More info here.

Wilkes County

23. Stone Mountain State Park: Stone Mountain Loop Trail | 4.5 miles
Roaring Gap
Technically, Stone Mountains isn’t in the mountains. That’s one of the reasons we include it here. The other: the hiking here is some of the best in the state, and it’s only an hour and a half from the Triad. The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is the park’s signature trail, taking in the old Hutchinson Homestead, a 200-foot waterfall, and a climb up Stone Mountain, a 600-foot granite dome popular with rock climbers. You, however, can leave the ropes at home, hike to the top and bask in the sun that, even in winter, can make the rockface plenty toasty.
More info here.

24. Stone Mountain State Park: Wolf Rock Trail | 1.5 miles (via Stone Mountain Loop Trail)
Roaring Gap
Like to avoid crowds? Take the detour on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail to Wolf Rock. The views from up top are top notch: check out the three ridgelines separating the watersheds for Garden Creek, Widow’s Creek and Bullhead Creek, not to mention the impressive Blue Ridge Escarpment rampart. A nice diversion.
More info here.

25. Stone Mountain State Park: Widow’s Creek Trail | 4.3 miles (one way)
Roaring Gap
Looking for a challenge? The Widow’s Creek Trail, about half of which is in the park, is a steady climb up 2,304 vertical feet of the Blue Ridge Escarpment to the Devil’s Garden Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Along the way, you’ll see signs of the region’s past, including remnants of an old aerial tram that once ran to Mahogany Rock. Toward the top, the trail passes towering hemlocks and passes through tunnels of rhododendron. A hike where you aren’t likely to see many people.
More info here.