It’s a cool fall morning, 58°, and the carpool line is moving well. While dropping my kids at elementary school my thoughts turn to a trail run in Umstead State Park. “I could be on the trail in 15 minutes. Arriving late to work would be offset by my increased productivity.” An easy sell for adventure, I merge onto Wade Avenue and head west the few miles to the Harrison Avenue entrance of the park.
Turning right at the Harrison Avenue exit I see the familiar cars of Triangle runners that arrive before the 8:00am gate opening. After 20 years of pounding asphalt I discovered Umstead to be the very “oasis of tranquility” described in the William B. Umstead State Park literature: “Here, two worlds merge as the sounds of civilization give way to the unhurried rhythm of nature.” While pavement is predictable the trail is often full of slick, rocky surprises that challenge both the mind and body. Just the thing for a multi-tasker with bad knees needing a break from the routine.
The Company Mill Trail is my choice for today. Marked with orange blazes, it offers a 5.3 mile loop with a great mix of terrain. The beginning of the trail descends into the Crabtree Natural Area, the site of the old mill. Crossing the high footbridge I usually head east (right) and follow the trail along the creek until it ascends north and intersects a park service road. Having traveled around 2 miles by this point I take a gut check. A left on the park road shortens the run while going straight/north affords an extra mile. Determined, I cross the road and ramble north through beech trees and baby-head boulders that grace the ground around me. After roughly a mile I cross the park road a second time and descend back down to Crabtree Creek where the fall colors have decorated the water. It’s just .6 miles back to the parking lot where the rest of the day awaits.?
Additional Resources & Tips found in our shop:
Maps: For those interested a helpful map can be picked up at the trail head. GOPC stocks a topographical version that sells for $6.95. Both maps include trail legends. Also, check out the National Geographic Map Machine
Trail Guides: Trails of the Triangle by Allen de Hart ($11.95)
Adventure Guide to the Triangle by Maia Dery (19.95)
Before you run the trail consider the following:
- Let someone know where you are going.
- Wear appropriate trail shoes and clothing.
- Take water using either hydration system or Nalgene bottle.
NC State Parks Home Page: