How quickly you’re able to hike this trail depends upon how susceptible you are to letting a tree bend your ear (and you know how those beeches can be when they get started on the dogwoods).

The joy of Clemmons, though, isn’t just in the talking trees on the Talking Tree Trail, or the talking rocks on the Geology Trail. Excellent conversationalists though they are, the joy of hiking Clemmons lies in the remarkable beauty to be found on this narrow strip of land just outside of Clayton. There’s a lovely natural waterfall, an ample canopy courtesy a surprisingly mature forest, and nearly two miles of well-tended trail especially well-suited to beginning hikers and hikers who would prefer not to divulge how many rings they have around their middle. It’s a remarkably diverse, remarkably accommodating environment.

And, of course, there’s the rare opportunity to learn more about the forests you enjoy hiking. From both recorded messages and flip panels at trail’s edge you can learn the traditional uses for certain trees (white oak is popular for furniture, flooring and barrels; sweetgum is a more pedestrian tree in the lumber world, best suited for pulpwood and crossties), as well as the brutal law of succession that rules the forest: enter this world as a red cedar and you can expect to lead a short, sweet life before some bully of a hardwood goes all Sparklehorse on you and takes your sunshine away.

Clemmons is an especially good way to introduce young hikers to the outdoors. The chatty landscape and the preponderance of outdoor eyecandy make a visit something of a Disneyesque experience.

More info: Clemmons Educational State Forest

Maps: Downloadable map available here

Getting there from downtown Raleigh

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 25 minutes from downtown Raleigh
Time to complete: 1 – 2 hours
Address: 2411 Old U.S. 70 West
City: Clayton
State: N.C.
Zip: 27520
Latitude: 35 40.641
Longitude: 78 29.961