Distance: 30 minute drive from downtown Chapel Hill
Time to complete: 3 to 4 hours
Address: 6101 Cole Mill Road
The beauty of the Eno River is that it’s so close to civilization and yet so far. The Eno, with it’s headwaters above Hillsborough, spends much of its 40 miles running through the heart of Durham. Occasionally, at a road crossing or where a backyard might peek through an especially narrow sliver of the corridor, you’re reminded you’re in Durham. But for the most part you’re sequestered on a stretch of water that’s more Appalachian than Piedmont. The Eno itself is surprisingly rocky — after a good winter rain it sprouts a few Class III rapids — and the terrain along the banks includes ridgeline stretches that rise high above the river.
This 8-mile stretch between the Cabe Lands Access of Eno River State Park and Durham’s West Point on the Eno city park marks the river’s transition from Appalachian impersonator to coastal plain introduction.
Hiking downstream from the Cabe Lands the trail continually climbs and drops for the first three miles. At times you hike up and into coves that lose sight of the river.
Near Cole Mill Road the trail adapts a Piedmont persona that lasts past the Pump Station Access (where you can park a car and cut your trip in half) and continues down to Guess Road. Here, after a rude encounter with civilization (you must cross the bridge, then pick up the trail on the opposite side of the road, behind the red brick home of the Eno River Association), the trail descends into a bottomland forest worthy of the coastal plain. On an especially hot day, the cool, deep waters of the Sennett Hole swimming hole, a mile above the trailhead, make for a refreshing escape.
At hike’s end, allow time to mill about West Point on the Eno city park. Literally: the park has a working mill that will connect you with the park’s human past.
Maps: Downloadable here, also available at trailhead.
Getting there from downtown Chapel Hill