Creek crossing at Brumley Forest

With a little planning and perseverance, we’re guessing you can get in enough adventure so that when outdoor exploits are shared around the office filtered-and-infused-water cooler, you’ll have some worthy tales to share. To that end, we’re sharing some of our favorite off-the-beaten path adventures in North Carolina.

This post focus is on the Piedmont/Triangle area.
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  1. Brumley Forest, Hillsborough. Hiking, mountain biking. Though it just opened, in April, this 613-acre Triangle Land Conservancy preserve is fast losing it’s “secret” status. With 13 miles of trail, hikers love the intimate passages through lush Piedmont forest, interrupted on occasion by the surprise pond, creeks and clearings. Mountain bikers, meanwhile, praise the 8 miles of trail open to cycling for its thoughtful flow, the best, some say, in the Triangle. More info here.
  2. Duke Forest, Edeburn Division, Hillsborough. Hiking, some mountain biking. Get to Brumley and discover it’s been discovered? Then head 75 yards south on New Hope Church Road and look for the roadside parking at Gate 28. Stick to the gravel access roads for a good adventure, take your chances with one of the 4-plus miles of hiking trail, some blazed, some not, that wends through the thick woods for an even better escape. More info here.

    Knight Brown Nature Preserve
  3. Knight Brown Nature Preserve, Rockingham County. Hiking. We’re big fans of land trust properties, especially ones yet to be discovered. Such is the case with the Piedmont Land Conservancy’s Knight Brown Nature Preserve north of the Triad. Three miles of trail travel through a wooded valley carpeted with various ferns and along two streams. A kiosk at the trailhead helps prep you for the adventure ahead. More info here.
  4. Deep River, McIver Landing to Deep River Park, Gulf. Paddling. When it comes to summer paddling, our thoughts turn toward lakes and bigger rivers. But there is one intimate Piedmont river that seems to weather the parched days of summer: the Deep. A 37-mile run of the Deep through Chatham, Lee and Moore counties offers lazy summer paddling under a thick canopy. We especially like the 6.3-mile stretch from the Triangle Land Conservancy’s McIver Landing put-in to Deep River Park in Gulf. More info here.
  5. Beaverdam Recreation Area at Falls Lake, Wake Forest. Paddling, mountain biking, swimming. Yup, you can do all three (there’s even a smidgen of hiking) at Beaverdam, from the roughly 15 miles of mountain bike trail (check out the South Loop for an especially good ride) to the paddling on a portion of the lake closed to boats with more than trolling motors, to the sandy swimming beach. Well worth the entry fee. More info here.

    Bridge over Medoc Mountain’s Little Fishing Creek
  6. Medoc Mountain State Park, Hollister. Hiking, paddling. No list of tucked-away Piedmont escapes is complete without Medoc Mountain, which sits a little over an hour northeast of the Triangle, yet even with 10 miles of hiking trail and paddling on Little Fishing Creek, just doesn’t get the love it warrants. Until, that is, you arrive and start exploring. More info here.

    Uwharrie Mountains, looking southwest from Little Long Mountain
  7. Uwharrie Trail: Sections 3 & 4, Uwharrie National Forest, Asheboro. Hiking. The 40-mile (and counting) Uwharrie Trail is no secret, but its newest tread is somehow flying under the radar. Ironic, considering it’s the highest part of the Uwharrie Trail, topping Little Long Mountain, with the best views on the trail, and King Mountain, at 1,020 feet the highest point on the trail. More info here.

    Mountain Trail, Pilot Mountain
  8. Mountain Trail, Pilot Mountain State Park, Pinnacle. Hiking. No one wants to wait 30 minutes for a parking space, especially when they’re seeking escape and solitude. But that’s often the case atop Pilot Mountain on nice weekends. Solution? Don’t go to the top. The Corridor Trail Access at the base of the mountain will have a handful of cars, tops, and you’re not likely to see many more hikers than that on the Mountain Trail, which explores mature forest around the base of the mountain — and offers a view or two as well. More info here.

    Three rivers area of Falls Lake
  9. Three Rivers area of Falls Lake, Durham. Paddling. You may see a motor boat or two putting in at the Eno River Boat Ramp, but with so many directions to head — up the Eno River, down the Eno, up the Little and Flat rivers, into the various swampy fingers of Falls Lake — you won’t see them for long. If you venture into those ill-defined fingers, be sure to take your smart phone: at some point, you’ll need the GPS system to figure out where the heck you are. Allow three hours minimum for a paddle. More info here.
  10. Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake: Day-Hike Section 5, Durham. Hiking. This 5-mile stretch, crescent-mooning from Red Mill Road to Red Mill Road, borders farmland, the nether regions of Falls Lake, forest and old rail lines. If you happen to be growing bored with a stretch, wait a minute and it will change. Nice variety on a run of the MST through the Triangle that’s under appreciated. More info here.