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What comes to mind when you hear someone say “let’s go for a hike!” Do you envision lacing up your muddy hiking boots, loading up your pack with food to last for days, and filling up gallons of water for your outdoor excursion? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Hiking does NOT have to include these things! There is no magic location for a hike and no time limit you must meet. Hiking can be what you make it.

November 17 is National Take a Hike Day, but with shorter days and a full work week to consider you may be thinking you don’t have time to recognize this awesome day. That’s why we’ve compiled a short list of quick hikes that you can complete in under an hour. Hike during your lunch break, before work, even after work, if you can beat that rush-hour traffic. These hikes may not be your typical “hike-to-a-view” location, but they’re fun, easy and a great way to get out there on National Take a Hike Day!

One-Hour Hikes in the Triangle

  • Downtown Durham’s Self- Guided Walking Tour: This 1.2-mile urban walking tour of Durham’s historic downtown area is a great way to get some fresh air and see some of Downtown Durham’s best spots. Including the Carolina Theater, the Celebrate mural and the Civic Center Plaza. A printed guide of this self-guided tour can be picked up at the Durham Visitor Info Center located at 212 W. Main Street #101, Downtown. 
  • N.C. Museum of Art Park: The North Carolina Museum of Art Park is a 2.2-mile loop that lets you get up close and personal with outdoor art exhibits. The trail is accessible year-round and is dog-friendly as long as they’re kept on a leash.
  • Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham: Located on the edge of Duke’s campus the Sarah P. Duke Gardens are 55 acres of specialized gardens. Immerse yourself in one of its four gardens, or visit them all if you have time. From tropical water lilies to Japanese maples, these gardens truly have it all.
  • Morgan Creek Trail: Located in the heart of Chapel Hill, this 0.85-mile path takes hikers from Fordham Boulevard to the open space area of Merritt’s Pasture. If you’re looking for a quick hike to picnic or relax, this is your hike. Note that from November until February, the parking lot is only open from 7:00 AM – 6:30 PM.

One-Hour Hikes in the Triad

  • City of Greensboro Greenways: The City of Greensboro is home to over ten paved or unpaved greenways. With trails running parallel to rivers or through downtown streets, there is bound to be a trail near you that you can tackle in under an hour. Don’t forget the 40 miles of trail along the watershed lakes. That trail is also very accessible and can be found via the above link}}
  • Winston-Salem Strollway: Travel through Winston-Salem’s modern business district to historic Old Salem on this 1.2-mile gravel trail. The Strollway is relatively flat, but you will start at Old Salem and it’s a steady climb into downtown. The trail is dog and biker-friendly.
  • Mayo Mountain Loop Trail: This 1.9-mile loop trail is found in Mayodan and is part of the Mayo River State Park. The trail travels through the woods and follows a creek.
  • Piedmont Environmental Center: Located in High Point, the Piedmont Environment Center is all about bringing nature to the people. With eight different trails, most under a mile, the Piedmont Environmental Center is a great place to go for a morning, lunchtime or afternoon stroll.

One-Hour Hikes Near the Coast

  • Riverwalk: This one-mile boardwalk in Downtown Wilmington runs parallel to the Cape Fear River. The USS Battleship, Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, and quaint storefronts will be common sights on this path. If you’re looking for a longer trek, venture into Downtown Wilmington’s historic district. You’re sure to be swept away by the beautiful historic homes and architecture.
  • Abbey Nature Preserve: A former peanut plantation, this 67-acre preserve takes explorers 10 to 30 feet above sea level on its 2.4-mile trail. Open during the week from 9AM – 5PM this on-leash trail is a quick 20-minute drive from the heart of downtown Wilmington.
  • Carolina Beach State Park: The Carolina Beach State Park is home to seven miles of trails that are all relatively flat and easy to walk. A few trails that you can complete in under an hour include the Campground Trail, Carolina Beach Track Trail, Fitness Trail, Flytrap Trail and Swamp Trail.
  • Wrightsville Beach: With the wind in your face and sand in your toes, any strip of beach is the perfect place for a morning, afternoon or evening hike. The Town of Wrightsville Beach website has a list of access points. If you’re looking for beach access, not on Wrightsville Beach, search on the designated town website.

One-Hour Hikes in Western NC

  • The Blue Ridge Parkway: The Blue Ridge Parkway is home to over 50 hiking trails starting at 0.1 miles and gradually increasing. These trails have some of the best views of the Appalachian Mountains. If you’re planning on finishing the hiking in under an hour, pick a trail that is less than two miles roundtrip.
  • Lake Lure Town Center Walkway: This brick walkway and boardwalk runs through Lake Lure town center and along part of the Rocky Broad River. Explore the sights and sounds of Lake Lure and the Villages of Chimney Rock on this 1-mile roundtrip scenic trail.
  • Boone Greenway Trail: The Boone Greenway is one of the hidden gems in this college town. This recently expanded greenway spans four miles with access points around Boone. Walking any distance on this path will be a great way to get active and adventure through the mountain town.
  • French Broad River Greenway: Linking Hominy Creek, Carrier, and the French Broad River Parks, this 2.83-mile greenway runs along the French Broad River and through residential and commercial sites. Parking is available at Hominy Creek Park, Carrier Park and along Amboy Road.

Remember, a hike can be whatever you want it to be. It’s not about the location, it’s about getting out there, being active and enjoying the fresh air.  If you’re not able to take advantage of any of these hike locations on National Take a Hike Day, commit to taking a stroll around your neighborhood or local park. You can also recognize National Take a Hike day over the weekend with your friends, family and furry companion. We have partnered with North Carolina State Parks to give you tons of free guided hikes you can take advantage of with Hike NC. These hikes are across the state and perfect for a weekend excursion. Start planning your perfect day adventure! Happy hiking!

Joe Miller

About Joe Miller

Joe Miller is the author of four books on outdoor adventure, and writes about health, fitness and the outdoors. Read his blog at GetGoingNC.com.

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