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5 Easy Hiking Escapes in the North Carolina Triad

By Joe Miller | December 9, 2014 | Explore NC

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If you live in the Triad, you’re lucky when it comes to hiking. Not only are these hikes beautiful, but they’re nearby. Sure, people rave about mountain hiking and coastal relaxation. And we’re not saying the Triangle doesn’t have plenty to offer — it does, too! The whole state is just brimming with hiking possibilities, and the Triad is no exception.

Piedmont Environmental Center, High Point

One of the joys of the 11 miles of Piedmont Environmental Center trails is that you can set out with the intent of a short escape, lose yourself, and suddenly find yourself exploring a larges chunk of this 376-acre preserve than expected. Located adjacent to High Point City Lake Park, the trails here offer strolls through mature hardwood forest trickling down to the lake as well as through rich wetlands.

Various trail options await the hiker; one of most popular is a four-mile loop centered on the Bill Favre Lakeshore Trail and encompassing the Fiddlehead, Pine Thicket, Dogwood and Raccoon Run trails. If you simply can’t tear yourself away after that, if the urge to keep moving persists, the Bicentennial Greenway runs from the PEC north into Greensboro. Short or long: it’s always your choice.

More info here.


Salem Lake Trail, Winston-Salem

The seven-mile Salem Lake Trail isn’t exactly a secret: there’s probably not a local runner or hiker who doesn’t work the trail into his or her regular rotation. But don’t let its popularity scare you away, or give you the impression it doesn’t offer escape. Its length tends to spread out the masses, who flock here for the friendly trail surface and ever-present lake scenery.

The trail is flat, which further adds to its popularity by offering a chance to, quickly, take a long hike/run and stir up those endorphins. Salem Lake’s popularity also adds a sense of security; for a longer trail, you rarely are out of sight of fellow escapists. Finally, despite its central location its cloak of mature trees provides insulation from the world beyond.

Learn more about Salem Lake Trail here. 


Beech Bluff Trail, Greensboro (Watershed Lakes)

Greensboro’s trio of watershed lakes — Higgins, Brandt and Townsend — line the northern rim of the city and offer nearly 50 miles of trails and greenways. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs along the adjoining lakes’ southern shoreline, some of the trails are open to mountain biking, the popular Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway will link the region with downtown (it already hooks up with the city’s Country Park and the trail-rich Guilford Courthouse National Military Park), several trails flirt with the popular Bur-Mil Park, there’s —

Wait! you protest, this sounds like a place where everyone goes! Where’s the escape? At the lake complex’s extremes. On the west end, for instance, along the south shore of Lake Higgins, is the 1.3-mile Beech Bluff Trail. This trail takes you atop a bluff overlooking wetlands where it’s common to spot unusual waterfowl but unusual to spot many people. A 2.6-mile out-and-back, with plenty of scenic stops.

More about Beech Bluff Trail.

Townsend Trail, Greensboro, NC — Image: Joe Miller

Townsend Trail, Greensboro (Watershed Lakes)

Looking for a slightly longer getaway along the Watershed Lakes? Head to the east end of three-lake group, to Lake Townsend, and pick up the Townsend Trail. Don’t be deceived by the ample gravel parking lot at the eastern trailhead off South Shore Road; for whatever reason not a lot of folks tend to make it this far east. Thus, you’ve got a 3.8-mile stretch of trail mostly to yourself, a stretch with great views of the lake and some surprisingly intimate stretches through wetlands adjoining the lake. Turn back anytime, set a shuttle at Yanceyville Road, or do an out-and-back for a 7.6-mile trip.

Interesting thing about out-and-backs: the “back” rarely resembles the “out.”

Learn more about Townsend Trail.


Knight Brown Nature Reserve – Image: Joe Miller

Knight Brown Nature Preserve, Rockingham County

Some of the best close-to-home escapes are brought to you by North Carolina’s 21 local land trusts. Land trusts have had a hand in a good deal of the lands you know — South Mountains State Park, Eno River State Park — but they also have smaller, lesser-known properties well-worth exploring. One of those properties in the Triad area: the Knight Brown Nature Preserve.

This 189-acre preserve came into the possession of the Piedmont Land Conservancy after the owners couldn’t bare the thought of it being developed. The result is three miles of trail exploring a wooded valley just east of Belews Lake. The three loop trails offer short escapes; combined. they allow you to explore nearly all of this special slice of the Piedmont.

Find out more about Knight Brown Nature Preserve.

[Top Image: Shutterstock]

What should you take on a short escape? Keep the list like the escape: short and simple. Find a short list of what to take on your short escape at