Four Great Winter Hikes
Get trekking off-peak for solitude and cool views
It may be chilly outside, but there’s no need to go into hibernation from hiking. Many trails in NC are stunning in the winter and offer more dramatic views, snowy wonderlands and quiet solitude. Here are four trails worth bundling up for.
Morrow Mountain Trail, Albemarle
ncparks.gov | 704-982-4402
With the exception of a strenuously steep section, this is a moderate-to-easy trek along rolling hills. The trail boasts panoramic views, and you’ll feel extra tall when you spy glimmering Lake Tillery and buildings in Charlotte far away. The 5.2 miles round trip utilizes three other trails — Laurel, Sugarloaf Mountain and Mountain Loop. The park lies in the ancient Uwharrie Mountains. Access Morrow Mountain Trail from either the park office or the parking lot atop Morrow Mountain.
Buckquarter Creek Trail, Durham
ncparks.gov | 919-383-1686
Located at Eno River State Park, this trail is a waters-edge treasure that affords excellent views of spectacular rock boulders. It’s a moderate, 1.5-mile round trip hike, except for some steep stairs. (Want to walk further? Access Holden’s Mill Trail at a wooden footbridge on Buckquarter Creek Trail. Its easy loop adds 2.6 miles and includes additional river views and the stone remains of an old mill.) The park has five different access areas in Orange and Durham counties. Buckquarter Creek Trail is easily accessed from the Piper-Cox House parking lot at 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham.
Video by Garrett Chappell
Neusiok Trail, Havelock
fs.usda.gov (PDF) | 252-638-5628
Ambitious hikers dig the diversity of this 20-mile plus, one way trail, described as easy-to-moderate. It’s in the Croatan National Forest and travels through cypress swamps, savannahs, bogs and hardwoods, with expansive, riverfront views. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, otters, wild turkey and deer. You’ll stroll on some boardwalks but still may get your boots wet. It’s an ideal winter backpacking trip — no mosquitoes and three sleeping shelters en route. Park at The Oyster Point trailhead on the Newport River or the Pine Cliff picnic area trailhead on the Neuse River. (It’s possible to do shorter hikes, too. Many roads cross the trail.)
Rock Garden Trail, Danbury
ncparks.gov | 336-593-8480
This paved trail at Hanging Rock State Park is short but sweet (a mere 0.2 miles, roundtrip) — perfect for those who can’t walk far or who use wheelchairs. It goes to a beautiful rock outcropping, with a bench for peaceful reflection along the way. Park at the far left end of the Visitors Center parking lot for easiest access. There’s also an ADA accessible picnic shelter and ADA fishing pier at the park’s lake.
Check the weather the day you head out, and let a family member or friend know where you are going, who you are with, and when you plan to return. Check with parks about conditions, especially in regard to snow and ice.
Beat the cold with layers of clothing, warm gloves and a hat. The Appalachian Mountain Club offers a comprehensive winter gear guide on its website.
More great North Carolina hikes