Local Parks for Outdoor Escapes - Carolina Country

15 Local Parks for Outdoor Escapes

The best quiet parks and trails in your NC town

By Joan Wenner

15 Local Parks for Outdoor Escapes

Jaycee Park, Morehead City

What is a cool and peaceful way to beat the heat and enjoy fresh air that doesn’t cost anything? A walk in a park, of course! And North Carolina has plenty of them. We found the best quiet parks and nature trails in 15 towns across the state. Here are a few serene spots (listed roughly from west to east) in areas predominantly served by North Carolina’s electric co-ops:

The 8-acre Vance Street Park [map new-window] includes a walking trail beside Richland Creek.

Vance Street Park

Vance Street Park in Waynesville, NC. Photo courtesy of Glenn Gasner via Google Local Guides.

Barnard Park [map new-window] marks the start of the classic whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking section of the French Broad River. The fishing spot also features a walking loop and picnic tables.

3Forest City
Florence Mill Park [map new-window] downtown is newly created and named for the historic Florence Mill; joins the popular James F. Crowe Park [map new-window] on Cherry Mountain Street, which has several large shelters that can be reserved for special events.

Minutes from downtown, Salem Lake Park’s [map new-window] 365-acre lake is often referred to as “the diamond” of the city’s many parks. A 7-mile hiking trail offers scenic views of the lake. Quarry Park [map new-window] also has trails, seating and beautiful sightlines. Lockland Park [map new-window] features a shelter and playground. 

Mitchell Village Park

Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge near Wadesboro, NC. Photo courtesy of Pee Dee NWR and photographer Keith Henderson.

Little Park [map new-window] has all manner of athletic facilities and a swimming pool, but its quiet Loop Trail is a manicured 1.7 miles through the woods that connects to Fox Squirrel Trail for a total of 3 miles of trails, named for the creatures you may spot. The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge [map new-window] north of town is an expansive waterfowl habitat.

Park Street Park [map new-window] is less than an acre but offers a cozy wooded spot with picnic tables and grills; Bicentennial Park [map new-window] downtown features a fountain and a memory walk.

San Lee Park [map new-window] sprawls over 177+ acres in Lee County, with hiking trails, two stocked lakes for fishing, picnic facilities and a nature center.

Eno River at River Park

Father and son overlook the Eno River at River Park in Hillsborough.

River Park [map new-window] abuts the Eno River, perfect for strolling and picnicking, and is part of the popular Riverwalk Greenway, particularly attractive to visitors.

Cape Fear River Park’s 5-mile trail [map new-window] includes a boardwalk traversing marsh and wetlands; Cross Creek Linear Park [map new-window] is a winding greenway skirting downtown, winding through history sites. Cape Fear Botanical Garden (capefearbg.org) is a truly lovely setting, and a model railway will traverse the grounds through August 31. There’s an admission fee, but it’s worth it. 

10Wake Forest
H.L. Miller Park [map new-window] offers 2 acres of wooded greenspace behind Wake Forest Town Hall. North of town, E. Carroll Joyner Park [map new-window], has 3 miles of paved walking trails around a pond, over creeks and through an old pecan grove. Restored farm structures include a log cabin, mule barn and tobacco barn.

H.L. Miller Park

H.L. Miller Park in Wake Forest, NC

Johnson Park [map new-windowhas a gravel pathway, tree-shaded garden and grassy area; Burgaw Greenway Trail  is a 2¾-mile loop along Osgood Canal connecting several wooded areas, including Pecan Park [map new-window] (in a pecan grove, with benches).

Wilson Bay Park  [map new-window] offers visitors a covered gazebo and a walk by the water. Jacksonville Landing  [map new-window] offers boat ramps, a boardwalk and greenspace along the New River at Buddy Phillips Bridge.

Cardinal Park [map new-window] is a tranquil spot to see the town’s tall clock and relax for a time. Also in the area is Merchants Millpond State Park [map new-window].

Mitchell Village Park

Mitchell Village Park in Morehead City, NC

14Morehead City
Jaycee Park [map new-window] is a waterfront space with benches and picnic tables. Take a break on a bench swing at Mitchell Village Community Park [map new-window] for views of Bogue Sound and endless boat- and bird-watching.

15Hatteras Village
Gaze out at Pamlico Sound and enjoy cooling breezes from the southernmost community on Hatteras Island. Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative recommends the Sea Breeze Trail [map new-window] as a favorite serene and educational nature trail/park/walkway. The Buxton Woods Trail [map new-window], near Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, offers views of the ocean through tranquil maritime forest. 

About the Author

Joan Wenner, J.D., is a longtime writer presently residing in Pitt County. Comments are welcomed at joan_writer@yahoo.com.

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