Cary, NC — Outdoor recreation, for now, is on the shortlist of things you can do outside the house during this pandemic.
With the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this Wednesday, we’ve complied a list of local hiking trails you can find in each part of Cary.
Central Cary – The Lake Trail at Bond Park
Trail Type: Loop
Distance: 2 miles
Open Hours: Gates open 7:30 AM – sunset
This trail is one of five within the 310-acre Fred G. Bond Metro Park that the Town of Cary refers to as “an oasis in the middle of town”.
While the Lake Trail is heavily trafficked on most occasions, it does provide a great atmosphere for an afternoon in the trees with peek-through views of Bond Lake along the way. In this time of social distancing practices and staying at home, it is refreshing to see many smiling faces.
Near the convergence of several trails at the Boathouse, hikers might spot what’s becoming known as the park’s “learning tree”. This tree has several pages attached to it with various educational challenges for Cary kiddos to solve. These include math equations, trivia and telling time looking at an analog clock.
East Cary – Hinshaw & Pirate’s Cove Greenways
Trail Type: Out and back
Distance: Ranging from 0.7 miles – 3.6 miles
Open Hours: Dawn to dusk
These two eastern Cary greenways are paved paths that carve through creeks and forestry made up of oak, beechnut, gum and hickory trees. Hinshaw Greenway is 1.7 miles of asphalt surface, connecting Maynard Drive to Marla Dorrel Park and crosses over US Hwy 1/64 on a pedestrian bridge that features the Bowstring Vines public art installation.
Heading south around MacDonald Woods Park, the trail runs through woods for a short distance before coming to the connector to Pirate’s Cove Greenway. This greenway takes walkers and bikers along a stream edge for a serene trip through the woods. These are ideal trails for those looking for a less crowded option on the eastern side of Cary.
North Cary – The Trail at North Cary Park
Trail Type: Connector
Distance: 0.4 miles
Open Hours: Park open sunrise – sunset
Interestingly, as I made my rounds through the various greenways and trails of Cary, this has been the only one I’ve come across that didn’t have a true title or trailhead map on site. It’s more of a pathway that bends and brings you to various forks in the road, yet somehow always brings you back to a section that you recognize.
Along the trail, there are picnic tables, benches and wide-open areas for recreation and picnics. Several bridges tower over Black Creek, which is fitting, as this trail does feed into the highly popular 7.1 mile Black Creek Greenway that stretches from Lake Crabtree in the north to the trail intersections at Bond Park.
This hike consists of paved paths, stairs, bridges and is home to walkers, runners, bikers, leashed dogs and other modes of recreation, including one guy who was riding a one-wheel skateboard. Why not?
West Cary – American Tobacco Trail
Trail Type: Point-to-point rail trail
Distance: 23 miles
Open Hours: Dawn to Dusk
For those looking for a bit more of a challenge and a lengthy jaunt through nature, the American Tobacco Trail was made for it. Well, to be fair, it was first made for a different kind of travel. This trail was built on an abandoned railroad corridor that stretches from the western edge of Apex to Downtown Durham and is now a popular hub for recreation of all kinds.
The trail is heavily-trafficked and mixed-use for horse-back riding, walking, running, biking, walking leashed dogs, skating, pushing strollers and wheelchairs.
The Cary/Chatham County section makes up 4.7 miles of the ATT and there are 3 parking lots in this stretch of the trail located at White Oak Church Road, New Hope Church Road and Pittard Sears Road.
South Cary – Swift Creek Trail
Trail Type: Loop
Distance: 0.8 miles
Open Hours: Gates 0pen 9 AM – 8 PM
Swift Creek Loop Trail is one of four treks within Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, located approximately 5 miles south of downtown. This particular hike is not necessarily impressive in length, but the stairs compensate for that. With approximately 100 steps taking hikers downhill on a journey near the edges of Swift Creek, it’s a guaranteed workout for the calves and quads by the time you head back up to the trailhead.
Along the way squirrels, birds and various plant life will greet you as you take in the sounds of the creek flowing downstream. This is an ideal hike for those seeking a quality workout and an immersion in nature, all in a fairly quick time frame.
What’s your favorite hike in Cary? Let us know in the comments!
Story and photos by Ashley Kairis.