Fall Hikes for Families in the Triangle

This pandemic has ruined a lot of plans for families but one thing it can not ruin is time spend outside in nature! We live in such a beautiful, diverse part of the state with SO many nature preserves, parks, and green ways to explore.

We’ve rounded up a quick list of *just some* of our favorite hikes in the Triangle to see all the colorful leaves and signs of the changing seasons.

It’s important to note that some of these hikes will be very crowded on the weekends. Your best bet is to visit during the week or arrive early on the weekends to avoid the crowds.

Durant Nature Preserve – Lakeside Trail (1.08 miles)


Click here for a very easy to read map of the trail system.

The 1 mile Lakeside Trail (the name of the trail, but also a great description) loops you around the beautiful lake while crossing through hardwood and pine forests, past wildflowers and ferns, and through wetlands. Durant Nature Preserve also has a playground, fishing dock, butterfly and bird garden, and a nature play garden (near the welcome kiosk).

This preserve also hosts some amazing seasonal programs. Click here to see if there are any programs happening during your visit.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area – Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail (2.2 miles)


Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is located in Hillsborough, a quick drive from anywhere in the Triangle and offers a wonderful escape into nature. The Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail offers you views from the highest point in Orange County while also getting an opportunity to explore a diverse ecology landscape. This hike is the most challenging of the trails on this list so we recommend this hike to those of you with older kiddos or younger ones with the help of hiking backpack.

Click here to access the trail map.

William B. Umstead State Park – Pott’s Branch Trail (1.3 miles)


Umstead is a well known go-to when you’re needing an escape to nature. The Potts’s Branch Trail is the a great distance to test little hikers and meanders over three streams that flow into Crabtree Creek. This trail starts and ends at the state park Welcome Center at the Glenwood Ave entrance.

Click here to access the trail map.

Lake Johnson Park – East Loop (2.8 miles)


This trail is the longest but also most accessible because it is a paved trail around Lake Johnson. This trail is stroller, bike, and scooter friendly! Join the education team Saturday November 14th from 1-3pm for a fun, interactive activity to learn why leaves change colors. Sign up here.

Click here to access the trail map and see where to park.

Duke Forest – Shepherd Nature Trail (0.8 miles)


The Shepherd Nature Trail is a quick hike that offers a great introduction to Duke Forest. Throughout the loop visitors will encounter signs that engage and educate young learners about the transformations that have occurred in the forest.

Click here to access the trail map.

Click here for GPS directions.

Seeing pictures from your adventures is one of our favorite things so please tag @trianglefamiliesexplore on IG and share your family fun!

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