Editor's Note: Sean Higgins, the interpretation and education manager for North Carolina State Parks and a father of a six-year-old and twin 18-month-olds, shares a favorite hike for families in the Triangle.
William B. Umstead State Park is the Triangle’s version of Central Park. It is one of the 30 largest urban parks in the world and visible from space as a green spot between Raleigh, Durham and Cary. It’s hard to believe that the majority of this now forested park was worn out cotton and corn fields just 80 years ago.
For families, I recommend exploring the Crabtree Creek Section off Glenwood Avenue (Highway 70). This side of the park has a nice visitor center with exhibits, and it is generally easier to find solitude and parking here on weekends.
The Potts Branch and Oak Rock trails are easy family trails leading from the picnic area. Both trails have plenty of hollow trees, small boulders to scramble on and streams that are ideal for pebble tossing and stick racing.
Follow the trail from the picnic shelters down to the stream (Potts Branch) for a fun place to turn over rocks in search of crayfish. Marvel at a large oak tree that is thriving even though its seed landed atop a huge rock on the Oak Rock trail.
The Oak Rock trail is also a TRACK Trail, which means it has free kid-friendly trail brochures and kids can earn prizes – like a nature journal or bandana- by registering their hikes on the Kids In Parks website.