I knew I'd feature Eno River State Park on New Year's Eve because it's home to a decades-old New Year's Day hike that's free, open to the public and a great event for families. But I was a little worried it was going to be really cold.
We've lucked out. WRAL is forecasting temperatures reaching 65 degrees on Saturday, a great day for a hike or some outdoor play especially after last weekend's snow. And Eno River State Park is a perfect spot to do it.
The park's more than 4,000 acres and 25 miles of secluded wilderness trails offer plenty of places for families to explore. Close to Durham, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill, the park features five accesses - the popular Few's Ford and Cole Mill entrances, along with Cabe Lands, Pleasant Green and Pump Station. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area also is part of Eno River State Park.
I met up with park superintendent Keith Nealson the other week who told me more about the park and offered some tips for families who want to check out this very popular natural area.
Nealson tells me that the Few's Ford access at 6101 Cole Mill Rd. offers some good excursions for families, particularly those with young kids. Here are some of his recommendations (click here for maps and directions to the various access points and trails).
- Eno Trace Trail is a half mile long loop trail and easy for families with young kids.
- The longer Cox Mountain Trail, which is about four miles, features a swinging bridge not too far from the beginning of the trail. Nealson says it's a popular spot for hikers to walk to and hang out.
- Few's Ford offers some good access points to shallow spots on the Eno River, very popular with young kids and their families in the warmer months.
- The 1.5 mile Buckquarter Creek Trail is another good hike and a particularly beautiful one, Nealson tells me.
- Another popular spot that's part of the state park is a couple of small ponds for fishing at Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. You can find the ponds from the address 620 Virginia Cates Rd.
If you go, there are a few things to know:
- Swimming in the river is allowed, but Nealson asks people to be very careful. There are no lifeguards and it can be dangerous.
- Fishing is allowed and kids ages 15 and under do not need a fishing license as long as they are with a licensed adult.
- And you can camp at Eno River State Park, but just know that this is very primitive camping. You'll have to walk as much as 1 1/2 miles to your camp site. And all you'll find is a pit toilet, a pad for your tent and a place for a fire. There's no water, plumbing or electrical connections. Primitive.
And I'll add that the trails are mostly natural, so not especially stroller friendly.
The park offers a variety of programs throughout the year. Most require registration as space is limited, so be sure to sign up before you go. Like the state's other parks, Eno River is part of the Junior Rangers program. You can pick up a Junior Rangers guide in the park office at Few's Ford. It's geared toward kids ages 6 to 12 and includes lots of activities and information about North Carolina's cultural and natural heritage. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger patch at each park once they've completed the activities. Park Review: Eno River State Park
And of course on Saturday, you can head out there for the Eno River Foundation's annual New Year's Day hike at the Few's Ford access. The event starts at 2 p.m. Hikers can choose from a two-mile route or a four- to five-mile route. After the hike, there will be hot chocolate, popcorn and s'mores. It's free. No registration is required.
Watch the video for more information about Eno River.
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