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Get Out: Five favorite family hikes

Is there any better way to work off all that turkey and pumpkin pie than with a quick hike at one of our many fantastic parks and preserves?

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Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Is there any better way to work off all of that turkey and pumpkin pie than with a quick hike at one of our many fantastic parks and preserves?

I know long hikes might be tricky for those of us with young kids (or kids who aren't used to running around the great outdoors). But here's a trick I learned years ago from a park ranger: He lured his kids on really long hikes with promises of some yummy treats or a fun activity at the end.

Here are five of my favorite places for hikes with the kids. Please share yours!

1. The Swift Creek Loop at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary. The 0.8 mile trail features boardwalks and a long stairway through some beautiful terrain. You'll also find several other short walks, including some that are more stroller friendly. The adjoining 3,700-square-foot Stevens Nature center offers a variety of educational and hands-on exhibits for families. 
A boardwalk at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
2. The Eno Trace Trail at Eno River State Park in Durham. The half mile loop is an easy afternoon for families with young kids. Of course, the park boasts many more options, including Few's Ford and the 1.5 mile Buckquarter Creek Trail, which is said to be quite beautiful.
A trail at Eno River State Park.
3. A walk to the Whispering Benches at the N.C. Museum of Art's park in west Raleigh. They are just a half mile or so from the museum's lower parking lot and worth the walk! They sit just down the hill from the park's pavilion, along an unpaved portion of the trail. The benches sit on either side of the trail, but are linked underground by a hidden pipe that lets visitors whisper messages to each other while sitting on different sides of the path. If you want to stretch your walk longer, there are plenty of other pieces of art to keep kids moving from one to the next!
Checking out the Whisper Benches at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh
4. The Duck Cove Trail at Beaverdam Recreation Area at Falls Lake in north Raleigh. The 1.2 mile round trip hike takes you through a pine forest and finally a wildlife observation deck. It's one of the region's Track Trails, which are designed to get kids and families out into our parks for hikes and nature observation and education. The Track Trails site lists many more trails in the region, including at nearby Umstead State Park, along with activity guides that you can pick up along the way. My girls and I enjoyed this hike at Falls Lake last summer where we observed a dung beetle up close.
It's part of the Track Trail program.
5. The section of Hinshaw Greenway in Cary, which connects MacDonald Woods Park with Kids Together Playground. The 0.8 mile walk, which includes a pedestrian bridge over Highway 64, connects two great playgrounds together. It's all paved, so a great one to take bikes or scooters.
The playground mixes a garden and play structures.


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