21 HIKES ALONG THE TRIAD'S RIVERS
The Piedmont region of North Carolina is rich in rivers. Trail planners and builders have taken advantage of these corridors to create some beautiful and relaxing trails. If you have yet to experience all that these rivers have to offer, here are 21 hikes to get you on your way.
This list of 21 trails is broken up by river. Click the buttons below if you prefer to jump to one river or another. As you get out to these trails always note that it’s a possibility that some may be flooded after a heavy rainfall. Please check inclement weather and local trail conditions before heading out to a trail.
Starting in the northwest of our region and flowing down the western boundary, the Yadkin has been utilized as a trail corridor for many communities; not to mention that the Yadkin River itself is a State Trail! With 6 land trails along its banks in our region alone this river is a hotspot for year round recreation.
1. Jonesville Greenway | Jonesville, NC | Yadkin River
2. Bean Shoals Trail | Pilot Mountain State Park | Yadkin River
308 Hauser Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043
Pilot Mountain State Park cares for many acres of land along the Yadkin and these trails don’t see nearly as many visitors. Along with the gently sloping trails and sandy walk along the river, here you get to see the remains of the attempt to build a canal along the Yadkin in 1820 along Bean Shoals Trail.
This trail system walks you through a lot of beauty in any season. Take the gravel road all the way to the end which takes you right to Bean Shoals trail (0.5 miles), just make sure that your car can make it through 3 creek crossings! As an alternative option you can park at the Corridor Trail parking lot and walk to the rivers edge from some other trails. See the map to plan your route.
3. Ivy Bluff Trail | Pilot Mountain State Park | Yadkin River
On the opposite shore from Bean Shoals trail you’ll find a 1.3 mile hike from higher up: Ivy Bluff Trail. This beautiful trail might take you by surprise. Starting high and slowly descending to the river’s edge, you get some especially good views in the winter when you can see through the trees to the islands dotting the Yadkin River below.
4. Yadkin River Nature Trail | Tanglewood Park | Yadkin River
5. Boone's Cave Park | Lexington, NC | Yadkin River
Rumored home of the famed Daniel Boone, the caves along the banks of the Yadkin River are a unique part of this park, but they’re not the only attraction. This Park has an extensive trail system with 7 other miles of trail to explore too. A lot of the flora here resembles that of the Appalachian Mountains. The view of the Yadkin opens up in the fall and winter making this a great park to visit in all seasons. If you’re in need of a long walk in the woods, Boone’s Cave Park checks a lot of boxes, including less crowds. Due to recent flooding a few of the boardwalk trails have been washed away and may not reflect exactly what’s on the map.
6. Yadkin River Park | Lexington, NC | Yadkin River
Yadkin River Park is a beautiful and extremely significant historical treasure in our region. The Park features river access, the historic Wil-Cox Bridge (originally built in 1924), and 1.25 miles of trail around Fort York, a Confederate fort where one of the final battles of the Civil War took place, known as Stoneman’s Raid in 1865. This spot also has significant Native American and Revolutionary War history.
From the parking area you will see access to the pedestrian bridge and a large set of stairs down to the river and a popular fishing spot. The bulk of the trails are up on the ridge. Follow the gravel path uphill along the road (pictured above) before the trail takes a sharp left into the trees. From here you’ll be under tree cover as you walk the trails over what once was cleared for a network of artillery batteries linked by rifle trenches for the infantry. Exit via the same trail you used to come in.
Fisher River Park | Dobson, NC
The Ararat River, a tributary of the Yadkin, starts in Virginia and heads South. As it passes through Mt. Airy, river accesses dot its shores and a greenway travels along its western bank.
Ararat River Greenway | Mt. Airy | Ararat River
Riverside Park: 350 Riverside Dr, Mt Airy, NC 27030
HB Rowe Environmental Park: 217-241 Hamburg St, Mt Airy, NC 27030
Tharrington Park: 1040 Spring St, Mt Airy, NC 27030
Winding alongside the Ararat River in Mount Airy, the Ararat River Greenway is a beautiful multi-use trail that is a popular destination for cyclists, walkers, fishers, kayakers, you name it. At its southern point, the Ararat River Greenway links with the Confluence Greenway segment and the Emily B. Taylor Greenway that parallels Lovill’s Creek, so you can continue your journey 4 more miles.
There are many entrances to this trail. Check out the map to determine where you’d like to start and end your journey.
The Dan River cuts through the northern section of the Piedmont, weaving back and forth between Virginia and North Carolina. It is also renowned for its excellent paddling opportunities but if you’d like to get a look from land, check out the trail below. We’d like to give an honorable mention to Moratock Park in Danbury, another wonderful place to take in the Dan River. It has wonderful spots to hang out and picnic, but because it lacks a trail it’s not included in this list .
Riverbluffs Trail | Hanging Rock State Park | Dan River
Did you know we had these gorgeous cliffs in the Piedmont? With all those mountain tops to explore in Hanging Rock State Park this trails seems to get left behind. It is criminally underrated. The trail explores the Dan River and the views might be enough to make you come back with a kayak. Another pro: With all the conserved land nearby this is a wonderful place to spot wildlife.
The Riverbluffs Trail at Hanging Rock is an easy loop with a lot of reward. To learn more about this trail see our guide.
The Mayo River, a tributary of the Dan River, is a beautiful river in the northern section of the Piedmont Triad. It’s a popular spot for kayakers and has this fantastic trail on its riverbank. See below.
At the top of the Triad right next to the State Line, you’ll find your next favorite hike. Passing by a gorgeous waterfall and snuggling into a bend of the Mayo River, this trail is all about the (surprisingly blue) water. It’s part of the Mayo River State Park and is located at the very top of the NC border. Though this hike has a bit of distance, it’s mostly flat. On a warm day you’ll be tempted to lie out on the sandy trail and stay a while.
To learn more about this trail see our guide.
Smith River Greenway | Smith River | Eden, NC
The Smith River Greenway in Eden, NC extends 1.7 miles on a majority flat hard-packed fine gravel trail. Though glimpses of the river are scarce due to vegetation, this trail is a beautiful walk in the woods. You can find parking, restroom facilities, and a picnic shelter at the trailhead. This spot is also a paddle access point for those looking for a river adventure.
Get to know the significant natural and historical features found in the heart of North Carolina by exploring the Deep River State Trail. It was designated as an official State Trail in 2007 by the NC General Assembly as both a hiking and paddle trail. With 5 miles of trail currently on the ground (and many more planned) this is a gorgeous area to explore. A known home of Great Blue Herons, River Otters, and Osprey, be on the lookout for wildlife along your journey! Check out the details on the different segments below: Randleman, Franklinville, and Ramseur.
Randleman Section | Deep River State Trail
117 Presnell St, Randleman, NC 27317
The Deep River State Trail in Randleman, also known as the Randleman Greenway, is 1.5 miles of a wide fine gravel trail that features views of the Deep River. You’ll find the occasional bench or picnic table waiting for you along the way. Check out this trail for an easy, mostly flat walk and lovely views as you explore the green and rocky banks of the Deep River.
Franklinville Section | Deep River State Trail
Western Trailhead: 1306 Andrew Hunter Dr, Franklinville, NC
Mid: 163 W Main St, Franklinville, NC 27248
Eastern Trailhead: 435 Rising Sun Way, Franklinville, NC 27248
Sandwiched between the charming small town of Franklinville and the Deep River, the 1.75 mile Deep River State Trail leads you down a repurposed rail line through Riverside Park, past an old textile factory, and into a peaceful forest. The trail ends at Sandy Creek, where eventually a bridge will connect this section of trail to Ramseur just down the way. You can access this trail from 3 different places. See the map for more trail and parking information.
Faith Rock Trail
Particularly lovely at sunrise and sunset, this 0.74 mile natural surface trail takes you to the top of a 50 foot blue stone outcrop as it juts into the Deep River. Thankfully its beauty will always be here as the preserve is protected in perpetuity by Piedmont Land Conservancy. From the trailhead at the address above, cross the historic bridge and follow the trail through woods with beautiful views of Deep River to the top of Faith Rock, a natural heritage site with rare plants.
Ramseur Section | Deep River State Trail
Eastern Trailhead:728 Liberty St, Ramseur, NC 27316
Western Trailhead: 5960 US 64, Ramseur, NC 27316
Phenomenally flat and shaded, the Deep River State Trail in Ramseur, also know as the Ramseur Rail Trail, is a great spot to visit when it heats up. There are two sections of trail here separated by the currently impassable Harlan Creek. A bridge is planned to join the two sections in the future. See our map for more information on parking. The fine gravel trail on both sides goes through hardwood forest with glimpses of Deep River. The eastern section features a dam and the remaining footprint of the old Columbia Manufacturing Co. cotton mill, first built in 1850.
Not only is the Haw River fully developed for paddling, but the communities along this river are working hard to implement a trail that follows the entire river for 70 miles: the Haw River Trail. With 20 miles of trail already on the ground, there’s quite a few riverside hikes calling your name. We’ll start upstream and head downstream.
1. Shallowford Natural Area | Haw River Trail
Shallowford Natural Area has a lot more trail that just what’s along the river. Although this is a key section on the Haw River Trail, the park packs in a lot more mileage. You can explore a wildflower meadow, an old homestead site, lots of creeks, and rolling hills on this beautiful wooded property.
2. Glencoe | Great Bend Park | Haw River Trail
The sights on the trails at Glencoe and Great Bend Park are truly stunning, but it’s the relaxing acoustics of the river pouring over the system of historic dams that take it to the next level. Walking the island trail (pictured) is an astonishingly effective form of stress relief.
This area also connects to both the Haw River Trail, a planned 70 mile trail along the Haw, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, NC’s long-distance statewide trail. It’s a wonderful convergence of history and natural beauty- enjoy!
3. Sellers Falls | Haw River Trail
The Sellers Falls Section is the newest 4-mile stretch of Haw River Trail/Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The trail meanders through mature hardwood forest with prominent views of the Haw River, ending at Red Slide Park. Parking is available at Stoney Creek Marina. From the parking area, follow Carolina Road past historic Copland Fabrics then cross the bridge over Stoney Creek and enter the forest to your right. Continue to follow the HRT trail blazes.
The trail crossing at Boyd’s Creek (Trail Blaze: HRTL 4065) is via a rocky footpath across the water. If the water is high please use caution crossing or turn around. This section ends at Red Slide Park (pictured above), a 15 acre park offering a paddle access, hiking trails, picnic areas, and a playground.
4. Longmeadow Trail | Haw River Trail
This almost entirely flat, 1.8 mile out and back trail cuts between the Haw River on one side and a long meadow on the other and passes under I-40. It’s part of both the Haw River Trail and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It’s a beautiful location for a relaxing riverside stroll.
5. Swepsonville River Park | Haw River Trail
Upper Access: 2472 Boywood Road, Swepsonville
Lower Access: 2698 Boywood Road, Swepsonville
At Swepsonville River Park get ready for a flat, sandy, 2 mile stroll along the grassy banks of the Haw River. Be on the lookout for blue herons and for turtles sunning themselves on a log. The upper entrance has a cool rock feature and just a bit downstream you can see the remnants of an old dam.
6. Saxapahaw | Haw River Trail
Saxapahaw boasts 4.85 miles of trail, all riverside! See this map for all the trails in the area. A favorite is Saxapahaw Island Park, a island in the middle of the river that is home to a 1.5 mile loop and the famous and fun 45 foot long fish playground.