The 16 Most Underrated Trails in the Triad

These less-visited destinations help you minimize contact with crowds and maximize your connection to natural places.

Most people know the views from the peak of Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock, but I keep hearing, “Where else can I hike?” and I LOVE that question. There are a lot of things that make the Triad a wonderful place to live, but at the top of my list is exploring the natural beauty, diverse ecology, and history of our region – all done through some beautiful trails. 

I’ve gotten to know the trails in the North Carolina Triad for some time now and here’s my list of the underrated hiking trails that deserve a whole lot more credit. Note that this list is hardly comprehensive. There are many more trails out there to enjoy, and the list continues to grow. Check out our Online Trail Map to find what’s near you, and stay tuned to trail updates and guides by following Piedmont Legacy Trails on Facebook and Instagram.

1. Great Bend Park on the Haw River Trail

350 Greenwood Drive, Burlington, NC 27217

The sights on the trails at 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. We all could use some of that right now. 

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!

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: River, Dam, History

2. Knight Brown Nature Preserve

221 Waterfield Lane, Stokesdale, NC 27357

Right next to Belews Lake there is a piece of quiet, undisturbed land that not many people know about. The trail descends into a valley and weaves along with a stream that cuts through the forest floor. Through the 189 acres in Knight Brown Nature Preserve there are 3 trail loops with mild rises and falls. The red trail is my favorite for the remarkable views of the bending creek bed. Walking all 3 trails gives you a 2.7 mile journey, and sitting on this handmade bench for 10 minutes gives you peace of mind.

  • Distance: 2.7 miles
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Stream, Mature Forest

3. Boone's Cave Park

Image by Cary Kanoy

3552 Boones Cave Road, Lexington, NC 27295

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. I’ve come to love this trail system for the 7 other miles of trail to explore too. A lot of the flora here resembles that of the Appalachian Mountains. The Cottonwood Trail and Red Oak Trail are two of my favorites as they visit enormous and gorgeous old trees, but any of the trails here are a winner (See the map).

If you’re in need of a long walk in the woods, Boone’s Cave Park checks a lot of boxes, including less crowds.

Image by Cary Kanoy
  • Distance: 0.5 to 7 miles depending on trail
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: History, Caves, River

4. Company Mill Preserve

Western Trailhead: Hagan-Stone Park on the cul-de-sac at the end of Cedar Rd
Eastern Trailhead: 6344 Company Mill Road, Climax, NC 27233

Company Mill Preserve is growing in popularity, but since the newest portion of the trail just opened in October 2019, maybe you can get to this beautiful preserve before everyone else does. With both long boardwalks past beaver dams and higher land of mature forests and an old homestead, the 3 mile trail gives you remarkable variety. What not so long ago was a marshy area that collected a lot of trash has been transformed with tremendous clean-up and trail building efforts into a fun place to explore and a valuable habitat for wildlife.

Situated next to Hagan-Stone Park (another wonderful place to hike), the trail has two entrances. The trailhead on the West comes out of Hagan-Stone Park and the one on the East side starts you off at the dam and boardwalks off Company Mill Road.

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: History, Wetland Boardwalks

5. The Dam Trail at Yadkin Memorial Park

1142 Crystal Lane, Yadkinville, NC 27055

I explored this glassy lake on a sunny morning and have been telling people about its beauty ever since. Yadkin Memorial Park burst onto the recreation scene with this beautiful land in 2014. The Dam trail, built within the last year, hugs the banks of the Lake Hampton Reservoir out to the Dam. The additions here are ever growing with more trails planned. If you’re in need of a peaceful lakeside stroll in solitude, then look no further.

To learn more about this trail, see our blog.

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty:
  • Highlights: Lake, Dam

6. Yadkin River Section of Pilot Mountain State Park

308 Hauser Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043

You’ve been to the top of Pilot Mountain too many times – come down to the river instead! Pilot Mountain State Park cares for many acres of land along the Yadkin and these trails don’t see nearly as many visitors. Plus it’s historic! 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 and it’s become one of my favorite spots in the Triad. I recommend the loop from Horne Creek to Bean Shoals to Yadkin Islands for a total of 5 miles (See the map). But if you’re looking for something a bit shorter 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! *Note that the road to Bean Shoals Trail has been closed recently due to damage. Be prepared to start your hike from the Corridor Trailhead at the address above.*

  • Distance: 1 to 5 miles depending on trail
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: River, Historical Canal

7. Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail

2138 Wentworth Street, Reidsville, NC 27320

The Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail is one of two National Recreation Trails in the Triad (the other is the Uwharrie Trail). In its 1.7 mile loop, the trail explores the land of a large 1920s estate. I love this trail for the variety – the lakes, rock dam, old growth forest, and rolling pastures. It’s rich with history and with beauty.

  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: History, Rolling Pastures, Lake

8. Carter Falls and Powerhouse Trail Loop

Carter Falls Trailhead, Elkin, NC 28621

This 60 foot cascading waterfall is establishing itself as a beautiful landmark along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. But this easy-going hike isn’t only about the one waterfall. There are other great views waiting for you here. If you’re looking for more mileage, begin your hike at the Grassy Creek Vineyard (bringing your total to 4 miles) or Isaac’s Trailhead (total of 6 miles).

  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Waterfall

9. Riverbluffs Trail at Hanging Rock State Park

1258 Flinchum Road, Danbury, NC 27016

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 blog.

  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Riverbluffs

10. Faith Rock Trail and the Deep River State Trail Franklinville

Western Trailhead: 1306 Andrew Hunter Dr, Franklinville, NC
Eastern Trailhead: 435 Rising Sun Way, Franklinville, NC 27248

This wonderful combo of trails is a perfect day hike. Faith Rock Trail loops you through a preserve (thanks Piedmont Land Conservancy!) and up onto a 50 foot blue stone outcrop overlooking the river. Just across the historic bridge (pictured) the connecting trail, the Deep River State Trail, leads you down a repurposed rail line through a town park, past a old textile factory, and into a peaceful forest. See the map on to plan your trip.

The Deep River State Trail is a developing land and water trail with 3 sections of multi-use trail on the ground: Franklinville, Ramseur, and Randleman. It was hard for me not to put the others on this list too! Check them out.

  • Distance: 2.25 miles
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: River, Riverside Park, Historical View at Faith Rock

11. Cedarock Park

4242 R Dean Coleman Rd, Burlington, NC 27215

The landmark dam of Cedarock Park is only scratching the surface of what this 500 acres of land has to offer. For those living in Burlington, this might not be a new find, but if you haven’t been here you’re in for a treat. There’s a gorgeous 5 miles of hiking trail and 6.3 miles of equestrian trail. All the trails here have a secret world to discover. I also suggest taking a stroll through Garrett Historical Farm, and maybe 18-holes of footgolf (yes, that’s like golf with a soccer ball). The beauty of these trails have me coming back again and again.

  • Distance: 0.5 to 5 miles depending on trail
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: Historical Farm and Dam, Creek, Mature Forest

12. Cooper Cemetery Trail in the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness

5527 Lassiter Mill Rd, Asheboro, NC 27205

The Birkhead Mountain Wilderness- if that awesome name doesn’t have you intrigued,  maybe hearing that there’s 5,160 acres of untouched wilderness in the oldest mountains on the continent right in the Triad. Cooper Cemetery Trail is really just an introduction to the over 12 miles of trail that loop through this wilderness area. 

This trail is relatively new and isn’t on many maps of the Birkhead Mountain Wilderness so please read the description on our map to make sure you find your way. Beginning at Robbin’s Branch Trailhead (address above) the trail meanders to a final destination of an Revolutionary War Era Cemetery. 

  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Highlights: History, Stream Crossing

13. Guilford County Farm Trails

7315 Howerton Road, Elon, NC 27244

The trails at Guilford County Farm are a unique and wonderful hiking experience. As someone who grew up around lots of farmland maybe I am biased by nostalgia. Both the trail along the open fields and the sections that meander through the forest are a reminder of our close connection to land. Not to mention, this trail is second to none for sunset viewing. 

To learn more about this trail see our blog.

  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Rolling farmland, Stream

14. Uwharrie Trail- Joe Moffitt Trailhead to Jumping Off Rock Trailhead

Thayer Rd, Troy, NC 27371

This trail takes you both to valley creeks and peak overlooks along the historic Uwharrie Trail. Starting at the Joe Moffitt trailhead, a quick climb leads you to this colorful meadow on the top of Little Long Mountain. It’s the highlight of this stretch and one of the best views in the Uwharries. Descend down the mountain to a creek known as Poison Fork which will be your companion before another quick climb. Once again, this hike can serve as your introduction to the wonderful opportunities for hiking in this treasured section of the Piedmont Triad.

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Highlights: Overlook, Stream

15. Bethania Trails

5393 Ham Horton Ln, Bethania, NC 27010

The Town of Bethania is a historic destination near Winston-Salem, with a wealth or trails to offer. The community has worked hard to conserve their land (thanks again Piedmont Land Conservancy!) and turned them into pockets of solace. Right in the quaint downtown there are 4 loop trails totaling to almost 5 miles. Black Walnut Bottoms is the most popular trail but my other favorite is Reuter Trail.

  • Distance: 1 to 5 miles depending on trail
  • Type: Trail System
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Forests, Meadows, Creeks

16. Fall Creek Falls at Mayo River State Park

113 Deshazo Road, Stoneville, NC 27048

 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 blog.

  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Highlights: Waterfall, River

The Piedmont Triad is a colorful, culturally rich, and beautiful place to call home - and after getting to know more of the hidden gems here, I am likely to call it home for quite a while more.

Written and photographed by Brianna Haferman, the Piedmont Legacy Trails AmeriCorps Service Member for 2019-2020. 

Thank you for reading! I hope this guide helps you explore the beauty we have close to home and gain moments of solace in a wild world. 

5 thoughts on “The 16 Most Underrated Hiking Trails in the Triad”

  1. Thank you so much for this Brianna, well done! I now have a list to check off right here near home when I can’t get to the mountains for the weekend!

  2. Roger Bardsley

    Great job Brianna,
    You make the trails sound so appealing. I have not visited all the trails you have listed, but would like to add the trails at Guilford-Mackintosh Park with great views of the lake, and the much better known Bill Craft Trail between Plainfield Road and Northern Middle School. And don’t forget the Cascades Preserve in Oak Ridge. Beautiful cascading stream, particularly after it has rained.

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