It’s not often in the Piedmont of North Carolina that a trail takes you out in the open with the ability to see more than a mile. At Guilford County Farm you get sections of big sky and rolling hills but also a cozy creek side trail through the woods too. This is the real Piedmont, or how the Piedmont has been for hundreds of years – back when farms were a few acres and kids would run the fence lines of the neighbors down to the creek to catch some crawdads and make it home for dinner when it got dark. With the huge monoculture operations of today, we’ve lost the mid-sized family farm, but here on the trails at Guilford County Farm the experience is preserved.
The total mileage on the farm is currently 2.8 miles. You can access trails at the Farm from two starting points. The first trailhead is at the start of Breakaway Trail and the site of the historic prison. The second is the newest, which starts by the lake at the convergence of Prison Run Pass and Preacher’s Pass.
If you’re ready to go hiking, you might feel a little weird pulling the car into a parking lot right next to the barbed wire-lined fences of a prison. But you’re not mistaken, this is the trailhead! The prison stopped its operations in 2015, so you certainly won’t see any inmates. Follow the white circle trail blaze down the road and you’ll reach the donkey pen. Jax and Opie are accustomed to visitors and will come get a closer look at you if you hang around. From here the trail turns and hugs close to the fence lines with the large expanse of a Carolina blue sky all around you. Depending on the season you visit, this area will look very different. The fields you hike by are currently leased to farmers for both crops and pastures.
As you walk into the cover of trees the world gets quieter. The Prison Run Pass crosses a tributary of Travis Creek on a natural granite slab then thoughtfully winds through the forest. A favorite sitting spot is at the bench placed not just for the view, but for the acoustic sounds of the water falling over the rocks (below).
The forest has a large variety of trees and some unique ones like wild persimmon, giant white oaks, and an old shagbark hickory. The trails here are a top place to birdwatch too with 150 species of birds reported, including a spotting of the Yellow Shrike. The trail hugs the edge of another large field and approaches the lake through a stand of old pines. Here you’ll find another great view, and before long you’ll find the start of Preacher’s Pass Trail.
Preacher’s Pass skirts the edge of a field, and ducks back into the woods where it creates a loop with Prison Run Pass. Because the cleared fields open such a large view of sky, the overlook (left) is the perfect place to take it in. If you get your timing right the sunsets from Guilford County Farm Trails are truly a wonder to behold.
The craftsmanship seen along the trails is thanks to the hard work and creativity of volunteers, the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. They cut the trail and created features along the way like benches, signs, and the incredible bridge. Say a thanks to them as you get out on these trails.
The trails here are a portion of the great Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a 1,200 mile footpath across North Carolina. This is why there are two blazes on this trail: the white circle for the MST and the white triangle for the Guilford County Farm Trails.
Learn more about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail here.