With spring comes sunnier, brighter days.
As COVID-19 restrictions lift across the state, there are still several safe outdoor activities to enjoy the spring weather. In fact, about 11 percent of Chapel Hill's 21.3 square miles is composed of parks and open space.
We’ve compiled a list of places great for hiking, biking, running, picnicking and more in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area and beyond.
There are 12 miles of trails in Chapel Hill. These dog-friendly trails are connected to a variety of parks and other open spaces great for picnics, throwing a football or getting some fresh air.
“I’ve been walking the greenways, and a lot of the greenways lead you into open spaces," Penny Rich, former Orange County Board of County Commissioners chairperson and an avid greenway-walker said. "Outside the Carrboro Century Center, we have open grass where you can bring a blanket and picnic dinner or picnic lunch, which is very safe because you can separate yourself out from other families.”
UNC’s Carolina North Forest is located on North Campus, sandwiched between Carrboro and Chapel Hill. There are a variety of trails for a mix of uses, including a paved trail for bikes, wide trails for all-purpose use and natural trails for mountain biking and running.
3. Umstead Park
Near Bolin Creek, Umstead Park offers a woodland setting near the center of Chapel Hill. In the grassy, level area next to the parking lot, there is a large playground, along with swings, volleyball courts and picnic tables. It is also home to a half-mile trail that surrounds the south end of the park.
Chapel Hill's Southern Community Park has athletic fields, basketball courts, a two-acre dog park and even pickleball courts.
UNC student Jace Daugherty said he enjoys the park’s disc golf course.
“It provides me from a space away from technology, in a place where I can relax and be with friends," Daugherty said. "I played casually in high school and had a ton of fun, so I was excited when I found courses near Chapel Hill.”
Eno River State Park in Durham offers free guided nature tours alongside park rangers. Upcoming tours like “Explore the Eno” offer nature-based learning, taking residents for a hike down the scenic Cox mountain trail.
Every Wednesday from April 14 until April 28, Eno River Farm is hosting “Food Trucks on the Farm”, an event where local food trucks stop by from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The farm has open spaces for picnicking.
In addition, Eno River Farm is opening up the farm for residents to pick their own strawberries.
The N.C. Botanical Garden, located on Old Mason Farm Road in Chapel Hill, has lots of beautiful open space and offers a variety of activities including nature hikes and yoga. There’s an 88-acre forest behind the display garden, with the Piedmont Nature Trails running alongside Morgan Creek.
If you don't want to step off UNC's campus, try Coker Arboretum, a 5-acre space that has several open, shady lawns surrounded by a variety of flowers, trees and shrubs.
Early spring is an exciting time to visit your local farmers market. It’s full of fresh fruits and veggies, and a great trip to support local businesses and spend time with friends. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon, and Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Venture outside of Chapel Hill to Durham Central Park, an arts-themed park in downtown Durham that has a skate park, open fields with benches and the “Garden of Eatin'", a public edible food garden. It’s also the host of the Durham Farmers’ Market, which is open Saturday mornings. Food trucks can be found throughout the week.
For more events in the area like live music and outdoor movies, click here.