Durham's Outdoor Adventure Guide
Nature is calling. Plan your outdoor adventure in Durham.
It's always open, mostly free, and widely accessible – there's no place like Durham's great outdoors.
No matter where you are in Durham, there is a park, trail, river, or open green space nearby. Whether you are visiting and looking for adventure, in need of a break from work, or just ready to change up the scenery, it is crucial to step away from the screens and get some fresh air. This guide to Durham's outdoors will help you unplug for a few hours and get in touch with nature. May the forest be with you on your adventure.
Grab your hiking shoes and bask in the sunshine and gorgeous views on the Eno River State Park trails, which follow a section of the state-spanning Mountains-to-Sea Trail. With tons of protected wilderness, there are plenty of places to hike, bike, fish, and paddle. Make sure to trek across the hanging bridge for close-up views of the river on your visit.
Explore the urban pathways lined with nature preserves and hike the trails through protected forests to soak up the scenery. West Point on the Eno City Park includes a historic mill and farmhouse surrounded by trails with breathtaking views of the Eno River. Need to cool off after your hike? The Eagle Trail and Sennett Hole Trail at West Point on the Eno lead to a popular swimming area at Sennett’s Hole.
Take your adventure to the next level with Frog Hollow Outdoors. From rock climbing to hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and paddling, guides host numerous self-guided and guided excursions for all ages in and around Durham’s waterways and natural areas.
Two Sisters Adventure Co. is a family and women-led business born out of the desire to create an inviting environment for all people – regardless of ethnicity, background, gender, age and size – in the outdoors. Through self-guided and guided adventures, they are dedicated to providing individual and small group adventure and outdoor recreation opportunities. Sign up for kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding, and explore the great outdoors.
With gardens, murals, a playground, a skatepark, a covered pavilion, public art and a wealth of open green spaces and hidden gems, there’s plenty to explore at Durham Central Park.
Stop by Saturday to shop fresh goods at the Durham Farmers' Market and enjoy some local food on one of four annual Sunday Food Truck Rodeos. Order from the vendors at the Durham Food Hall next to the park and take it to enjoy a picnic on a grassy area. The Glass Jug’s taproom located next to the park has a patio perfect for a beer, or you can take advantage of The Bullpen, Durham's social district, and order cocktails to-go for a park hang or walk downtown.
If you want to check out some other parks with benches and open spaces, Durham Parks and Recreation manages 68 parks all over the city.
Half of the 22.6-mile American Tobacco Trail runs straight through Durham. Beginning just across from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at Morehead Ave., the trail runs along an abandoned railroad bed and courses through beautiful pines. It's a great trail for cyclists, hikers, walkers, and runners, and the rural sections boast plentiful wildlife, including beavers, herons, hawks, songbirds, vultures, owls, turtles, and deer.
Spend an afternoon exploring the 55-acre botanical wonderland that is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. With more than 200 colorful plant varieties viewable from more than five miles of walkways and paths, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is known as one of the premier gardens in the United States. Seasonal plantings ensure that each visit is a completely new experience with walking and trolley tours available. Bring the whole family and enjoy hours of solitude, discovery, exploration, and inspiration.
Lounge on the sandy beach at Rolling View State Recreation Area at Falls Lake, hike the wooded trails, or set up camp and see the stars shine over the water. Keep an eye out for white-tailed deer as you explore the mixed pine forest. Just 30 minutes from downtown Durham, there are plenty of gorgeous views along the shoreline of the 12,000-acre lake.
The Al Buehler Trail and Duke Forest trails offer close-to-town options for runners and walkers. Named after legendary Duke cross-country coach Al Buehler and located around the perimeter of the Duke University Golf Club, the Al Buehler Trail is an enjoyable gravel running and walking course with beautiful views. Gravel parking lots on either side of the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club offer convenient trail access off Cameron Blvd. The foot trails in Duke Forest are non-graveled, dirt trails for walkers, runners, and hikers. Walk the trails and then reward yourself with a gourmet meal from the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club.
Lemur tell you an interesting lemur fact...The Duke Lemur Center (DLC) houses over 200 lemurs across 14 species which is the most diverse population of lemurs on Earth outside their native Madagascar! Book a tour to learn all about lemurs and to support the DLC.
Take a short drive north of downtown Durham to Lake Michie, where you can push off from the shore in an electric motorboat, rowboat, or kayak – all available for rent from the City of Durham. Fishing fanatics can enjoy fishing from the banks surrounded by the calming sounds of nature.
Get ready to see nature in a whole new light at the Museum of Life and Science. Experience the four-billion-year-old story of how mountains rise, rocks turn to sand, and water reshapes the planet at the Earth Moves exhibit. Discover the science behind clouds at Into the Mist, an outdoor water exhibit where kids and adults are encouraged to learn about cloud formation by playing in the mist. Trek through Hideaway Woods, a two-acre, nature discovery environment featuring treehouses, a flowing streambed, and more. Later, say hello to Bronto, a 30-foot brontosaurus made out of cement hidden in the trees of the West Ellerbe Creek Trail across the street from the museum.
Discover eight miles of trails through forests and meadows at Horton Grove Nature Preserve, tucked away in northern Durham County. Opened in 2012, it's the Triangle Land Conservancy’s largest public preserve. Visitors can currently enjoy eight miles of hiking trails, including a trail that's just for kids.
Discover, dine, and delight outdoors on one of these fully restored tobacco and textile mills transformed into vital hubs where people live, create, and work, and explore.
There's always something happening at Golden Belt. Peruse art at a gallery or relax with a beer on the patio at Hi-Wire Brewing. Grab some ice cream from Two Roosters or enjoy a show on the outdoor stage. Stroll through the courtyard and enjoy shopping and dining from a unique mix of restaurants and shops at Brightleaf Square. The American Tobacco Campus features an on-site YMCA, public green space, biking trails, shops, and restaurants. Walk to a Durham Bulls ball game or enjoy a picnic on the lawn or bench in the courtyard.
Got a few hours or a whole day? Discover and be inspired by all the murals around the city.
Our Public Art & Inspiration Guide highlights many of Durham’s incredible murals. Our guide to murals celebrating Durham's Black history and culture takes you deeper into the stories that inspired the art. Explore UHILL Walls, a walkable art district with over 40,000 square feet of murals. If you want to see a unique one-of-a-kind art exhibit, visit Satellite Park where a different local artist painted each of eight decommissioned satellites to create a one-of-a-kind community park.
If you've got an hour or so to spare, take our self-guided audio walking tour of downtown. You'll get behind-the-scenes information on the history and design of the attractions you see as well as expert tips on how to get the most out of your time here. Begin your tour at the Visitor Information Center at 212 West Main Street where you can gather maps and information for the remainder of your time here. From there, you'll explore CCB Plaza, American Tobacco Campus, Five Points and more as you hear the stories of Durham's origins, its tobacco history and its present-day sights and sounds.
Durham's outdoors are calling, so keep calm and adventure on.