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 get ready to enjoy the sunshine and gorgeous views on the trails at Eno River State Park. 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.
WEST POINT ON THE ENO
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.
FROG HOLLOW OUTDOORS
Take your adventure to the next level with Frog Hollow Outdoors! From rock climbing to hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and paddling, they host numerous self-guided and guided excursions for all ages in and around Durham’s waterways and nature areas.
DURHAM CENTRAL PARK
With gardens, murals, a playground, a skatepark, a covered pavilion, and a wealth of open green spaces and hidden gems, there’s plenty to explore at Durham Central Park.
Stop by over the weekend for fresh goods at the Durham Farmers' Market on Saturday and enjoy some local food on Food Truck Sunday. Order food at the Durham Food Hall next door to the park and enjoy a picnic on a grassy area. Also, The Glass Jug’s new taproom located next to the park is open, so pop over for a beer on the patio.
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.
AMERICAN TOBACCO TRAIL
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.
SARAH P. DUKE GARDENS
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.
AL BUEHLER TRAIL & DUKE FOREST TRAILS
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. 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.
DUKE LEMUR CENTER
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! Check out the in-person and virtual (online) educational content 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.
MUSEUM OF LIFE & SCIENCE
Get ready to see nature in a whole new light at the Museum of Life & 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 Ellerbee Creek Trail across the street from the museum.
HORTON GROVE NATURE PRESERVE
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 approximately eight miles of hiking trails, including a trail that's just for kids!
GOLDEN BELT, BRIGHTLEAF SQUARE & AMERICAN TOBACCO CAMPUS
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.
Explore an art gallery show, enjoy a beer at Hi-Wire Brewing, grab some ice cream from Two Roosters, or check out a show on the outdoor stage at Golden Belt. Stroll through the courtyard and enjoy shopping and dining from a unique mix of locally owned restaurants and shops at Brightleaf Square in downtown Durham. Walk to a ball game, enjoy a picnic on the grassy area, or sit on one of the benches in the courtyard at The American Tobacco Campus which features an on-site YMCA, public green space, biking trails, shops, and restaurants.
Got a few hours or a whole day? Discover and be inspired by all the murals around the city!
Check out this mural guide made in partnership with Mural Durham which highlights 26 of Durham’s amazing murals. If you want to see a unique one-of-a-kind art exhibit, visit Satellite Park where eight decommissioned satellites were painted by a different local artist to create a one-of-a-kind community park. Explore UHILL Walls, a walkable art district with over 40,000 square feet of murals in Durham. Also, our Instagram Mural Guide showcases murals dedicated to celebrating Durham's Black history, culture, and artists.
These are unusual times and some of these outdoor spots have limited hours. When you venture out, please check websites for updated information first and practice the 3W's. (Wear a mask. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands.)