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FSP 2008 Sponsored Project

North Carolina State Parks Tours

The Triangle South Park Loop - Forests, Lakes, and Cliffs


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William B. Umstead State Park – Jordan Lake State Recreation Area - Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve - Raven Rock State Park 
Raleigh to the Sandhills
This tour takes us through the area south of the Raleigh-Durham Triangle on a path of natural beauty, outdoor enjoyment and our state's past, leading us to beaches, memorable sites, rivers, cliffs, wetlands, boating, and the cultural, historic, and recreation areas from Raleigh to the Sandhills.
The tour can be started at any point, but we begin in the heart of the Triangle next to RDU airport at William B. Umstead State Park. Escape busy modern life and visit this oasis for relaxation, fun, and beauty. Rent a canoe on Big Lake, fish in lakes and creeks, or enjoy 20 miles of multi-use trails for walkers, bicycles, and horses. Stop at the visitor center to learn more about the park's history. Even before European settlers arrived, the Triangle was a major stop on several trading routes. Check the event schedule for the many ranger-led programs. Sound like a lot to do? You're right! Check out the reservation system for a campsite. And don't forget the Reedy Creek section of the park at I-40/exit 287 for more great trails and picnic areas

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W B Umstead SP
Lake Jordan SRA Next is a 45-minute drive through the Triangle. Take US 70 north, then I-540 west to exit 66A. Follow NC 55 south to US 64 and head west to Jordan Lake State Recreation Area. Launch your boat from any of several marinas and boat launches, or rent a boat for the day from a local commercial marina. In this very accessible park, enjoy the beaches, go for a swim, hike, fish, or have a cookout. There are campsites aplenty for longer stays. Keep an eye out for bald eagles that nest along the lake. Stop at the visitor center to view a nest up close and check the ranger's program schedules. Kids, don't forget to fill out your Junior Ranger booklet for each park.

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Continuing our tour, we travel south for one hour and 15 minutes to the Sandhills region. Head east on US 64, turn right on Beaver Creek Road, and follow it to US 1. Continue south on US 1 past Sanford to Southern Pines, or take a side trip on US 15/US 501 to the pastoral golfing mecca of Pinehurst. At US 1 in Southern Pines, head east on Indiana Avenue to Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve. Enjoy an easy stroll through the long leaf pine forest, home of the red-cockaded woodpecker and other endangered species. As the state's first natural area, its goal is to protect for education and research, the remaining old-growth long leaf pine groves that once covered the southeast. Ask about the many birding and nature programs.

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Eastern Ground Squirrel Weymouth Woods- Sandhills Nature Preserve
Raven Rock SP Next, begin a one-hour, 40-minute journey through the pine barrens surrounding Fort Bragg. Head north on US 1 to NC 690/Main Street. Go east to NC 210, then north to Lillington and US 421. Head west until you turn right on Raven Rock Road to reach Raven Rock State Park. Named for the impressive rock cliff that towers over the Cape Fear River, the park's hiking trails emerge from the forest above the bluffs and follow the river into wetlands, showcasing a wide variety of natural environments. North of the river are special horse trails.

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Raleigh to the Sandhills

Major towns near the tour offering food and lodging include: Raleigh, Cary, Sanford, Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Fayetteville. The Raleigh area is rich in cultural, historic and entertainment sites, including the North Carolina Museum of Art with its sculpture park, Museum of Natural History with rich exhibits on the state's natural habitats, and Museum of History with exhibits on everything North Carolina, from basketball to civil rights. Pinehurst is home to major golf courses and a former US Open host. Sanford is renowned for its pottery and Fort Bragg offers armed forces tours and museums. You can use one of these as your home base and enjoy all of the parks during your stay. Be sure to also check out the area for other historic sites, museums, golf courses, craft shops, and outdoor recreation
Detailed text Directions

Park Links
William B. Umstead State Park

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve

Raven Rock State Park

Want to Camp!

Camp at a State Park –  call 1-877-7-CAMP-NC or

Other Places of Interest

NC Museum of Art Nature Park

NC Museum of Natural Science

NC Museum of History

Sanford Pottery

Fort Bragg Museums

Commercial Sites for Lodging, Dining, Supplies, and Recreation

Pinehurst Golf

Visit Raleigh


For more information on North Carolina State Parks we recommend our North Carolina State Parks Map Guide

North Carolina State Parks Map Guide
A planning and traveling companion with detailed maps and information on each park

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Published by Friends of State Parks PO Box 37655 Raleigh NC 27627

Copyright © 2010 by Friends of State Parks

Photos: Raven Rock by Adam Prince, Umstead by Elijah Sarver, Weymouth Woods by ASH of NC Division of Parks and Recreation, others by Bob Sowa © 2010
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