What are the best outdoor things to do in Durham, North Carolina? After seeing that question asked all the time, we created this guide to settle it once and for all. Aside from Durham’s growing downtown and bustling food scene, more and more people are wanting to know what to do outside here. Local officials have put together some pretty awesome green spaces, from state parks to refurbished industrial spaces.
Outdoor Things to Do in Durham NC
Eno River State Park
Eno River State Park is accessible throughout many parts of North Durham and depending on which way you enter, you have a chance to go camping, swimming, or hiking on some of Central North Carolina’s best trails.Personal hiking favorites include Cox Mountain for the really cool footbridge that crosses the river, Cole Mill for nice views of the river, and Pump Station for its abundance of wildflowers. Penny’s Bend is a great nature preserve that’s maintained by the Eno River Association and definitely worth exploring. There are quite a few more that you’ll enjoy exploring the Eno’s 30 miles of trails.
We love the Eno all year, but especially when the leaves begin to turn. It’s one of our favorite places for fall hiking in North Carolina, not just Durham!
Though officially managed as a living laboratory and outdoor classroom for university students, Duke Forest hosts some nice and flat nature walks within its 7,000 acres. Among its six designated areas, we spent many days walking through the Durham Division which can be found off Highway 751 before and after Constitution Drive. If you see cars parked along the side of the road, that’s your hint that the Duke Forest trails are nearby. Not far from Duke Forest, you’ll also find the Al Buehler Trail (thanks Patricia Sullivan in the comments!), which has a little incline and is great for hiking and mountain bikes.
American Tobacco Trail
Folks traveling with strollers will love the 22.6-mile American Tobacco Trail that cuts through Durham for over 10 miles before moving on to Chatham and Wake Counties. In Durham, the trail starts at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (Go Bulls!). There are multiple other ways to access the ATT away from downtown, for example, including via Solite Park off Fayetteville Road in South Durham. The trail is part of the East Coast Greenway that starts in Maine and goes all the way down to Florida, so that’s cool, too, right?
Durham City Parks
Some of the best parks in Durham are managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation offices, and there are 68 of them to go around. Durham Central Park is a great green space on Foster St. and has a skate park, playground, and huge space for Farmer’s Markets, as well as Food Truck Rodeos and music events. In South Durham, Piney Wood Park is a huge space with facilities available for rental. in North Durham, Whippoorwill Park has a neat little trail that leads to the city’s Stadium Drive bike path. The Ellerbe Creek Trail (thanks again to Patricia Sullivan in the comments!) another awesome city park that Durhamites enjoy and you should explore it, too.
There are a few more outdoor things to do in Durham and the Museum of Life and Science is a great start, especially if you have a little one. You can also walk around Bennett Place (aka Bennett Farm), also known as the scene of the largest Confederate troop surrender to end the civil war. The American Tobacco Campus is one of my personal favorite places to walk around in Durham, thanks to the city’s revitalization efforts of this once-busy collection of warehouses. I’m also a huge fan of Sarah P. Duke Gardens, whose specialized gardens are a popular wedding destination and visited by over 300,000 people annually.
Our Thoughts and Yours
As you can see, we sort of love Bull City and all its awesome stuff to do outside. How about you, though? Where would you go first when staying in Durham? If you already live here and want to chime in on your favorite things to do, let us know in the comments section below:)