Want to explore the outdoors — but stay in the Raleigh area?
Whether you’re interested in finding waterfront activities, fun things to do with kids (or dogs), or unique experiences, this list of 5 local outside spots is for you.
Some Raleigh area locations are already well known, like Umstead State Park, or even iconic, such as Yates Mill County Park.
But Wake County is home to more outdoor destinations with activities that might surprise you. That’s what you’ll find in this guide.
Inspired by your feedback on local exploration, we’ve compiled this list of five Raleigh area outdoor experiences to try.
Have a big lake experience at Jordan Lake State Park
Campsites, swim beaches, boat ramps and hiking trails surround this 14,000-acre reservoir with six of nine access points located in Wake County. Privately-owned Crosswinds Boating Center rents power boats, kayaks and paddle boards.
📍 Location: The visitor center is at 280 State Park Road, Apex, NC.
⛺ Camping: Jordan Lake includes more than 1,000 campsites, from primitive (think tent camping) to RV hookups. Make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance and up to 11 months in advance here.
The campsite reservations will indicate if there’s electricity available and if dogs are allowed. The price for a non-electric, dog-friendly campsite over a Friday night to Sunday checkout in September is $23/night.
🧺 Picnic: More of a daytripper? You can access the park and bring a picnic to Ebenezer Church, Parkers Creek, Seaforth and Vista Point for a view. The first three listed have playgrounds, Vista Point does not.
It’s $7/car to access the park for the day. Large group? Best to reserve a picnic shelter in advance. [addresses]
🛥️ Boating: There are multiple boat launching ramps, with two open 24 hours per day. You can rent a power boat (26 and older) or kayaks and stand-up paddleboards from Crosswinds Boating Center — and reserve early online for your best chance at availability. [site]
🎣 Fishing: Find bass, crappie, catfish and pan fish in Jordan Lake, make sure you have your state fishing license.
Swim at the “beach,” mountain bike, take a hike at Falls Lake
Falls Lake State Recreation Center includes seven areas for activities, including swimming and mountain biking.
📍 Location: Visitors Center at 13304 Creedmoor Road, Wake Forest, NC.
🏊🏽♀️ Swim: Three areas, Sandling Beach, Rolling View and Beaverdam, all have sandy beaches with nearby restrooms and changing tables for little ones.
🚵 Mountain Biking: Falls Lake holds a total of 14.3 miles on mountain bike trails, from easy to advanced.
🌳 Other trails: A wide variety of trails, including a connection to the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, are accessible from Falls Lake.
For example, The Falls Lake Trail, accessible here, goes over 50 miles, beyond the Eno River. Meanwhile, a short kids trail is family friendly. [trails]
⛺ Camping: 300 campsites have different amenities, including a hike-in option. [info]
Visit the goats, pick pecans at Historic Oak View park
The east Raleigh (almost Knightdale) park, Historic Oak View County Park, has historic farm structures, a chicken coop and five Mini Nubian goats.
📍 Location: 4028 Carya Drive, Raleigh.
🐐 Visit the goats: See Levi, Leroy, Felix, Henry and Oscar at the goat corral 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday.
🌳 Pecans: Seasonally, you can pick up a bag to fill from pecans that fell in the pecan grove. The last picking was November. The pecan grove is most of the large trees in the center of the park.
Enjoy a trails and a large, shaded dog park at Bass Lake Park
A 54-acre lake park with center facilities, 117-acre Sugg Farm, a dog park, Greenways and trails.
📍 Location: 900 Bass Lake Road, Holly Springs, NC
🐕 The dog park, located at Sugg Farm, 2401 Grigsby Ave. in Holly Springs, is a free off-leash park for furry friends. The fenced-in, shaded acre for play includes one section for large dogs and a section for smaller dogs. Plus, it’s free. [rules] + [video]
🎣 Fishing: The lake is stocked with catfish, plus bass, bream and crappie. Bring or borrow a pole for fishing.
🚣 Boating: Rentals (only) allowed, daily through Labor Day and on weekends in the fall and spring.
🌳 Trails: See a map here, which includes the 1.9-mile mulched loop around the lake or the 1.32-mile paved Carl Dean Greenway.
Climb a rock wall or explore with your dogs or kids at Jack Smith Park
The 50-acre southeast Cary park includes public art, a sprayground and playground for kids, a dog park and a 10-foot-tall climbing rock. 🧗
📍 Location: 9725 Penny Road, Cary, NC
🧸 Kids activities: There’s a play area for 3-5-year-old kids, one for 5-12-year-olds and a sprayground with seven water features. An asphalt trail loops around an open field area adjacent to the kids playground. [details]
🐕 Dog park: A large/medium dog section and a small dog section make up the park for pups. Passes are required and the dog park is closed Wednesday mornings.
Up next: Area hidden gems! What do you want to see on the list? Email email@example.com with tips and suggestions!
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