Celebrate North Carolina’s Year of the Trail by exploring these local routes

In case you need one more reason to get outside this year, 2023 has officially been named the Year of the Trail in North Carolina.

According to greattrailsnc.com, the heart of Year of the Trail, this year “celebrates North Carolina’s vast network of trails, greenways, and blueways which showcase our diverse landscapesgrand mountain vistas, quiet rivers, vibrant urban greenways, coastal forests, and the rolling hills of the piedmont.” The goal is for North Carolinians in each of the state’s 100 counties to get out in nature and enjoy the wide array of trails in their own communities.

At Lees-McRae we know a thing or two about outdoor adventure and the power of a good trail. From on-campus trails to student trail-building weekends to professional trail-builder alumni, Bobcats are passionate about the great outdoors and about the trails that make it accessible to all people.

Read on to learn more about how you can celebrate Year of the Trail with some of the best trails on and around the Lees-McRae campus. Let’s get exploring!

1. The Banner Elk Greenway

With just over one mile of trail, the Banner Elk Greenway is a perfect trail for those who are looking for a relaxing, low stress walk. The trail begins at Tate-Evans Park and is perfect for the whole family, featuring playgrounds, wading pools, picnic tables, and more along its length.

2. Buckeye Creek Loop

This moderate difficulty hike is just under two miles long, and loops around Buckeye Lake. The loop provides lovely views of the lake and is a great trail for families and individuals alike to enjoy a fishing day on the water. Fishing licenses are required for those over 16, but a three-day Mountain Heritage Trout Water license can be purchased for $8 from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission website. This license permits fishing in Buckeye Creek and Pond Creek.

3. Hemlock Trail to South Campus

Hemlock Trail is the trail which leads through the college’s property connecting the North and South campuses. The trail can be accessed from Mill Pond Road, and stretches about three-fourths of a mile, creating a beautiful path for students who choose to take the scenic route between the two areas of campus.

4. Wild Iris Trail at Beech Mountain

Follow in the footsteps of Lees-McRae students past and hike this moderate difficulty trail up Beech Mountain. When Mountain Day was first started by Lees-McRae founder Rev. Edgar Tufts, a 5-mile hike to the top of Beech Mountain was part of the tradition. At only 2.5 miles, Wild Iris is an easier route that still allows you to honor tradition. Pack a picnic to eat along the way to complete the experience. According to Margaret Tufts Neal in her book on the definitive history of the college, “And Set Aglow a Sacred Flame,” “there was always a wagon pulled by Maude and Mac, the school’s team of faithful horses, with great baskets and tubs of lunch.”

5. Linville Peak via Profile Trail

This challenging trail in Grandfather Mountain State Park is known for its stunning views at the peak. At just over 10 miles, this trail is best for advanced hikers who are looking to backpack and camp along the route. Alumnus Juan Sebastian Restrepo ’21 wrote a thorough guide to navigating the complicated trail after climbing to its peak in the summer of 2021.

By Maya JarrellFebruary 08, 2023
Campus LifeCommunity