State & National Parks
Explore The Umstead State Park
Hiking along the wide stream of Crabtree Creek, past rock outcroppings and over rolling terrain, the 5,579 acres of William B. Umstead State Park seem far removed from a bustling metropolitan area. In reality, Raleigh, the capital city of North Carolina, is only a 15-minute drive away. Approximately 1.5 million people live in close proximity. Tens of thousands of vehicles per day whiz by on Interstate 40, the park’s southern boundary. Mountain bikers in Umstead State Park’s northwest corner can rest on picnic tables and watch flights land and depart at bustling Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
But in the heart of the 243-million-square-foot park, it is easy to escape into solitude and the slower rhythms of nature while the rest of civilization rushes past.
Umstead State Park is a haven for picnickers, campers, horsemen, hikers and bikers in the Triangle region looking for a taste of the Western North Carolina Mountains – but without the three-hour drive. It provides a consummate urban escape for humans and critters alike. Deer, raccoons, snakes, hawks and trout roam, soar and swim unfettered in this protected flora and fauna oasis.
The forested getaway in Wake County was originally set aside in the 1930s and constructed into a recreational area under the auspices of both the federally funded Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. It officially opened as Umstead State Park, named after former North Carolina Governor William Bradley Umstead, in 1966.
The park features 20 miles of hiking-only trails, as well as 13 miles of packed gravel paths that accommodate long mountain bike rides and extensive horseback riding opportunities. The Umstead Trail Marathon, a 26.2 mile race, is an annual running event held within the confines of the park. It also regularly hosts 10K races and even a 100-mile endurance race that is so popular among fitness extremists that there is an entry waiting list.
Fishing in the park’s streams and three man-made lakes is another popular pursuit in Umstead State Park. Bass, bluegill and crappie are regular catches.
Overnight stays with permission are allowed in the park. There are approximately 30 tent and trailer campgrounds accessible from the US 70/Glenwood Road entrance. There are no hookups available, but the sites do offer picnic tables and grills. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Youth groups and nonprofit organizations can take advantage of three group camps scattered throughout the park. Camp Crabtree, Camp Lapihio and Camp Whispering Pines feature cabins, washhouses and mess halls. Two primitive campgrounds are also available by reservation within Umstead State Park.
Along with the numerous recreational activities, the park offers a strong educational element. Park rangers regularly lead programs such as Ribbeting Frog Calls, Winter Tree ID, Web Spinning Wonders (Spiders), Name That Mammal and Erosion Control. An exhibit hall in the park provides insights into the area’s natural and cultural transformations over the last century.
Triangle residents are blessed with an array of greenways and parks. Umstead State Park is at the forefront of that back-to-nature getaway list.
By Patrick Jones
By Patrick Jones
added: December 29, 2008
updated: December 31, 2008