In 2009, my family and I visited Asheville, North Carolina as a part of my brother’s college tour. We spent a week hiking, rafting, and exploring our way through the mountain and surrounding regions. I loved the nature and weather so much that I decided that one day I would move to North Carolina. 14 years later, my dream was realized when I was admitted to Duke’s MQM program.

The great outdoors is undoubtedly one of North Carolina’s — and consequently Duke’s — greatest assets. I’ve explored all the top hiking spots within 30 minutes of campus and would love to share a few of my favorites. For additional trails, AllTrails is an excellent resource.

A calm watering hole at Eno River State Park
Enjoying the view at Eno River State Park

Eno River Quarry

The Quarry Trail at Eno River State Park is the quintessential Durham hiking spot. This shaded trail leads to a 60-foot-deep lake, formerly a stone quarry. The lake is both peaceful and beautiful, particularly in the fall months while the leaves are turning. It’s even swimmable from late spring to early fall. I frequently bring friends and visitors here due to its leisure and convenience.

View from Occoneechee Mountain, forest of trees and bright blue, mostly clear sky
Exploring Occoneechee Mountain

Occoneechee Mountain

Near Eno River State Park lies the closest mountain to Duke University, the Occoneechee Mountain. This rocky trail closes with the triangle region’s best lookout point as the reward for your uphill climb. Photos don’t do it justice!

Tall, towering trees with bright orange, maroon and green leaves on a partly-cloudy day
William B. Umstead in the fall

William B. Umstead State Park

For the more advanced hiker, I would recommend the Reedy Creek Trail Loop at William B. Umstead State Park. This winding, unruly path features bridges, rivers, and a warm feeling of exploration. The park is expansive, and features areas to mountain bike, fish, and do other activities.

Wherever you decide to go, spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to re-center yourself amidst the hustle and grind of student life. Durham’s convenient access to nature is a wonderful perk of life at Duke.