Discover the Wild West
Throughout western Wake County you’ll find numerous places to explore nature and experience our area’s inherent beauty and indigenous wildlife.
Story by Cheryl Capaldo Traylor
Photography by Land, Ltd.
Welcome to a region with a climate that allows for four-season outdoor adventure. And, with a multitude of parks—town, county, and state, plus miles upon miles of greenway trails and an abundance of easily accessed spots to view a wide variety of wildlife—you don’t have to travel far. Walking trails, water, woods, and wildlife: It’s all here in your own backyard. So, turn off your phones, gather your friends and family (or dedicate some alone time to center yourself), and reconnect with nature. These are but a few of the parks in western Wake County where you can discover a world of nature right outside your door:
Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve (2616 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary) as you walk under tall Eastern Hemlock trees—the oldest is more than 400 years old! As you hike on the three-plus miles of natural mulched trails, pause to take in the view at several scenic overlooks. A boardwalk stretches over a wetland area that is home to salamanders, toads, and other creatures.
Fred G. Bond Metro Park (801 High House Road, Cary) is Cary’s largest park and also one of the most loved. No wonder! With more than 300 acres in a natural setting that offers hiking, boating, playgrounds, picnic areas, and athletic fields, there’s so much to see and do. This is a park where you could easily spend the whole day and still not have done it all.
Whether you are an advanced hiker or someone who enjoys a walk through the woods, William B. Umstead State Park (1800 North Harrison Avenue, Cary) is the park for you. With more than 26 miles of natural surface trails of varying difficulty, it’s easy to spend hours hiking in this woodland paradise. For the more adventurous, take the connecting trails all the way from the Reedy Creek–Cary side through to the Crabtree Creek–Raleigh side.
Walk the two-mile paved loop around beautiful Lake Pine at Apex Community Park (1808 Lake Pine Drive, Apex), or take one of the paths less traveled through the woods. Watch as grey herons fish for their dinner then gracefully take flight across the lake. Great white egrets and green herons are also frequently spotted near the water’s edge. Picnic benches scattered around the lake provide an opportunity for waterfront dining and more nature observation.
A little farther out, Crowder County Park (4709 Ten Ten Road, Apex) blends the best of both worlds: It’s a well-maintained haven graced with a touch of wild. Two paved trails loop through the woods and around Crowder Pond. Four beautiful gardens representing different ecosystems or themes—Bird, Butterfly, Prairie, Shade—are planted along the way. The pond’s observation deck allows for easy viewing of herons, turtles, and ducks. Have a seat on one of the many benches and marvel at the varieties of wildlife contained in this hidden gem.
If you want to experience the wilder side of nature, visit Carroll Howard Johnson Environmental Education Park (301
Wagstaff Road, Fuquay-Varina). The park seems much larger than its 28 acres and offers ample opportunity for discovering native plants and animals. Walk over streambeds and through woods in this rustic space while experiencing the sights and sounds of nature.
Perfect for leisurely walkers, a short trail leads to Fuquay Mineral Springs Park (105 West Spring Street, Fuquay-Varina), a quiet, shady place to sit, look, listen, and reflect on the surrounding natural beauty of this small historic park. It’s only minutes from the charming town that got its name from the mineral springs that are located in the park.
If quiet contemplation while fishing is more to your liking, head over to Holly Springs and check out Bass Lake Park (900 Bass Lake Road, Holly Springs) with its picturesque 54-acre lake. Afterward, hike the nearly three miles of peaceful nature trails, then have a seat and observe the proliferation of native plants and wildlife.
If a combination of hiking, biking, boating, and catch-and-release fishing sounds appealing, Lake Crabtree County Park (1400 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville) is the destination for you. Several wildlife viewing areas are scattered throughout the park, starting at the entrance with a beautiful pollinator garden that attracts birds, bees, and butterflies by the dozens. A 520-acre lake offers an opportunity for observing nature from offshore. Hike or bike on more than 16 miles of trails. If you have time after all of that, check out the historical home site tucked inside the woods.