It’s easy to see why the 5.8-mile looped Company Mill Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Umstead State Park.
While it is one of the longest and a little more challenging than other hikes in Umstead Park (although it’s Umstead, they aren’t too challenging), hikers love it for its diversity in landscapes, which include the Crabtree Creek for picnics, feet cooling and respite, and beautiful Fall colors.
This trail is the one where I’ve felt the most removed from civilization. I felt like we were back on our RV trip exploring the national parks. The serenity of this trail makes it hard to imagine Raleigh is right on Umstead’s doorstep.
Why Hike the Company Mill Trail?
The Company Mill Trail is a beautiful and secluded hiking trail that offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the park. The trail is almost 6 miles long (loop) and is considered to be moderate in difficulty.
It winds through the forest, passing by streams and wetlands, offering hikers the chance to spot a variety of wildlife, including birds, deer, and even the occasional fox or raccoon.
One of the highlights of the Company Mill Trail is the historic Company Mill itself. The mill was built in the early 1800s and was used to grind corn and wheat for the local community.
Today, the mill is preserved as a historical site and visitors can take a tour to learn more about its history and significance.
It’s also a trail that can easily be shortened which makes it great for families hiking with young kids. They will love this trail as they have the opportunity to play in the creek – the perfect reward to encourage them to go one more step.
- Length: 5.8 miles
- Trail type: Loop
- Elevation gain: 636ft
- Trail difficulty: moderate
- Trail surface: natural surface
- Time to complete: 2.5 hours
- Trail Blaze: Orange Square
- Umstead Park Hours: currently 8am-8pm year round
- Dogs allowed on leash
- No bikes or horses allowed
The first section of this trail is an in and out trail. After about a mile, you’ll come to a bridge of Crabtree Creek, and that is where the loop section of the hiking trail begins.
For those wanting a shorter hike, you can take the trail down to the bridge and the creek and return from there.
Getting to the Company Mill Trail
To get to the Company Mill trailhead, use the Harrison Ave entrance to the Reedy Creek section of Umstead State Park located right off the I-40. It’s so easy to get to from anywhere in Raleigh, and very close to those who live in Western Wake County.
As you drive into the parking lot, head to the back left corner for the start of the trail. There is also a path from the restrooms that will connect to the main trail.
Company Mill History
The Company Mill Trail is named after the grist mill on the edge of Crabtree Creek that was built in 1810 by Anderson Page and was used for grinding wheat and corn. It’s one of three grist mills in the state park, and of the three, is the most accessible and well known.
Before Umstead became a state park, it was home to an entire community of people. You can still see some crumbling remains of some of their buildings hidden in the woods and off the trails.
Easy to find just on the other side of the parking lot for the Company Mill Trail is a graveyard. The Page Family left in the 1900s as did all the families in the area after the New Deal Era forced the farmers to sell the land to the government for the state park.
Hiking the Company Mill Trail
I found this trail to have the most uneven ground of all the Umstead hikes, so wear sturdy shoes and be wary of the tree roots and rocks along some parts of the trail, but not all.
As you move towards the trail head from the parking lot, you’ll pass several picnic tables and a large pavilion, which would be a great spot for a large group cookout followed by a short hike.
The first part of the walk until you get to the looped section was busiest section – busier than other trails we’ve done – but still not crazy busy as you can see from our photos there’s not another person in site besides a few bikers when we cross the multi-use trail.
The crowds thinned out once you hit the looped section over the bridge, which is the vast majority of this trail (4 miles).
Most people take the out and back shortened version (approx. 2-mile return). We only saw a few other people on the trail after the bridge over the creek.
Once you cross the bridge, you get to choose whether you go left or right. Right will take you to the Creek and dam. This is where you’ll go if you are doing a shortened walk. Otherwise decide if you want to do this at the beginning or end of your hike.
I think doing it at the end of the hike is nice as you can rest, put your feet in the cool water, and enjoy your reward after a long hike. So yes, we went left!
The trail meanders with some gradual ups and downs during the climb. Once at the bike and bridle trail, the route crosses the large trail and picks up on the other side.
There is an option to cut approx. 1.3 miles from the route by heading left on the bike and bridle trail for approx. 0.5-miles to where the Company Mill Trail crosses again.
You may want to carry a map of the trail with you (orange markers) or use an app as it can get confusing in some spots.
We weren’t paying attention to signs here and walked off the trail and soon noticed we were a little lost. A couple of other hikers did the same and just followed us. We all figured out where the trail made a slight turn, and we kept going straight into the woods.
Pay attention to the orange squares on the trees which mark the trail for you. You can’t really get lost here, so don’t panic.
During full foliage, the trail is very shaded, which is great on a hot summer’s day. The trail is quite rocky and rooty in some sections and crosses several small footbridges and has a few narrow and slightly steep parts.
There is a small river/creek for part of the trail, otherwise in woods the whole way. It’s quiet and serene, and very picturesque during the Fall. We didn’t have too many other people sharing the trail with us.
If you follow our direction, you’ll reach the Crabtree Creek last, which is where the Company Mill site existed back in the early 1800’s. You can still see remnants of the old dam on both sides of the creek.
There are large boulders here and plenty of room to sit. There is no swimming in this creek. The weather was running pretty fast when we hiked the trail. But you can put your feet in the water to cool down.
Once we soothed our feet in the gently flowing water, we took the opportunity for some colorful leaf photos that were on the ground. It really is pretty here in the Fall.
Be aware of snakes that may be by the water.
We saw a copperhead on our way back out on the out and back section of the trail. It was slithering back into the forest! Be alert, but not frightened, and keep your distance.
After you’ve had your rest break at the creek, you’ll walk up a short, rocky hill and be back at the bridge in no time. Then it’s just the short walk back out to the parking lot.
Overall, the Company Mill Trail is a great option for visitors to Umstead Park looking for a moderate hike with plenty of natural beauty and historical significance. It’s one of our favorite trails in Raleigh.
It offers quite a lot of trail diversity with hills, creeks, bridges and a place to cool down your weary feet.
More Trails in Umstead State Park
Don’t miss our full guide to Umstead State Park, which includes several more hikes. Here are our individual guides to some of the most popular hikes in Umstead.
- 7 mile Sycamore Trail
- Loblolly Trail (+ Reedy Creek loop)
- Sal’s Branch Trail
- The Easy Pott’s Branch Trail (great for kids)