Exploring Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC

We did a quick search on our phone on Saturday afternoon for family-friendly nature trails as cabin fever was setting in so we wanted to get the kids out of the house, and Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary caught our eye!

Chestnut Oak Loop Trail
Chestnut Oak Loop Trail

It’s located just off Kildaire Farm Road close to the Whole Foods store which we go to often, but we’d never set foot in Hemlock Bluffs and it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.

Being the middle of winter most of the trees were bare of course, but just getting outside in nature, breathing in that crisp fresh air, and stretching our legs on the well maintained mulched trails as we wandered through the forest was a lovely way to spend an hour!

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, NC

This 140-acre preserve along Swift Creek is home to a unique community of eastern hemlock trees and other plant species, and is a joint project between the North Carolina state park system and the Town of Cary.

There’s several nature trails, scenic overlooks of Swift Creek, wildlife watching opportunities, a children’s nature trail, and the Stevens Nature Center (currently closed due to Covid).

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, NC
Map of Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Beech Tree Cove Trail (0.9 mile)

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, North Carolina

Beginning from the Stevens Nature Center, we took a left and started with the Beech Tree Cove Trail which takes you to an overlook of Swift Creek and connects with the Chestnut Oak Loop Trail.

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Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, North Carolina

Beech Tree Cove is an easy 0.9 mile mulched trail and is generally flat with a few small inclines and is stroller accessible if you have young kiddies – there is an optional 41 set of stairs at the end down to a second overlook. 

Beech Tree Cove Trail
41 step set of stairs
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Overlooking Swift Creek
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, North Carolina

Chestnut Oak Loop Trail (1.2 miles)

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, North Carolina

We then continued on with the longest trail in the preserve, the 1.2 mile Chestnut Oak Loop Trail which winds through the upland forest with ridges, ravines and creeks. 

Again this is a mulched trail with some light inclines and an overlook with views to Swift Creek. 

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Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

I would consider both of these trails easy and manageable with young kids and good for any type of footwear.

Swift Creek Loop Trail (0.8 mile)

Because we started late in the day and the gates close at sunset, we only had time for the aforementioned trails, but we’ll have to come back and do the Swift Creek Loop Trail as it includes views of the Hemlock trees, East Bluffs, and Swift Creek.

The Eastern Hemlock is a common evergreen in the North Carolina Mountains and are present at this preserve along the north facing bluffs because the bluffs provide a cool, moist microclimate in which the hemlocks thrive. And they are in the same family as Pine trees.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, Cary, North Carolina
Well maintained mulch trails
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Chestnut Creek Loop Trail

So if you’re looking for free things to do in Raleigh and to get your kids out of the house on some nature trails in Cary that are well maintained, mostly flat with some small elevations, and minimal stairs, don’t miss Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve!

You feel like you’re miles away in the forest, but you’re right there off Kildaire Farm Rd and near Tryon Road.

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Children’s Nature Trail for young kids
Children's Nature Trail for young kids
Children’s Nature Trail

Quick Facts:

  • Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at sunset. 
  • Bicycles, skateboards, roller-blades, motorized vehicles, and horses are not permitted on the trails.
  • Pets must be on a 6 foot leash. Cary ordinances require that you clean up after your pet.
  • Picnicking is discouraged.
  • Restrooms are located next to the Stevens Nature Center.
  • Address: 2616 Kildaire Farm Rd. Cary
hemlock bluffs nature trail
Location map (click on it for directions)

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