Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve is a wonderfully wild oasis in the suburbs of Cary, North Carolina, where you and your pup can explore a rare ecosystem together. The park's namesake bluffs make the land within the preserve cooler and wetter than the land around it, and separate upland forests from the lowlands around Swift Creek. The preserve's unique microclimate has allowed trees and plants that otherwise don't grow east of the Appalachian Mountains to survive here since the last ice age.
The park's greatest treasures are its stands of hemlock trees and the habitat they provide. Salamanders, snakes, and lizards find shelter in the undergrowth, while a wide range of local and migrating bird species live and hunt in the canopy above. Mammals make their home in the preserve, too. Look out for coyotes!
The park features a nature center and four interconnected trails. From the trailhead at the nature center, you can head east to hike the 0.8-mile Swift Creek Loop, or head west to hike the park's longest trail, the 1.2-mile Chestnut Oak Loop. The 0.9-mile Beech Tree Cove Trail and 0.7-mile West Hemlock Overlook are directly connected to the Chestnut Oak Loop. It's easy to hike all four trails in a continuous loop. The full hike is about four miles long and will take you and your pup a little over two hours to complete.
The trails feature mostly mulched surfaces and beautiful wooden boardwalks and viewing platforms. Respect the park rules and its rare flora and fauna by not letting your pup wander off the trail. To complete the Swift Creek Loop, you and your dog will have to climb about 100 stairs. It's worth the exertion to experience as much of this green cathedral as possible. Be sure to bring hiking essentials, such as enough water to share and clean up bags.
Its sights, smells, and sounds make Hemlock Bluffs Preserve a sensory paradise for humans and pups alike. No matter how many times you bring your dog here, you're likely to discover something new!