There are so many reasons that William B. Umstead State Park is a favorite destination for canine-human hiking teams in Raleigh. It's centrally located and only a short drive from most places in the Triangle, and yet offers all the solitude, solace, and natural beauty you'd expect from a state park. At 5600 acres, it's massive and rewards return visits with ample new things to discover. It's crossed by almost a dozen trails, many of which are the perfect length for day hikes. Parking is easy, and amenities including human bathrooms are available. You'll need to bring your own waste bags and water though.
Sal's Branch Trail is one of the park's most accessible trails and is quite pupular with canine hikers. The relatively flat 2.8-mile trail starts near the visitor's center and loops through varied landscapes. It swings by the shore of a small lake, then enters the forest, following streams fringed by ferns and shaded by tall pines. Wildflowers bloom in open fields along the trail in warmer months. The trail should take most hikers less than two hours to complete.
The Sycamore Trail is Umstead Park's longest trail and is a great choice when you and your pup are looking for a little more exercise. The hike features moderate elevation gain and takes between four and five hours to finish. Sections of the seven-mile trail skirt two of the park's scenic creeks, Pott's Branch and Sycamore Creek. Most of the trail winds through woods and are shaded by its namesake sycamores and other trees. Take a brief detour onto the Graylyn multi-use trail where about a tenth of a mile north of the northern intersection of the Graylyn and Sycamore Trails, you'll find a fallen red oak tree with a forest scene carved into it. The squirrels, owls, and wild canines were all created with a chainsaw!
Other pawsome trails in Umstead State Park include the Company Mill Trail, a popular six-mile loop with a trailhead at the Reedy Creek park entrance, and the Loblolly Trail, a three-mile out-and-back trail that begins at the same trailhead. Both trails wind past and over creeks, which provide a pleasant, burbling backdrop to the forest scenery.
If you and your dog need a walk in the woods, make sure you stop by Umstead State Park and walk one of its furrific trails.