Best of the Greensboro Watershed Trails

Once after driving to the mountains last spring for a hike, I realized that I had spent far more time in the car than on the trail. That’s when I decided that I was going to hike a little closer to home for awhile. As a result, I have spent the last year hiking the Greensboro Watershed Trails, spacing out my walks so that I could experience the hikes in all the different seasons. I’ve documented my outings with blog entries, which include brief trail guides and photos (see below), and I’ve seen a lot of beautiful, sometimes surprising, scenery. Here are a few highlights of my hikes—and where to find them:

Cove Love:

Cove on Lake Brandt

Cove on Lake Brandt

Less that a half mile from the Lane Brandt Marina on the Nat Greene Trail is, in my opinion, the loveliest cove in the Greensboro Watershed. The cove has high bluffs on one side, which provides a great view of the water, and a sense of intimacy not available on the wider lake. The reflection of the trees, especially with the fall colors, makes for a beautiful stereoscopic display of foliage.

Walkway Wonder:

Wooden walkway

Wooden walkway

Also on the Nat Greene Trail but located about a quarter mile from its Old Battleground end is a 200-foot wooden walkway. This is by far one of the most impressive wooden walkways on the trails, not just for the scale of the carpentry but also for the access it gives to the sometimes swampy flood plain near Horespen Creek.

Rocky Top:

Rocky outcrop

Rocky outcrop

Just a stone’s throw from Church Street on the Reedy Fork Trail, is a palisade-like tumble of boulders along a ravine and at the top of a couple of bluffs. This area affords the closest thing you’ll find to outdoor bouldering in Greensboro, plus a panoramic view of the trail and a glimpse of the lake through the trees.

Beach Blanket Bingo:

View of Lake Townsend

View of Lake Townsend

The Peninsula Trail probably has the greatest number of beaches (both sandy and grassy ones) of all the trails in the Watershed so its a good choice if you’ve looking to spend some time contemplating the lake from multiple viewpoints. Because it follows (as the name implies) a peninsula, you actually have beaches on two separate arms of Lake Townsend. You’ll find a platform at the Peninsula’s point that makes a great picnic spot.

Chill at the Spillway:

Lake Jeanette spillway

Lake Jeanette spillway

The Lake Jeanette spillway, located at the end of West House Trail (turn left on the service road), connects Lake Jeanette and Lake Townsend. It’s large, remote and has an overgrown quality to it. Check out the pool at the bottom of the spillway for its swirling school of fish and a small waterfall where the water has breached the final drop.

Flow On Sweet Afton:

Reedy Fork

Reedy Fork

Well, it’s not the bonny banks and braes of the Robert Burns’ poem, but if you want to spend extended time on the banks of a creek, take the Reedy Fork Trail from the Lake Brandt trailhead. While the creek is far from a free-flowing stream, it does offer plenty of vantage points to examine its criss-cross of fallen logs, sand bars and occasional signs of past beaver activity.

No Mountain High Enough:

View of forest from Laurel Bluff Trail

View of forest from Laurel Bluff Trail

For sheer exertion, you can’t do better than an unnamed hill about two-thirds of a mile from the Lake Brandt trailhead on the Laurel Bluff trail. Chances are you’ll know it when you get there as it goes up and up and attains a steepness uncommon to the area. There’s no view of the lake there, but it’s a chance to stretch your legs with some terrain that might be described as a “mini-mountain.”

Frontier Land:

West House

West House

The West House, located at the end of the West House Trail, was built between 1815-1820, which makes it one of the oldest structures in Greensboro. (Turn right on the service road.) It’s set in a meadow and has some interesting period brickwork, and offers a rough-hewn historical contrast to the nearby houses of Lake Jeanette subdivision.

Invaders from Outer Space …:

Bamboo on Laurel Bluff Trail

Bamboo on Laurel Bluff Trail

Or, at least from another continent. While bamboo, a prolific invasive species, growing in the wrong place can be a problem for homeowners, a stand not far from the Lake Brandt trailhead of the Laurel Bluff Trail doesn’t seem to present any such problems. (Unlike a kudzu patch, a stand of bamboo can be quite beautiful.) It’s not hard to imagine a panda bear living happily here.

Ghost Car:

Rusting car in the woods

Rusting car in the woods

A little more than 2.5 miles from the Church Street trailhead on the Blue Heron Trail, you’ll come across the “Bonnie & Clyde Memorial,” a rusting chassis of shattered glass and twisted metal that could make even Stephen King get the creeps. Throw in some darkness, a bit of fog and a hooting owl, and this place would make a great locale for a low-budget horror movie.

The Greensboro Watershed Trails offer plenty of exceptional hiking and mountain biking, which means you don’t have to leave town for some quality outdoor time. My highlights are really just a sampling of the trails’ attractions. For information on individual trails, check out the links below. Enjoy.

—Mark Caskie

Read Blue Heron Trail article.
Read Owls Roost Trail article.
Read Wild Turkey Trail article.
Read Bald Eagle Trail article.
Read Reedy Fork Trail article.
Read Townsend Trail article.
Read Nat Greene Trail article.
Read Laurel Bluff Trail article.
Read Piedmont Trail article.
Read Beech Bluff Trail article.
Read Peninsula and West House trails article.
Read Osprey Trail article.
Read Palmetto Trail article.

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