Clark Park, Fayetteville, NC

Rising temperatures and spring blossoms are luring you to the great outdoors, but rising gas prices and half-filled tanks are keeping you close to home. How can you combat cabin fever while protecting your wallet? If you live in or near Fayetteville, North Carolina, you have more options than you may realize.

I recently discussed the relaxing beauty of Fayetteville's Cape Fear Botanical Gardens, a pleasant, inexpensive place to spend a morning or afternoon. If you're not in the mood to tiptoe through the tulips, a ten-minute drive will take you to J. Bayard Clark Park, a seventy-six acre woodland situated on the edge of the Cape Fear River. Where the Botanical Garden speaks stately grooming, Clark Park shouts the primal call of the cityfied day-hiker craving a walk in the woods. The root-studded Interpretive Bear Trail begins at the park's Nature Center and snakes through pine and hardwood trees and past eastern North Carolina's largest waterfall.

Say that again? Yes, a waterfall!

But don't tarry at the falls too long. Clark Park has three nature trails, including a wetlands trail, and a variety of flowers and plants to see.

If you're looking for something less rugged, walk across the parking lot and hop on the northern branch of the Cape Fear River Trail. Walk, hike, bike, or jog the ten-foot wide paved pathway. But beware, some sections are steep! Keep track of time as you're enjoying the sunshine. With picturesque views of the river, wildflowers, and white fences bordering pathways and bridges, you may walk further down the four-mile path than you intended.

Like Cape Fear Botanical Gardens, Clark Park provides educational opportunities for their visitors. According to their website and brochures, the Nature Center contains several wildlife displays. They also offer a Nature Tote filled with instructional books and games aimed at pre-k to fourth graders. Along with school outreach programs, the park holds fun events throughout the year including a Pontoon Boat Ride down the Cape Fear, a Creatures of the Night class and, if you're fond of creepy eight-legged insects, a Spider Safari.

Admission to Clark Park and the Cape Fear River Trail is free. If they don't suit your taste, there's more to chose from. The Botanical Gardens and Clark Park are just two of the outdoor destinations Fayetteville has to offer, and most are within city limits. Check for more options.

Clark Park is located on Sherman Street, off Ramsey (Hwy 401). The park is open Monday through Saturday from 8 AM to 5 PM. For more information, call (910) 433-1579 or go online at

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