Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Nearly hidden off the side of a busy four-lane street in Cary, NC, near aesthetically pleasing shopping center strips and fast-food restaurants is a 140-acre sanctuary for plants, trees, and humans who need a break from the city.

Located southwest of Raleigh, just east of Hwy 1, Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve provides visitors with a relaxing walk through the woods. Trails totaling approximately 3.6 miles wind through a forest of beech, pine, and chestnut oaks; around one of the Piedmont's rare bluffs, and down into the bottom lands along Swift Creek. Topographical features that provide the idea settling for the park's main attraction--mountain loving hemlock trees.

As the old saying goes, moss only grows on the north side of trees, for the northern face is cool and shady, and often, the sun's rays never strike that side of an object as the sun tracks from east to west. That, along with the steep bluff, is why hemlocks and other mountain plants such as galax and trillium grow this far over in the Piedmont.

During our visit, we hiked the wide, mulch-covered Chestnut Oak Loop Trail on the western side of the bluff that overlooks Swift Creek. Along the way, we spotted an overlook and benches, and passed the turnoffs for the Beech Tree Cove and West Hemlock Overlook Trails. Next, we strolled along the path to the eastern side of the bluff, and after relaxing at the overlook, we took the steps down the hill to the Swift Creek Trail. A boardwalk runs along Swift Creek and loops through quiet woods and what are usually wetlands, but were dry on this occasion.

The sound of traffic could be heard throughout most of the hike, but it wasn't distracting. Nor did it drown out the chirps and songs of birds flitting in the trees. A variety of wildlife calls the preserve home, including snakes. One of which we spotted in a far-off puddle. As always, when walking through the great outdoors, be careful.

The Hemlock Bluff Nature Preserve also offers a nature center and a wildflower garden. A great stop for those living in or near, or visiting the Triangle area.

Photos from our visit (Mobile users, Click Here to view photos on Smugmug.)

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