The Eno River State Park is a hidden gem near downtown Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Not only will you get to explore this gorgeous park but you’ll also get to explore the Eno River, one of the most scenic rivers in central North Carolina. Read on for your ultimate guide to the park.
The Eno River State Park is a 3,900 acre wilderness park located between Durham and Hillsborough. It is in both Durham and Orange Counties, and is named after the Eno River, a major waterway that flows through the park, eventually flowing into Falls Lake and then the Neuse River, where it empties into the ocean.
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There are plenty of great things to enjoy in this North Carolina State Park. You’ll find a great place to launch a canoe or kayak on the Eno River Trail or make your way to the river to explore the wildlife nearby. The Eno Lake is also a popular spot for fishing and swimming in the summer months, and you’ll likely meet fellow hikers or birdwatchers if you’re out on the trail.
In this comprehensive guide to the Eno River State Park, I’ll give you everything you need to know to take advantage of this natural beauty.
Location and Office Addresses
There are a few different places to access the park.
Fews Ford access and park office
6101 Cole Mill Road
Durham, NC 27705
Cabe lands access
4950 Howe St.
Durham, NC 27705
Cole Mill access
4390 Old Cole Mill Road
Durham, NC 27712
Call 1-877-722-6762 for reservations.
Click here for the official map of the Eno River State Park (on ncparks.gov).
Things to Do
There are a number of activities you can enjoy at the park. Here are some of the most popular.
There are picnic shelters at both the Fews Ford and Cole Mill access points. There are no facilities at the other access points, so of course if you picnic anywhere else you’ll need to bring all your own stuff (table, chairs, etc.).
The Few’s Ford has restrooms and a water fountain, while Cole Mill has restrooms, water, and grills available for use.
Camping is another popular activity at the Eno River State Park. Few’s Ford and Cole Mill have primitive camping, many with tent pads and firewood available that is also free to campers. The park asks that you do not bring firewood into the park, because you could accidentally bring pests and invasive species in along with it.
Camping reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance through ReserveAmerica.com. Senior citizens, active duty military, and veterans can get a discount on campsite fees.
Here are the campgrounds at these two sites:
- Fanny’s Ford Campground: This campground has five sites right near the Fanny Ford Trail. There are restrooms available here. Reserve.
- Piper Creek Campground: Primitive campsite with five sites, a fire pit, and a grill. It is about a 1 mile walk from the nearest parking lot to the campground. Reserve.
- Cox Mountain Group Camp: Has five sites on the Cox Mountain Trail. These sites are very much backcountry camping, with the only facilities available being firewood and a primitive toilet. Reserve.
- Buckquarter Creek Group Camp: This site has two group campsites with a picnic table, fire pit, grill, and firewood often available. It is a little over a mile hike and you must cross Buckquarter Creek. If the water level is high, contact the park for alternate routes into the campground. Reserve.
Here are maps of a couple of the campgrounds:
There are miles and miles of trails for you to enjoy hiking at Eno River.
Fews Ford has a total of 13 miles of trails, while Cole Mille has 6 miles of trails. There are also a total of 11 miles of trails throughout the other access points in the park.
Beyond the state park, there are around 55 miles of trails throughout the Eno River Basin. The best guide I’ve found on hiking in the area is from the Eno River Association – you can check it out here.
A Full List of Trails
Below is a full list of trails to help you pick the best one for you and your family. Be sure to download the park map that has information on the trails too.
|Cole Mill Trail||yellow circles||1.2-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Bobbitt Hole Trail||red circles||1.65-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Pea Creek Trail||blue circles||1.3-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Dunnagan Trail||red circles||1.8-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Pump Station Trail||red circles||1.5-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Laurel Bluffs Trail – East||yellow circles||2.2-mile one way||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Laurel Bluffs Trail – Middle||yellow circles||2.5-mile one way||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Laurel Bluffs Trail – West||yellow circles||1.4-mile one way||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Mountains-to-Sea State Trail||white circles||7.5-mile one way||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Cox Mountain Trail||blue circles||4.1-mile loop||Moderate||Hiking only||No|
|Fanny’s Ford Trail||purple circles||1.01-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Eno Trace / K.I.P. Track Trail||red circles||0.5-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Buckquarter Creek Trail||red circles||1.5-mile loop||Moderate||Hiking only||No|
|Holden Mill Trail||yellow circles||2.6-mile loop||Moderate||Hiking only||No|
|Fieldstone Trail||blue circles||0.6-mile one way||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Ridge Trail||blue horseshoes||1.27-mile one way||Moderate||Hiking only||No|
|Shakori Trail||yellow horseshoes||1.04-mile one way||Moderate||Hiking only||No|
|Knight Trail||red horseshoes||0.34-mile one way||Moderate||Hiking only||No|
|Piedmont Trail||red horseshoes||0.18-mile one way||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Cabe Lands Trail||red circles||1.2-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
|Eno Quarry Trail||blue circles||0.8-mile loop||Easy||Hiking only||No|
There is both great flatwater and whitewater paddling on the Eno.
Flatwater access points include West Point Park in Durham and Kings Highway Park. Whitewater access points include points within or downstream from the Eno River State Park. Here again, the Eno River Association has the best guide around on paddling you can check out here.
The park does not offer a shuttle service to get you back upstream, but you can take a tour that not only provides that service but gives you an experienced, local guide.
There are plenty places for great fishing on the Eno River too! Many good spots can be found within the state park, but there are also great spots outside the park.
A few of the species you can catch in the Eno River include:
- Roanoke Bass
- Largemouth Bass
- Black Crappie
Some favorite spots for anglers include Fews Ford, with depths around 6 feet, and Bobbit’s Hole, the deepest spot in the river that’s also great for swimming. Fly fishing is really good on the Eno too.
If you want to try fishing for the first time, or just forgot your gear, you can also join the Tackle Loaner Program and borrow gear for free! That includes a place near Eno River State Park.
Where to get a fishing license
Remember, you are required to follow North Carolina state law while fishing, which includes getting a fishing license. You can get one at NCWildlife.org or buy it locally before heading out. Both Wal-Mart and local fishing stores have them.
The closest places to the Eno River State Park where you can get a fishing license are:
If you are taking the fish home to eat, then also be sure the fish meets NC required size limits.
If you’re a bird lover, then you’re in luck because Eno is a great place for bird watching.
Some of the species calling the Eno River State Park home include the great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, horned owl, barred owl, and numerous species of songbirds. Kingfishers and ducks both live around the river too.
Be sure to check out the local events (below) for the chance to go birdwatching with an expert guide.
The Eno River Association is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the Eno River Basin. They offer programs and events throughout the year, including their flagship event Festival for the Eno, to raise awareness and fundraise to continue their efforts in preserving the natural areas and cultures of the area.
If you would like to get involved in volunteering to steward the Eno River, then the Eno River Association is the best place to start. Just complete their form to become a volunteer.
There are a wide range of volunteer roles available, from board members to trail maintenance. You can also volunteer at the Festival for the Eno.
The NC Division of Parks and Recreation also holds regular events at the Eno River State Park. Some of the events you can take part in include bird watching, night hiking, and yoga.
You need to register in advance, but best of all these events are free!
Nearby Eno River Parks
In addition to Eno River State Park, there are a few other parks nearby where you can enjoy the Eno River. They include:
Address: 301 Little River Park Way, Rougemont, NC 27572
The Little River Regional Park & Natural Area is another local park cofounded by Durham and Orange counties. It is located in northern Durham county and is located on 15 acres of former tobacco fields.
Activities at this park include over 7 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, picnic tables, and a playground. There is also a butterfly garden and a horseshoe pit.
Address: 625 Virginia Cates Road, Hillsborough, NC 27278
The Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is a very accessible park located just minutes from downtown Hillsborough. There are 3 miles of hiking trails, parts of which follow the banks of the Eno, as well as places to go fishing here.
Address: 115 Nash and Kollock St, Hillsborough, NC 27278
Also located in Hillsborough, the Hillsborough Riverwalk is a beautiful ADA-accessible paved greenway that hugs the Eno. It is approximately 2 miles long and travels through multiple parks, historical sites, and attractions, including River Park, the Occaneechi River Village, and the Hillsborough Urban Gardens.
The Bottom Line
Whether for hiking, bird watching, photography, or simply to appreciate nature, the Eno River State Park provides an oasis of tranquility amidst bustling urban life. The preservation of Eno River State Park is not just important for its intrinsic value, but also as a reminder of our responsibility to protect and cherish our natural surroundings.