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Eno River State Park, NC

Eno River State Park in Durham, NC is a local go-to when people want to get outside. If the weather is good and I’m not traveling or backpacking, I’m probably at Eno.

The park takes its name from the Eno River which you’ll see winding from almost every trail.

Because the Eno River State Park sits on a county line, you may see signs letting you know you’re “entering Orange” (or Durham) county. It doesn’t mean anything, but they’re fun to see.

Thanks to its five separate entrances, the park can be confusing for first-timers. Only three entrances connect via the trails, Pleasant Green, Cabelands, and Pump Station.

Most of the hiking trails are easy to moderate, mainly due to uneven terrain and mileage. Elevation gains are mild, but the terrain can be a cushy bed of pine needles, or an area full of tree roots.

Only 10 minutes from downtown Durham, Eno River State Park is an oasis in the middle of the city.

What’s a Ford?

Before I get into the park itself, let’s address fords (not the cars). You’ll hear people say, “we’re heading to Few’s Ford so the kids can get in the water,” and you’re wondering what they mean.

A ford is just a shallow area of water where you can cross a river or stream on foot, or via a vehicle. Eno River State Park has two fords, Fanny’s Ford, and Few’s Ford. Few’s Ford is a popular place for cooling off in the summer. The water level is usually low enough to be safe for kids.

Eno River State Park Entrances

There are five designated entrances to Eno River State Park. While there are back ways in, mainly used by residents in adjacent neighborhoods, these are official entrances.

Grid map with the five official Eno River State Park entrances.

Few’s Ford/Visitor Center

The Few’s Ford entrance is home to the Visitor Center. If you’re camping, you’ll need to stop by and pick up a car tag.

There are three parking lots when you enter, the first right turn is to the current Visitor Center where there is parking around the traffic circle. (A new center is being built further up the road).

If you continue down the road, there’s an almost unnoticeable right turn for the Piper Cox house. This lot is smaller and provides access to Few’s Ford and Buckquarter Creek Trail.

From Buckquarter Creek Trail, you have access to Holden Mill, Fieldstone, Ridge, Knight, and Shakori Trails.

The entrance road dead ends at the last parking lot which is access to Cox Mountain and Fanny Ford Trails. There are restrooms with flush toilets in this area and several picnic tables.

Cole Mill

The Cole Mill Entrance is off Old Cole Mill Road. At the traffic light, the road name changes on the other side to Umstead Rd.

As you drive into the park, there are two parking lots with spots along the right. I like to park in the lot furthest back, but grab any spot you can find.

You have access to Cole Mill Trail which leads to Bobbitt Hole Trail and Bobbitt Hole swimming hole.

Pea Creek Trail has been closed for years due to erosion and it’s the only access to Dunnagan Trail, effectively closing that trail too.

Pleasant Green

Pleasant Green is a small parking lot for 10-12 cars. It’s the start of the Laurel Bluffs Trail which is also part of the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST). The MST is an 1175-mile trail that goes from the mountains of NC to the coast. It’s noted by a white circle blaze.

Laurel Bluffs intersects with Pump Station, Cabelands, and Eno Quarry Trails. You can also reach the far side of Bobbitt Hole Swim Hole from this trail.

Cabelands

Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s Cabe Lands or Cabelands, signs on maps and the website vary. This is a simple parking lot with easy access to the quarry which is a small body of water. It’s a pretty place, great to relax and practice your photography.

You could also use this entrance to connect with Laurel Bluffs and continue to Guess Rd or Pleasant Green.

Pump Station

The only parking at Pump Station is alongside the road. The Pump Station Trail links to Laurel Bluffs.

Things to Do at Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park offers several outdoor activities. It’s one of the best places to get outdoors in NC, especially if you live in the Triangle area.

You can kayak, hike, camp, have a picnic, or swim in Bobbitt’s hole. In the summer, if the water levels are low enough, kids enjoy wading the water at Few’s Ford.

Don’t see your activity here? Check out our NC State Parks by location and Activity, or Discover North Carolina’s State Parks.

Hiking

Hiker walking through woods on Laurel Bluffs Trail with white and yellow circle blazes on tree.

With 18 trails from easy to moderate, almost anyone can come out and enjoy the park. If you’re looking for an easy hike, Cole Mill Access has the best options. For a real workout, head to the Few’s Ford entrance and hike the Cox Mountain Trail.

Jump to details on Eno River State Park Trails.

You may also be interested in other Great Places to Hike in the Triangle for Families and Beginners.

Kayaking

Rumor is that you can kayak along the river at Eno River State Park, but honestly, it’s difficult. You have to wait for a good rain, otherwise, the water levels are too low.

Most people put in at Few’s Ford and travel down to Pleasant Green. While it can be good for beginners, it’s not uncommon to become stuck on the rocks due to low water.

Camping

There are four primitive campgrounds at Eno River State Park. Two are for groups, and two are for all backpackers. Advance registration is required and there is a per-night fee.

All campsites are hike-in, requiring you to pack in all of your gear. It’s recommended you bring all water you will need for the duration of your stay. The water from the river and nearby creeks is not considered safe to drink even when filtered.

Learn more about camping at Eno River State Park.

Trails at Eno River State Park

Cox Mountain Trail

Cox Mountain suspension bridge over the Eno River.

Mileage: 4.1 miles
Blaze: Blue circles
Rated: Moderate
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, far back parking lot

Cox Mountain is the most popular trail at Eno River State Park. The trailhead is well-marked from the parking lot. You’ll head down wooden stairs to the suspension bridge crossing the Eno River and pick up the loop on the far side.

Kids love the bridge, dogs not so much. It’s bouncy with only the metal cords to hold onto. No matter how carefully you walk, it will bounce.

The trail gently weaves up Cox Mountain and back down to where it connects with Fanny’s Ford Trail. This section, closest to the river, has a lot of exposed tree roots and rocks. Footing can be tricky.

While you can hike it in sneakers, you’ll have a better time in boots or shoes with a good grip made for hiking. After a rain, the trail can be muddy and slick in places.

Fanny’s Ford Trail

View of Eno River from Fanny's Ford Trail.

Mileage: 1 mile
Blaze: Purple circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, accessed from Cox Mountain Trail

Fanny’s Ford Trail can only be accessed from Cox Mountain Trail. On the far side of the bridge, when Cox Mountain splits, stay straight on the wide trail. The intersection is well-marked.

The trail ambles along the Eno River with plenty of rocks to sit and relax alongside the river. This is one of the most picturesque trails in the park.

You can see hikers on Buckquarter Creek Trail across the river from you.

While it’s short and relatively flat, there are sections of large, exposed roots.

Eno Trace/K.I.P Track Trail

Mileage: 0.5 miles
Blaze: Red circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, far back parking lot

As you head towards Cox Mountain Trail from the parking lot, there’s a portion of trail lined by a wooden fence. When you first reach the fence, you’ll see a set of stairs and a small sign noting the Eno Trace Trail.

The stairs lead you down the hill to the river. This is a great way to reach the river on a hot day. I see a lot of families take this trail to cool off in the summer. Kids love playing near the water. Just be careful because there are snakes that enjoy sunbathing on the rocks.

Buckquarter Creek Trail

Rough patch of Buckquarter Creek Trail along Eno River.

Mileage: 1.5 miles
Blaze: Red circles
Rated: Moderate
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, Piper Cox House parking lot

You won’t confuse the Buckquarter Creek and Eno Trace blazes because they’re in separate locations within the park.

I really like this trail. You can create a figure 8 connecting Buckquarter Creek to Holden Mill Trail. It also connects to Ridge Trail for easy access to the Buckquarter Creek Group Camping sites. However, there is a water crossing with a rock hop this way which can be challenging if you’re loaded up with gear.

Personally, I like to hike the trail counterclockwise. By doing this, the last portion of my hike is along the river.

There are parts of the trail that are easy, and others with rocky terrain and roots. The low mileage and frequent stops along the river make it a nice option for families.

Holden Mill Trail

Mileage: 2.6 miles
Blaze: Yellow circles
Rated: Moderate
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, accessed from Buckquarter Creek Trail

Holden Mill is accessed via a bridge off Buckquarter Creek Trail. It’s well marked, you can’t miss it. This is at least the second bridge in this location. An earlier version was destroyed by a hurricane and washed down river. If you look closely, you’ll see the bridge is tethered via a steel cable to a tree to prevent this from happening.

While you’re not supposed to have favorites, I have to say that I look forward to hiking Holden Mill. It’s the greenest trail in the park, even in the winter. It’s actually 2 loops. There’s an intersection near a creek leading to a separate loop that takes you past the old mill. If you’re hiking Holden Mill, I encourage you to cross the creek and hike this section.

Holden Mill intersects with one of the newest trails, Fieldstone, which leads to the Buckquarter Creek Group Campsites.

Fieldstone Trail

Mileage: 0.6 miles (one way)
Blaze: Blue circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, accessed from Holden Mill or Ridge Trails

Fieldstone is a newer trail that connects Holden Mill Trail to Ridge Trail, allowing easier access to the Buckquarter Creek group campsites. You can also use it to create fun loops with Ridge and Shakori Trails.

It’s an easy trail through a forested area.

Ridge Trail

Old cabin off the side of Ridge Trail.

Mileage: 1.3 miles (one way)
Blaze: Blue horseshoes
Rated: Moderate
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, accessed from Fieldstone and Buckquarter Creek Trails

Ridge Trail can be used as part of a larger loop to extend your hiking miles. It’s also a back entrance for locals who live in the area. There’s an old cabin off the trail, which is a fun thing to see as you hike by and typical of North Carolina State Parks.

The trail is in good condition and almost anyone can hike it. There is one stream crossing that you can rock hop over, but there’s a large gap between two of the rocks. The water is low in this area and it’s only 4 or 5 steps across so you can also remove your shoes and walk through the water.

Shakori Trail

Mileage: 1 mile
Blaze: Yellow horseshoes
Rated: Moderate
Location: Few’s Ford Entrance, accessed in 2 locations from Ridge Trail

Shakori is a nice trail, well maintained, good terrain, that can be used with Ridge Trail to make a loop. You won’t find a lot of crowds on this trail, making it perfect for a peaceful hike.

Knight Trail and Piedmont Trail

Knight and Piedmont trails are small connectors that create a back door for local residents to access the park.

Cole Mill Trail

Wooden bridge over creek on Cole Mill Trail.

Mileage: 1.2 miles
Blaze: Yellow circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Cole Mill Entrance

Cole Mill Trail is popular year-round. It’s an easy trail with minimal elevation gain and good terrain. It can be easily hiked in sneakers. You’ll see families and groups of school children in this area.

It connects with Bobbitt Hole Trail. There’s a section along the river where you should be careful with your footing, but it’s otherwise an easy trail.

Bobbitt Hole Trail

Mileage: 1.7 miles
Blaze: Red circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Cole Mil entrance, accessible through Cole Mill Trail

Bobbitt Hole Trail is similar to Cole Mill Trail, easy terrain, almost no elevation gain, and a section along the river. There’s an offshoot to a section of the river that pools and remains calm, called Bobbitt’s hole. This is a popular swimming hole in the summer.

Keep in mind that it’s not a sanctioned area for swimming and there are no lifeguards, it’s enter at your own risk. It’s also crowded during the summer.

Bobbitt Hole Trail is perfect for new hikers and small children.

Pea Creek Trail and Dunnagan Trail

Pea Creek Trail has been closed for a few years due to erosion and it’s the only way to access Dunnagan Trail, effectively closing that trail down too.

Pump Station Trail

Mileage: 1.5 miles
Blaze: Red circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Pump Station Entrance

Pump Station Trail is a short 1.5-mile loop off by itself. Parking is roadside. As you drive down Rivermont Rd. you may see the small trail sign on the left, but it’s easier to look for the giant pump station on your right. Pull off to the side and park in front of the pump station, the trail is across the road.

It’s an easy loop away from the crowds and connects with Laurel Bluffs Trail to complete the loop.

Laurel Bluffs Trail

Mileage: 7.5 miles
Blaze: Yellow circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Pleasant Green Entrance, Cabelands Trail, Pump Station Trail

Laurel Bluffs Trail is 7.5 miles. I know the trails section of the Park’s website says 6.1, but the MST grabs onto it and the MST is 7.5 miles through this section. For me, the trail starts at the Pleasant Green entrance and ends at Guess Road.

It’s an easy, relatively flat trail that wanders through woods, a patch of rhododendrons, around the quarry, then through the woods again. Laurel Bluffs parallels the Eno River the entire way making it a relaxing and picturesque hike.

While there are easier ways to the quarry, I’ve seen people in flip-flops carrying inner tubes on the trail.

When it comes to crowds, it’s hit or miss. The parking lot fills up quickly, but I don’t usually see that many people on the trail. However, I have run into large groups out for an organized hike.

Cabelands Trail

Mileage: 1.2 miles
Blaze: Red circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Cabelands Entrance

While the trail is a loop, it’s really just a way to reach the quarry where you can then walk around the Eno Quarry Trail enjoying the view. The trail is flat and easy to walk. Sneakers are fine.

Eno Quarry Trail

Mileage: 0.8 miles
Blaze: Blue circles
Rated: Easy
Location: Accessed from Cabelands Trail or Laurel Bluffs Trail

This is a simple loop around the quarry. The water is peaceful and beautiful. You’ll likely encounter other hikers seeking the perfect spot for a photo.

Camping at Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park has four campgrounds which are all primitive hike-ins. There is no family campground. All campsites require reservations which you can make through ReserveAmerica.

Before you head out to your site, make sure you stop at the Visitor Center to get a tag for your car. This must be displayed so the Rangers know you’re supposed to be there overnight and don’t think you’re lost. If they head out looking for you and find you safely enjoying a campsite, they won’t be happy.

The park website says firewood is available for purchase in the office, but I’ve always found it stocked for free at the campsites.

Group Campgrounds

Cox Mill Group campsite with 3 gravel pads for tents and a gravel pad with picnic table and fire ring.

There are two group campgrounds, both at the Cole Mill entrance. There is a pit toilet nearby, but no additional amenities.

Cox Mill Group Campsite

Few’s Ford Entrance, far back parking lot

The Cox Mill Group Campsite is about 3/8 of a mile from the parking lot. Take the Cox Mountain Trail and cross the suspension bridge. Keep walking straight then make a left at the sign noting the cabin and campgrounds.

The site can accommodate up to 26 people. There are five tent pads, each able to hold at least 3 two-person tents, and 2 additional pads with fire rings and picnic tables.

Buckquarter Creek Group Campsites

Few’s Ford Entrance, Piper Cox House parking lot

There are two group campsites off Ridge Trail, near the intersection with Fieldstone Trail, about 1.2 miles from the parking lot. These are known as Buckquarter Creek Campsites A and B. Both sites have a pad with a fire ring and picnic table and 2 pads for tents.

Each site can accommodate up to 15 people.

Individual Campgrounds

Fanny's Ford individual campground with gravel tent pad and second pad with bench and fire ring.

There are 2 campgrounds for backpackers. Both require you to pack in all your gear and pack out your trash. There is a pit toilet at both campgrounds, but no other amenities.

Fanny’s Ford Campground

Few’s Ford Entrance, far back parking lot
These are numbered sites 1-5

Note: on the map available via the Park’s website and reservation site, the restroom is in the wrong location. Move the restrooms closer to site 1 and the map makes more sense. I’d also turn the hiker around. Most people will be hiking in from the direction of the river.

Fanny’s Ford Campground is up a small trail off Fanny’s Ford Trail. The trail is not obvious but there’s a small sign you’ll see if you’re looking for it. The campsites are about 1 mile from the parking lot. Even though they’re near a busy trail, they tend to feel secluded because they’re uphill.

The campground has five individual campsites. Each has a tent pad that can easily accommodate 2 two-person tents, and a second pad with a wooden bench and fire ring. There’s a pit toilet and a stand for firewood.

The sites are far enough apart that you can have some privacy with site 2 offering the most privacy. All have views of the river, but site 5 has the best view.

Piper Creek Campground

Cole Mill Entrance
These are numbered sites 6-10

The Piper Creek Campground is off Bobbitt Hole Trail, about 1.2 miles from the parking lot.

Sites 6-8 are closest to the pit toilet and wood, but they’re also within view of each other. If you prefer this section, I’d go for site 7.

Sites 9 and 10 are further down the trail. While it’s a bit of a hike for the bathroom and wood, the tradeoff is privacy.

Each site has a pad with a fire ring and a small bench, and a second pad large enough for 2 two-person tents.

Swimming at Eno River State Park

There is no officially designated, or sanctioned, swimming area at Eno River State Park. If you choose to swim in any of the options listed below you are doing so at your own risk.

Eno Quarry with trees lining the far side of the water and their reflection in the water.

Bobbitt’s Hole

In the summer, people flock to the Cole Mill entrance and hike to Bobbitt’s swimming hole. It’s down a short spur trail off Bobbitt’s Hole Trail. Just follow the people with inflatables and flip-flops. The water is usually calm here, but if there’s been a big rain, it may be too fast and too deep for children.

Eno Quarry

Another place where you may find people swimming is the quarry. You should be aware that there are posted notices specifically stating this isn’t safe. The quarry is deep with steep drop-offs, has tons of underwater rocks, and downed trees just under the surface. I really wouldn’t head here with children or weak swimmers. I swam competitively in High School and College, and I don’t venture into this water.

The Eno River

You’ll find kids splashing around Few’s Ford and in the river near the suspension bridge. Watch the water levels, and keep an eye out for kayakers.

Tips for Visiting Eno River State Park

View of Eno River in the evening as it runs around a bend with rocks and trees along the sides.

While most of the trails are easy for families and beginner hikers, they can become muddy and slick when wet. The trails at the Few’s Ford entrance in particular can be tricky when wet.

Every trailhead has a metal box with maps, grab one, or print/save the online map. While the trails are well-marked and easy to follow, sometimes the signs seem off and the map can help you stay on track.

Always check the park hours for the entrance you’re heading towards before leaving. They change over time based on sunrise and sunset.

Avoid the crowds by going on weekdays or late afternoons. Trail runners and hiking groups love Eno River State Park because it’s accessible. They tend to prefer weekend mornings.

If you have a dog, think about the swinging bridge on Cox Mountain Trail. More than one dog has gotten halfway across before freezing in place. It’s not as easy as you think to pick them up and walk across a bouncing bridge.

While I’m all for an evening hike, Eno River isn’t a great place for a night hike. Too many sections of trail have roots and uneven surfaces. In addition, some of the trails are confusing and you have to stop at intersections and think it through in daylight. At night, it’s even more confusing. The multitude of “social trails” doesn’t help.

Please stay on marked trails. It helps protect the environment and animals. I’ve seen a lot of people walking along the river from Few’s Ford to the suspension bridge. This is not an official trail, and you can see areas of erosion already starting.

Dress Accordingly

This is the south ya’ll. Layering is key. Many of the trails dip into the woods where it’s cool and shady, then pop out along the river where it’s bright and sunny. Grab an extra layer and toss it in your pack.

Another southern issue…bugs. We have them. We hate them. In warmer months, you’ll want bug spray. And don’t forget the sunscreen, this is a given on any hike.

Ask for Help if You Need It

There are neighborhoods around the park and locals are always around. You’ll also find a lot of regulars hiking and running the trails. Most people are happy to help if you become disoriented.

Eno River State Park Wrap Up

Eno River is one of the best State Parks in the Triangle. It’s conveniently located 10-45 minutes for most people in the area. With five entrances and eighteen trails, you’re bound to find a way to get out there!

And if you’re itching for a night in a tent, this is one of the easiest ways to get out and just breathe.

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