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Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, NC

Weymouth Woods Sandhills is a beautiful nature preserve tucked away in Southern Pines, NC. Dating back to 1963, it was the first State Natural Area assigned to the North Carolina State Park System.

The goal of setting aside this land was to preserve the longleaf pine trees and the ecosystem that surround them.

As you wander through the pines, it seems like you’re transported to another world. What I found interesting is that the longleaf pines are at the front of the park. As you hike further into the back, the pines give way to shrubs, and other trees as well as a swampy, bog area.

Large, dense group of longleaf pine trees along Pine Barren Trail in Weymouth Woods.

What to Know Before Visiting Weymouth Woods

There are three different “tracts” or sections, each with its own parking area. They don’t connect within the park, you’ll need to drive to each section.

You’ll find most of the trails easy. They’re flat with few roots and lined with pine needles for a cushy ride. Weymouth Woods also has plenty of boardwalks and bridges if you venture into the further reaches of the park where you’ll cross over a few streams and swampy areas.

Overall, I didn’t find it too crowded on a Sunday morning. The trails close to the parking lot were the most crowded with people in flip flops, carrying iced coffees. I figured they only hiked until the coffee ran out then headed back to the car.

It’s hot down in Southern Pines. I recommend dressing in light layers and lathering up with sunscreen. Extra water is also helpful.

The best trails are at the main entrance.

As always, check the park’s website for any trail closures and other notices.

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Entrances at Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve

Weymouth Woods calls their access points “tracts”. They ask that you call or stop by the visitor center for directions and parking information before heading to the Paint and Boyd tracts. The staff was super nice, but their directions confused me. I tried to be clear with the directions below.

Wooden bench surrounded by green shrubs and pine trees.

Weymouth Woods Entrance

Weymouth Woods is the main entrance and home to the Visitor Center. It’s easy to find with GPS. The parking lot is small with 70ish parking spots. On a Sunday it was only two-thirds full, but I imagine it becomes crowded on Saturdays.

One thing to keep in mind is that Southern Pines is horse country and people go riding on the weekends, so you have that going in your favor.

The Visitor Center is a pretty building, and the staff is friendly. They have a Discovery Center which is great for kids.

From the parking lot, you can pick up the Bower’s Bog Trail which has little stations telling you more about the longleaf pines and local ecosystem. This links to the Lighter Stump Trail which then connects to the Pine Island Trail which connects to the Holly Road Trail. This covers all the trails to the right of the Visitor Center.

Around the left side of the Visitor Center is access to the Pine Barrens Trail which leads to the Gum Swamp Trail.

Pine Barrens Trail is perfect if you want to be immersed in the longleaf pines.

Trail Closer Notice

Moccasin Branch Trail is closed for repairs and will remain closed for some time. This means you can’t connect all the trails in one loop as the connection between Holly Road Trail and Gum Swamp Trail is now broken.
Brown trail sign for Fox Squirrel Loop Trail with red square blaze.

Paint Tract Entrance

Paint Tract is just two trails, Pyxie Moss Trail and Fox Squirrel Loop. This section of the park is in the middle of a neighborhood. They’re building a new section of homes that line a section of Pyxmie Moss Trail. As a matter of fact, the original entrance to this area is now under a house.

I wouldn’t bother with this section. These have become neighborhood trails and parking is limited. And, while the trails are nice, they only total 1.3 miles.

If you do decide to head out, from the Park’s main entrance make a right on Fort Bragg Rd, then a left on Indiana Avenue, then make a right on Stoneyfield Drive and drive until the road makes a 90-degree turn.

I also found that just putting “Stoneyfield Drive” in Google Maps as my destination from the main entrance worked.

Parking is roadside only, and don’t block any driveways or service roads. There’s room for possibly 3 or 4 cars, but that’s it.

Woman in blue shirt and black pants standing next to trunk of old longleaf pine with thick bark.

Boyd Tract Entrance

The Boyd Tract is where you’ll find the oldest living longleaf pine tree. But you have to work for it.

The entrance to the park was a doozy to find. The good news is that you park in the lot for the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities which you can easily get directions to.

WARNING: if your GPS tries to send you down Bethesda Road, ignore it. That’s a 1.5-mile dirt road with more than a few potholes. Just pass the turn and GPS will reroute you to the next street up which is paved.

My confusion started after I parked. I asked 3 people for directions, and they all spent a long time explaining them but weren’t making sense (is this a Southern Pines thing?) so I’ve got it spelled out below.

From the parking lot as you face the large Arts and Humanities building (Boyd House), go left. When you reach the gravel road, make a right and start walking down the road. The Boyd House will be on your right, and a large grassy area with the world’s largest silo is on your left – keep going. You’ll pass the carriage house with a red brick wall on your right – keep going. Just stay on the road.

The road dead ends at the entrance to the Boyd Tract and there’s a sign announcing it with maps. You’ll see the meadow lined with a wooden fence and the trail is blazed. You can go along the fence to the left or cut through the meadow. Once you’re on the trail, it’s easy to stay on it.

I would start by crossing the meadow. The little lessons along the trail telling the story of the oldest longleaf pine are ordered correctly in this direction.

The trail is not in great shape. There’s a lot of erosion. While it’s not difficult for most people, anyone with mobility issues may need additional time.

Things to do at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve

Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve is mainly a hiking and horseback riding area. There is no camping available in the preserve. The closest campsites would be at Raven Rock State Park.

Also, note that there is no horse-trailer parking available at the main entrance. You’ll need to contact the park for information on where to park a trailer for access to the Boyd Tract.

Hiking

There are 10 hiking trails between the three entrances. Currently, the 0.1-mile Moccasin Trail is closed. The trails are flat and relatively free of obstacles like roots making them perfect for beginners, children, and people with some mobility issues.

Horseback Riding

The park officially lists one bridle trail at the main entrance, however, there is another bridle trail at the Boyd Tract. There is no parking for horse trailers at the main entrance and it’s not clear how equestrians access the Boyd Tract.

Trails at Weymouth Sandhills Nature Preserve

There are 10 trails at Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve, all suitable for beginners. As you head further into the park, you’ll lose the crowds and find a peaceful place to get away. I was also surprised to see that the pine trees fade away as you head towards the Holly Road Trail. You’ll start to see a variety of trees and shrubs. Even more exciting, you’ll cross over a bog, or swampy area several times.

Brown trail sign with white letters noting Bower's Bog Trail with red circle blaze.

Bower’s Bog Trail

Mileage: 0.3 miles
Blaze: Red circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. To the right of the parking lot as you face the Visitor Center.

Bower’s Bog is the busiest trail in Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve. Not only is it a nice, short 0.3-mile loop, but it’s also the access to all of the trails on the right side of the Visitor Center.

It’s an easy walk through longleaf pines with information stations along the way to explain more about the trees and the ecosystem surrounding them.

You’ll find a lot of people with dogs and kids, often wearing flip-flops and carrying coffee on Bower’s Bog.

Lighter Stump Trail

Mileage: 0.5 miles one-way
Blaze: Orange triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. Accessible from the Bower’s Bog Trail.

I would call Lighter Stump Trail the second most popular trail at Weymouth Woods. Mainly because it’s the connecter from Bower’s Bog to the trails at the back end of the park. About halfway down the trail, the ecosystem changes from pine barren to lush bog.

There is a set of wooden stairs that lead to a small bridge crossing a creek. This is where the change is most pronounced.

The odd thing is you’ll see people head down the trail, but you don’t encounter them again. I’m not sure where they go, but it seems the crowds disappear along Lighter Stump Trail.

Wooden bridge with rails over small creek with lush green shrubs and thick green trees on the far side.

Pine Island Trail

Mileage: 0.5 miles
Blaze: Blue circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. Accessed from the Lighter Stump Trail.

I should clarify that while the Pine Island Trial is a half-mile loop, it’s another mile to get there and back using Lighter Stump Trail. Overall, you’re looking at 1.5 to 1.6 miles (including the small portion of Bower’s Bog you’ll also hike to reach it).

This is a beautiful trail that loops around the bog. You’ll walk through forested areas, over long boardwalks, and across a couple of small wooden bridges.

Along one section, there’s a small gazebo built along the boardwalk where you can sit and enjoy the view.

This is a peaceful trail. I only encountered 2 other groups when I hiked it.

Woman in blue shirt and black pants sitting with leg crossed on a wooden bench surrounded by pine trees.

Holly Road Trail

Mileage: 1.8 miles
Blaze: Red Triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. Accessed from the Pine Island Trail. (Can be accessed from Gum Swamp Trail via Moccasin Branch Trail, but currently, Moccasin Branch Trail is closed).

Here again, the full mileage is more than the trail mileage. You’ll hike 0.1 miles on Bower’s Bog, then 0.5 miles on Lighter Stump, then about 0.1 miles on Pine Island Trail (if you go the short way) to reach the trail. You’ll have to double that to account for the return. That’s a 3.2-mile round trip to hike the Holly Road Trail.

It’s a flat hike and easy for hikers. Sneakers are fine, as long as they have some tread.

I only encountered two couples along the entire Holly Road Loop, giving me the feeling of having it all to myself.

Moccasin Branch Trail (Currently Closed)

Mileage: 0.1 miles
Blaze: Blue square
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. Connects Holly Road Trail to Gum Swamp Trail.

This trail is currently closed due to bridge damage and will likely remain closed for some time. The trail is blocked at both ends.

When operational, Moccasin Branch connects Gum Swamp Trail to Holly Road Trail. Without it, the park is effectively divided into two sections, one to the left of the Visitor Center and another section to the right.

Trail lined with pine trees on both sides in vertical landscape.

Pine Barrens Trail

Mileage: 1 mile
Blaze: Blue triangle
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. Facing the Visitor Center, go to the left.

If you want to fully immerse yourself in the pine trees, then this is your trail. The deeper you go, the denser the trees become. There’s a beautiful aroma of pine as you walk.

It’s hard to say if this is a crowded trail. I passed two large families and a couple which made it feel crowded, but overall, having to navigate around 3 groups isn’t a lot.

The trail connects to Gum Swamp Trail and you can loop them together for a 1.5-mile hike. Both are flat and easy trails.

Shady trail lined with green bushes, pine trees, and green trees.

Gum Swamp Trail

Mileage: 0.5 mile
Blaze: Orange circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Main entrance. Accessed from the Pine Barrens Trail. (Can be accessed from Holly Road Trail via Moccasin Branch Trail, but currently, Moccasin Branch Trail is closed).

The only way to reach Gum Swamp is via Pine Barrens Trail so add an additional mile to your round-trip hike. It’s an easy day though. The two trails offer similar experiences. I would say Pine Barrens was my favorite in this area, but I would add Gum Swamp for the extra mileage.

Windy trail lined with pine trees and a blue circle blaze.

Pyxie Moss Trail

Mileage: 0.8 miles
Blaze: Blue circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Paint Tract

Pyxie Moss is a nice little trail. Parking is tight unless you’re the only one there. It’s street parking in a neighborhood.

There is an entire line of new homes being built along the first quarter mile of the trail. This is already more of a neighborhood trail, and will likely become more so when the new neighborhood is complete.

It’s a bit difficult to explain, but Pyxie Moss forms a horseshoe around Fox Squirrel Trial. You’ll have to hike some of Fox Squirrel to return to your car. This makes the round-trip hike about 1 mile.

It’s a nice hike through pine trees and it was quiet when I went on a Sunday afternoon. 

Fox Squirrel Trail

Mileage: 0.5 mile
Blaze: Red square
Rated: Easy
Location: Paint Tract. Accessed via Pyxie Moss Trail.

You’ll need to hike about 0.1 miles along Pyxie Moss Trail to reach Fox Squirrel Trail making it about 0.7 miles in total.

It’s a short loop but offers pretty scenery.

Overall, it’s a nice day out if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t put extra effort into hiking these.

The trunk of the oldest longleaf pine showing bark that is over 3 inches thick.

Round Timber Trail

Mileage: 1 mile
Blaze: Orange circle
Rated: Easy
Location: Boyd Tract

Round Timber Trail is the only hiking trail in the Boyd Tract of Weymouth Woods, but it’s worth the effort. This is the home of the oldest longleaf pine tree.

I’m not going to lie, the tree is not that spectacular to look at. There are other trees that I thought might be it as I hiked. Later, I learned that longleaf pines lose their lower branches as they age and their tops flatten out. This, along with the thickening of their bark, helps them survive fires.

As you wander down the trail, you’ll learn more about the longleaf pine, the history of the area, and what it took for this tree to survive. By the time you reach the tree, you have a lot of respect for what it’s been through to survive through the centuries.

You won’t miss the tree. There is a small stand in front of it for identification. What I found amazing is how thick the bark is at the bottom of the tree. It must be at least 3 or 4 inches thick!

In 2023 the oldest longleaf pine celebrated its 474th birthday. That’s pretty extraordinary for a tree.

To reach the oldest longleaf pine, see my instructions in the section about the Boyd Tract entrance.

Tips for Visiting Weymouth Woods Sandhills

You can download a copy of the park map here. There’s a second map for the Paint and Boyd sections that shows the roads to reach them here.

The park also has paper maps at the trailheads leading from the parking lots.

For a great day of hiking, I recommend the main Weymouth Woods entrance with the Visitor Center. Come early on a Sunday, or during the week for the best experience.

If you’re interested in the history of the longleaf pines, the Boyd Tract is worth the effort. The story of the longleaf pine over the past 400 years is interesting and there are other, old, pines in the area.

Pack your sunscreen and bug spray, you’ll need it, especially in summer.

Dress Accordingly

Sneakers are fine for all of the trails, but it will help if they have tread.

I found layering to be key at Weymouth Woods. As you head in and out of the cover of the trees, the temperature can change drastically. A short sleeve shirt with a light long-sleeve top is the perfect spring and summer combo.

Ask for Help

Many of the people hiking through Weymouth Woods are regulars, especially as you head deeper into the park. In general, it’s difficult to become lost. Most of the trails are loops with the Lighter Stump Trail as a one-way connecter. If you have a map, it should be easy to stay on track.

However, if you do become disoriented or not sure how to get back, just ask.

Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve – Wrap Up

Weymouth Woods Nature Preserve is a pretty place to enjoy a day out with the family, or just by yourself.

The peaceful pines with their calming scent are a great way to relax and reset your mind. The hiking is easy, the trees are beautiful, and you can enjoy a little swamp. I really enjoyed my day here. This should definitely be on your list of NC State Parks to visit.

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