view-ofEno River in Eno River State Park Durham North Carolina

Where is Eno River State Park

  • 6101 Cole Mill Road
    Durham, NC 27705
  • GPS Coordinates: 0783, -79.0050

Eno River State Park is a relatively large park in the southeastern region of the United States. It is located just 20 minutes outside of what is known as “Research Triangle Park,” North Carolina’s major research center. About 35 miles northwest of the state capital, Raleigh, Eno River US State Park crosses into two counties, both Durham and Orange. The park is found in the Piedmont Region of the state, a landscape known for its gently rolling hills located between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coast.

How Big is Eno River State Park

Sprawling over 4,000 acres, Eno River State Park offers a significantly large natural oasis away from the busy city centers. The park protects most of the historic Eno River’s 35 miles. In response to the city of Durham’s plans to dam up the river in the late 1960s, its first 90 acres were graciously donated to the Association for the Preservation of the Eno River Valley by a married couple. The park has gradually been growing in size since then through a combination of land acquisition and fundraising efforts, with 2,000 more acres expected to be acquired in the future.

View of Eno River During Summer With Trees Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park Weather

Like much of North Carolina, the park experiences four distinct seasons. The best times of year to visit the park are in the spring and fall, when temperatures are mild, and the park is less crowded. Average temperatures for the area in May range from a low of 54 to a high of 78 degrees, and this season also presents the opportunity to see wildflowers like rhododendron and mountain lily in bloom.

September sees temperatures that typically hover between 59 and 82 degrees, and the humidity is generally lower than it is in the summer. Wildlife such as deer, eastern cottontail rabbits, and barred owls are just a few of the many animals you can catch a glimpse of in the warmer months.

When Did Eno River Become a State Park

In May of 1972, the state of North Carolina officially approved a move to designate the Eno River area a state park. Citizens of the surrounding area had spent the past six years working on efforts to stop the City of Durham’s plans to create a reservoir and subsequent dam in the river. The Association for the preservation of the Eno River Valley’s efforts paid off, and today, the park is enjoyed by native North Carolinians and out-of-state visitors alike.

Things to Do in Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park has many different things to do, and you can spend a full day in the park without seeing everything. In the section below, Our National Park Visitors Guide take a closer look at each activity, and provide some details for why you should make time to explore each one.

View of Eno River During Summer With Trees Eno River State Park

  • Camping – There are several locations to camp in during your stay at Eno River State Park, and they are all classified as primitive backcountry camping. You can choose between either group camping sites or family camping sites, but either way, you should be prepared to leave your vehicle in the parking lot and hike up to 1.2 miles to your site. Visit the North Carolina State Parks Reservations website for up-to-date information about campsite availability.
  • Fishing – Be sure to bring your rod and reel during your visit to the park. If you are looking for a quiet and relaxing afternoon, take your pick of fly fishing, bait fishing, and lure fishing. Keep in mind that North Carolina requires adults to have a fishing license, which you can purchase before your trip through the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
  • Kayaking and canoeing – Flatwater and whitewater paddling is available, although whitewater kayaking is only possible when there has recently been significant rainfall, which typically occurs in either the winter or spring seasons. Flatwater paddling on the other hand, is much more common in the area. Kayaks and canoes can put in at three locations: West Point, Dimmock’s Mill Dam, and Eno Ramp at the Falls of the Neuse Reservoir.
  • Wildlife – The Eno River State Park is home to many different types of animals. It is not unusual to find yourself surrounded by bird calls, squirrel chattering, and the sounds of fish jumping in the river. Some of the most common animals in the area include freshwater mussels, crayfish, and several species of fish such as largemouth bass, blue gill, and sunfish. Wild turkeys are not a rare site, either, so be sure to listen for their distinctive call.
  • Few’s Ford – This area is a popular place to go swimming and wading, especially during the hot North Carolina summers. When you are needing a break from the heat and humidity, grab a bottle of sweet tea and head up to Few’s Ford where you can cool off. The swimming area is close to the parking lot, which you can find at 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham, NC 27705.
  • Bobbitt Hole – Bobbitt Hole is another popular swimming spot in the park. The river is a little deeper in this section, and despite a 2.4 miles hike to and back from the site, the area can get crowded quickly. The best times to go are earlier in the day before the crowds arrive.
  • Cox Mountain Trail – This state park offers nearly 30 miles of trails which all run near the Eno River. These trails are a great way to get exercise while taking in the beautiful scenery of the North Carolina Piedmont. One of the most popular hiking trails in the park include Cox Mountain Trail. It is just under four miles long, and with an elevation gain of only 367 feet, this trail isn’t too strenuous for most people.
  • Holden’s Mill Trail – This trail is about the same length (3.9 miles) as Cox Mountain Trail and takes hikers on a loop walk north of the Eno River. This trail is also considered a moderate hike, which means people of average hiking abilities should be able to complete the trail with a problem.
  • Picnicking – No visit to a North Carolina park is complete without a picnic lunch. There are two designated picnic areas at the site, the Cole Mill picnic area and Few’s Ford picnic area. The Cole Mill site has a few wheelchair-accessible tables along with ten other tables and four grills. Restrooms and water fountains are close by for extra convenience. Few’s Ford picnic area has 20 picnic sites, have of which are easily accessible as well. It also features a 12-table picnic shelter that includes a fireplace and grill. Bring your best Southern dishes and invite your friends out for a lunch in the park!
  • Birdwatching – The Audubon Society recognizes the Eno River region as an “important bird area.” Here, you can find birds such as black vultures, red-headed woodpeckers, and Cooper’s hawks inhabiting the park’s many trees. Nocturnal birds, such as the barred owl and the great horned owl, can be heard at dusk.

Walking Trail With Trees During Autumn Eno River State Park

When to Go to Eno River State Park

The best times of year to visit the park are during both spring and fall, although the park is open all year long. Spring in North Carolina offers brilliant displays of wildflowers, while autumn features pretty leaf transitions with colors ranging from bright yellow to rich red.

Summers can be very hot and humid, and it isn’t unusual for temperatures to top 100 degrees for a few weeks in July and August, but this season is perfect for swimming in the river. Winter walks in the park can also be gorgeous, especially in the years that North Carolina gets a few inches of snow. No matter what time of year you visit, your trip to the park will be worth it for the Carolina skies alone.

Must-Have Things to Bring to Eno River State Park

While Eno River State Park is near several cities, it is never a bad idea to be prepared for any trip into the wilderness. Keep in mind that whatever you bring into the park, you should bring out, as accumulations of trash can harm wildlife and deteriorate the landscape.  List of Parks suggests the following items:

  • Water – Water is essential to any hiking trip. It is easy to become dehydrated in the hot, humid, subtropical North Carolina climate. While water fountains can be found in some areas of the park, never depend on them as your only source of water. A good rule of thumb is to bring a half liter of water for each hour of hiking and more when the temperatures are above “moderate” levels.
  • A bag for trash – Bring a bag to pack out items you bring into the park. Traffic in the park has increased significantly in the past few years, and the impact of litter can be devastating for local wildlife and plants. Get into the habit of carrying a bag to pick up trash you spot along the way, even if it isn’t yours.
  • Bug spray – North Carolina is infamous for its abundance of insects. No matter the season, you can be sure you will spot several types of bugs at any given time. Some of the most notorious offenders are mosquitos (usually found around pools of water) and gnats. Mosquitos are most active around dusk, so be sure to have your bug spray ready if you plan to do hiking around this time.
  • Rain jacket – Spring in the Piedmont region brings many rain showers. Make sure to pack a rain jacket so that your trip doesn’t have to end early because of a short downpour. Summer afternoons often bring thunderstorms, so you will want to pay special attention to the weather forecast if you visit the park in July or August.
  • Cell phone – While the park is not far from cities, it is always a good idea to bring a cell phone in the event of an emergency. Cell phones can also be handy for looking up the name of trees and other plants you don’t recognize.
  • Animal track guide – Be on the lookout for different animal tracks. Deer, beavers, raccoons, river otters, minks, and muskrats all call the park home, and having a guide handy can help you learn more about the habitats of each of these animals.
  • Binoculars – Over 469 species of birds are officially recognized as living in North Carolina. A pair of binoculars can help you identify some of these species during an afternoon at Eno River. Even a relaxing picnic can be an opportunity to spot birds in the trees around you, so keep an eye out everywhere in the park.
  • Life jacket – If you decide to canoe or kayak, don’t leave home without a life jacket. While water levels are sometimes too low to paddle in, higher water levels can be dangerous. It is necessary to wear a life jacket to keep yourself and others safe, so don’t forget this vital piece of equipment.
  • Snacks – Bring some high protein snacks on your hike. Steer away from sugary items and food that could spoil in the heat (such as dairy and meats). Good options include almonds, homemade granola bars, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • A friend – Encourage a friend to visit the park with you. Not only is having a hiking partner a great safety choice, it also helps spread the word about state parks and the many benefits they have to offer to the community.

View of Rocks and Flowing River Eno River State Park

Where to Stay in Eno River State Park

The park has several primitive backcountry campsites that both families and other groups can use. These campsites do not have running water or restroom facilities, so you will want to keep that in mind when planning your stay. If you are interested in staying in a hotel nearby, there are plenty of the typical national chains like Marriotts, Hiltons, and Comfort Inns around. For a more unique experience, there are also hundreds of Airbnb offerings in the area.

Food Near Eno River State Park

Eno River Farm is a cozy, family-owned farm that sells freshly made ice cream and sorbet. Only 12 minutes from the state park, this business also lets you pick your own fruits and vegetables (the type depends on what’s in season) so that you can end your day with a basket of fresh produce to take home.

If you are feeling more adventurous, Bleu Olive is a Mediterranean Bistro that has been in the area since 1994. Their menu offers delicious staples like hummus and baba ghanoush.

Airports Near Eno River State Park

The closest airport to this state park is Raleigh-Durham International (RDU). The airport has two terminals and is 25 miles southeast of Eno River State Park. There are several rental car agencies near the airport as well as shuttles that take you to and from the airport. You can also utilize the city bus system when traveling from the airport.

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