Johnston Mill Nature Preserve

For Mother’s Day I really wanted a family hike (how Modern Family is that?). And since I had heard so many rave reviews about the Johnston Mill trails in Chapel Hill, we went there in the late afternoon.

This was a great hike for us! We had C in a Kelty for most of it, then he did his own hiking for a little ways. There are some steps here, as well as roots and stones on the path, so jogging strollers won’t work. But kids could easily hike this. In fact, many were while we were there.

The land is owned and well maintained by Triangle Land Conservancy. They obtained the property in 1999 to protect the area around New Hope Creek. There was a historic mill site (although we must of the missed the evidence of it) and therefore worth conserving.

There are 296 acres in the preserve, about 3 miles of hiking. The mileage is various trails strung together. There are 2 access points to the preserve and trails (see links below) that will both get you to the same paths.

The path is great. Like I said, it is well maintained but also the scenery changes a lot. You get everything from rock outcroppings, to creek, to big fields, to old woods. It was a beautiful hike, especially with the smell of honeysuckle in the air right now.

Overall, we thought it was fairly easy. There are some areas that gain a quick elevation, but they are really short. And all along the path are benches for sitting and gazing at the flora and fauna.

This hike is really popular with dog walkers. Which is fantastic, but we have read that they have problems here with people walking their dogs off-leash (in fact, there are huge signs at the trailhead reminding citizens to leash their dogs because of the issues). Therefore, we couldn’t take our pooch, as she likes to eat other dogs if they are off leash, but would like to use this moment to say: folks, please leash your dogs when out on trails! And PSA done.

We didn’t take our GPS this trip, but you should explore whether there are any geocaches here!

We really enjoyed this hike. Thanks to all for the recommendation!

Johnston Mill Nature Preserve
2881 Mt. Sinai Road
Chapel Hill

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4 comments for “Johnston Mill Nature Preserve

  1. Laura R
    May 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Love this trail!! Was there just the other day with my two little ones. My older son (4.5) hikes the “big” loop just fine. We did Occoneechee Mountain hike b/c I love it at Mother’s Day when the mountain laurel are blooming. Again, my oldest can hike the loop and the lookout over the quarry is fun. We made it to the Hillsborough Depot for lunch after, just down the road by Gold Park. Super Mother’s Day, so much so that my son asked if we could do the same on Father’s Day and he proclaimed that the best thing to do on Mother’s Day is to take a hike and hold your mom’s hand. Melt mama’s heart!!!

  2. May 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Laura!
    Occoneechee is a great one (for those who don’t know, we’ve reviewed it here And yeah, catching those mountain laurels would be great.
    I am so intrigued by the Depot now that they’ve opened for food and lunch. Good?
    Overall, sounds like a great Mother’s Day for you. Definitely melts the heart….

  3. Laura R
    May 11, 2011 at 1:45 am

    The Depot is super cute – think nicer and bigger Johnny’s. They have a small but good offering, a locally sourced hot dog or a Nathan’s hot dog with great fixins. A selection of sandwiches, really yummy baked goods, “healthy” chips and a diverse selection of drinks. They have a “general store” with old fashioned candy jars you can scoop from, some local meats and dairy items. They also hand-dip Maple View ice cream, have wifi and coffee roasted from Carrboro Coffee Co. (fancy coffee coming soon). There are readings and other events held there. Decor is fun, train inspired and there is a cool show of jazz photos right now. I think their hours online are incorrect, aim for before 2 right now while they are getting started.

    Sounds like you had a great Mother’s Day too! Always enjoy reading your posts.

  4. May 11, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I had no idea such a place existed and we drive down that road all the time! Thanks for sharing, I will have to make it out with my son soon.

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