William B. Umstead State Park – Raleigh

Are you all really excited for the leaves to turn colors and pop?  Lucky for you I know a great place right in Raleigh off of 70/Glenwood Avenue for you all and your kids to take the foliage in: Umstead Park.

Right away I want to state the obvious: this is not the Umstead Park playground in Chapel Hill that we’ve covered, nor is it the gorgeous Umstead Spa in Cary that we are also fans of (which comes up if you Google “Umstead”).  The Umstead family was just really popular here, even giving us a Governor.

This Umstead Park is close to 6,000 acres – not a typo – right in Raleigh of trees and forest.  It is a little bizarre.  You pass all the discount furniture places, you are minutes from Carmax and Rainbow Play Systems, yet there is an oasis of wilderness.

Umstead State Park does not have any playgrounds or special kids activities.  The two major draws are the boathouse and the hiking.

The boathouse, alas, is not open any more this season.  The second weekend in October is your last chance to rent a boat here.  But they open up again the second weekend of April and remain open all summer.  By the way, these are all man-powered boats, like canoes.  There are actually 3 lakes in Umstead Park (no swimming), all of which boast great fishing (proper licensing required if you decide to do this), but the boats run out of the largest of the 3 lakes called, appropriately, Big Lake.  (Does anyone else think of Sixteen Candles?)

Umstead Park has a slew of trails for horses (13 miles), mountain bikes (13 miles), and day hikers (22 miles).  All of which are strictly designated as such so there shouldn’t be any bikers swishing by on your hike. Plus there is camping available in the park, for a fee.  Obviously, you can plan to stay here for awhile if you wish.

From anywhere in the Triangle this makes for a great day hike adventure, which is why it is such a treasure.  The hikes are fairly easy.  There aren’t a lot of hills in this part of Raleigh so they aren’t too intense.  The trails are not paved, for the most part.  You will find some areas that are paved near the very large, shaded, and beautiful picnic area (bring a lunch!) and down to the boat house.  Yet in general plan to bring a really rugged stroller or a carrier.

There is a visitors center with nice restrooms as well as some restrooms down by the picnic area at the end of the road.  There is also a nice little trail that makes a circle behind the visitors center.  There are, of course, trail maps available at the park but if you like to plan before you go there is a detailed trail map at Umstead Coalition here.

Do pay attention to your trail as you are walking it.  Things are labeled but you have to make sure you stay on the correct path.  Lots of folks talk about getting lost in here.  C and I just did part of the Pott’s Branch Trail and the Sycamore Trail and had no problems, but it is a common complaint I hear.

There are shelters of various sizes available for use and special event rental.

Since this is right in Raleigh you will hear traffic noises from Glenwood and the planes flying overhead as they take off and land from RDU.  For C that was part of the appeal.  Otherwise, get out there and enjoy!

William B. Umstead State Park
Park hours:
Nov. – Feb. : 8 am to 6 pm
Mar., Apr., Sept., Oct. : 8 am to 8 pm
May – Aug. : 8 am to 9 pm
Close Christmas Day
Boat Rentals available mid-April thru mid-October

8801 Glenwood Ave

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