The GRAND ENO RIVER TRAIL is a 25 mile (or more depending on optional hikes) combination of several established trails and a short 2.5 mile bushwhack that is not sanctioned by any of the organizations responsible for the trails, such as the Eno River Association, the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Eno River State Park, or the City of Durham Parks and Recreation, who maintain these public lands. Each of these organizations serve a valuable purpose in protecting these trails and public lands, and are commended for their efforts. This site is in no way connected to any of these organizations, though your support of them is highly recommended.
The GRAND ENO RIVER TRAIL is merely a suggestion by me for a route using elements of these trails, combined into one trail that functions as a longer, 2-night hike. If you go point-to-point without any of the suggested optional hikes,it comes in at about 25 miles. There are suggested side trips that could add anywhere from 2 to 5 miles to this total.
Drop off on Dumont Dr, to Fanny Ford Campsites: 2.4 mi
(If using Outhouse Ford - add about half mile if using Fews Ford, and another mile if crossing the river on the Suspension Bridge))
Fanny Ford Camps to various evening hikes: 2.6 mi (Optional - Suggest Cox Mountain Trail)
Total from Trailhead to Fanny Ford Camp: 5.0 mi (add more if you wandered further your first night in camp)
Fanny Ford Camps to Pleasant Green Road: 3.6 mi
Pleasant Green to Optional Southern Power Cooling Pond and back: 0.6 mi
Pleasant Green Rd to Quarry: 1.5 mi
CounterClockwise around Quarry to Rhodes Creek Crossing: 0.3 mi
Clockwise around Quarry to Rhodes Creek Crossing: 0.2 mi
Quarry to Piper Creek Campsites: 1.8 mi
Total from Fanny Ford Campsite to Piper Creek Camp: 8.0 mi
Piper Creek Campsites to Cole Mill Road: 1.8 mi
Cole Mill Rd to Guess Road:3.3 mi
Optional Saw Mill trail to Dam and back: 0.6 mi
Guess Road to Roxboro Rd: 1.7 mi
Roxboro Rd to Old Oxford Rd: 4.6 mi
Piper Creek Camp to Old Oxford Road (Penny's Bend Parking): 11.6 mi
Beyond Pennys Bend on the MST:
Old Oxford Road to Rollingview Campground: 22 mi
Rollingview Campground to Shinleaf Campground: 14 mi
CAUTION: All trails involving what I'm calling bushwhacks, are not sanctioned by the State Parks or Eno River Association authorities, but being Public Lands on State Property, are accessible to the public for exploration. These trails are NOT patrolled or maintained. Use at your own risk with a hiking buddy. We do not sanction trespassing on private property. There is one 200 foot section of private property along this route, (northwest corner of the Eno River at Pleasant Green Road) and caution to avoid it by fording the Eno River prior to, or obtaining permission, is YOUR responsibility! (I have gotten written permission, but have been asked not to give out their names)
SECTION ONE: The beginning of this described trail is best served by arranging a drop-off on Dumont Drive, which is found between Lawrence Rd and Pleasant Green Rd on St. Marys Rd. At the end of Dumont, where it turns left onto Oak Knob Drive, there is a Eno River State Park chain gate with enough room to park, but I'd suggest a drop-off here. If you do park, Park officials ask to leave room for a Park Ranger's vehicle to get through, and leave contact information on your dash explaining where you are. For security reasons, this is NOT recommended, but it is best for your safety! Assumi8ng you have obtained proper camping permits already, they WILL ask you for your vehicle description and location. Follow the old dirt fire road south, it goes down at first, but then turns uphill to the left. Where you come to a fork in the road, the straight-ahead fork goes another 200 yards and ends at an old house foundation - nothing much else. The right fork, leads you downhill to the river. At the river turn left and follow the riverbank to a point where it connects with Holden's Mill Trail. None of these trails have established names, so lacking evidence of names not yet uncovered, I am calling the trail from the parking lot, to the river, and left to Holden's Mill, the Dumont Trail. PLEASE respect all historic artifacts, wildlife and plant life along this unmaintained social trail.SECTION TWO:
After exploring the old Mill foundation, continue on the Holden's Mill Trail along the riverbank downriver. There is some sweet old cabins north of this point, but it is off-trail. These cabins are covered in more detail on the Holden Mill Trail page. At the point where it crosses a small creek, you'll find that this trail splits left-right. The left loops uphill to the left. The right goes back to the Eno River. Both trails end up at Buckquarter Creek. I'd suggest the river bank option, where you will run into Buckquarter Creek and go upcreek a short way to cross on a footbridge, (the other, over-hill option meets here, too) then return to the river following it downstream. Although immediately after the foot bridge, you can find the uphill part of Buckquarter Creek trail, and visit some interesting old log cabins. Assuming you stayed on the river, you are now on the Buckquarter Creek Trail which will take you to one of two Fords, where you will need to ford the river at any shallow rocky point in the river. Optionally, you could continue downriver another quarter mile and cross at the suspension bridge, and double back to the campsites. If you elect to ford the river, your first ford option, is lovingly called Outhouse Ford, directly opposite the campsite outhouse on the opposite bank in the woods. Currently, there is a black erosion fabric erected at the ford on your side of the river, but just look for the outhouse. The second option is continue for a short way to Fews Ford and cross there. Fews is shallower, but wider. Personally, I prefer to ford at the Outhouse Ford, and stay in my rivershoes all the way to camp 100' away.
If you crossed at the Outhouse Ford, continue uphill directly into the campsite. If you crossed at Fews Ford, turn right along the riverbank. You're now on the Fanny's Ford Trail, and watch for the trail sign to turn left, up the embankment to the campsites.
You DID remember to register for the campsite prior to your trip, right? Stealth Camping anywhere outside established sites, or without a permit in a site is a violation of STATE LAW. Check your requirements here: State Parks Camping Brochure .
I recommend site #5, being closer to the river and the outhouse, but far enough away not to be a bother. The distance to the Campsite from the trailhead is only about 3 miles. My suggestion is to start your hike early enough to settle in camp, drop your gear, and explore the other nearby trails, especially Holden's Mill if you haven't already, or the somewhat longer Cox Mountain Trail. If you want to go back to the other side of the river, there are several suitable ford crossings of the Eno at low or moderate river levels, or simply head back to Fews Ford which is almost always passable, or in high river conditions, all the way down to the Suspension Bridge.
In my experience hiking out in Yellowstone, river crossings up to your thighs in cold rushing water is commonplace - you should get used to it - being able to ford a river safely is a good skill to have if you are into hiking and backpacking. Use common sense and make sure you do it with a buddy. Unhook your pack's waist belt anytime you are in a river, and keep your hiking pole downstream.
In the morning, break camp and you could ford the river immediately if you wish, but I prefer to go the slightly longer route away from the river and join the Cox Mountain Trail, to gain access to the suspension bridge simply to keep footwear dry this early in the morning, plus it is a cool cable bridge. Once on the east side of the river, head downriver past the suspension bridge, turn uphill for a ways on the main trail to where it connects with the Eno Trace Trail. You can, in low water, keep to the riverbank, instead of following the official trail up the steep ridge, connect with the Eno Trace and descend back down again - if you wish. In any case, once on the Eno Trace Trail, follow it as far along the riverbank as it goes, and continue bushwhacking with the riverbank on your right. From here on, for the next 2 miles there is no established trail, but easily bushwhacked in late Fall, all Winter or early Spring. If you are doing this in the dead of Summer, expect high plant growth and Ticks!
While you CAN walk along the riverbank, the bushwhack I did in the middle of winter was a slight hassle - I have to imagine in summer it will be more difficult. There is a lot of deadwood and tall stalky grasses that would be at head level. Where you find yourself close to the powerline cut, use it. There is usually two wheel tracks where crews access the towers making for easier bushwhacking. I suggest walking down the powerline cuts and, every now and then, go sideways to the river to see how it looks at that point, but rejoin the powerline cut to continue traveling south.
If you have a GPS and can approximate your location after you cross the old abandoned Cabe Ford (there is a Cabe Ford Road that no longer crosses the river, but there is some old bridge foundations still visible there), there is a very small cemetery a few hundred yards away from the river, south of Cabe Ford Road (see map). I've not seen it yet, but it is the historic cemetery for the slaves of the Cabe family. This is VERY close to private property.
SECTION TWO: Where the river makes an tight easterly oxbow bend, the powerline cut crosses over to the other side, so you will need to follow the river into the woods. As it makes the sharp southerly turn, you will cross a steep creek, follow it upcreek about 40 yards where it is much shallower and crossable. After that point, stay high. If you follow the riverbank, you will get stuck at some steep rocks on the bank. Staying high on the bluff headed south you will reach the property line for a house at the end of Shady Lane. This house has a large pond at the edge of the State Park Property lines. Immediately south of the pond there is an old roadbed heading back to the river, crossing real close to a makeshift rifle range, old shot up pumpkins were on the 55 gal barrels as we walked by, so be careful! You will come back into the powerline cut at that point, and walk down it, with the River a bit further to your right. Feel free to explore to the river, but it is a bit non-descript at that point.SECTION THREE:
Eventually, you end up going through some scrub brush along the river to a point where you are approaching some old farm buildings on your left, with a clear grassy access road coming in from Pleasant Green Rd. This is about 75 feet left of the river. It is private property, but only a 400 foot stretch of it. You can avoid tresspass in one of the following ways: 1), obtain permission to trespass (it can be done), 2) ford the river above the abandonded dam to the opposite shore over to the Eno River State Park parking lot, or 3) follow the powerline easement almost due east away from the river, and find Pleasant Green Road - should be within view. HOWEVER... walking along Pleasant Green Road and crossing on its bridge should be domne with caution! On Pleasant Green Road head south over the river toward the Parking access area, my suggestion would be to drop your pack here, take a break, and/or explore the old Southern Power Cooling Pond back upstream on this side of the river. There are a few social trails in this area, but if you generally stay to the left you'll climb up on an old gravel access road, with the cooling pond beyond - just beyond the bridge on your right, follow the far bank of that discharge creek to the Eno for some great views of a rocky cascading river with several small falls.
When you are ready to resume, return to the parking lot at Pleasant Green Road and begin to walk toward the road. On the left find the Mountains-to-Sea trailhead next to the ALCOHOL BEVERAGES PROHIBITED sign, it will direct you southeast, under Pleasant Green Road. It cuts through tall grasses, where a bushhog cut through the grass and created a trail heading into the woods. Once on the Mountains-to-Sea (MST) Trail, you're headed due south near the west bank of the river. There are a couple of things to watch for as you head south. Though hard to find if you don't know where it is - about a quarter mile in, on the flat lowlands of the river, you will cross over a slight depression which is a runoff ditch. Up creek, to the west, or on your right, it gets to look like a bit of a thicket as it goes uphill... following that runoff, you will bump into the old SOuthern Power Plant's Fish Fry pavilion, with standing chimney, spring run-off and what was a covered pavilion back before the 1950's. If you bushwhack more than five minutes without seeing it, you have the wrong ditch!
Further south you will cross your first running water ditch (unless you're in rainy season, then some of the smaller runoffs may have water), but this creek is year-round, crossing on small rocks in the creek at a hairpin curve in the trail. Anywhere between this creek and the next creek, which has a wooden bridge, head uphill on the right to a HUGE grove of mature Bamboo. Very out of place. It is about 100' off trail, just stay on the rise of that hill - you will find it!
The MST then meanders to the east and then north east. The MST is blazed with white markers. There are Yellow markers as well, designating it as the Laurel Ridge Trail. The latter is the name of the trail designated by the Eno River State Park. The trail wanders inland a ways, through Mountain Laurel thickets, crossing small creeks, and through a dense forest of evenly re-planted but now mature pine trees. When the trail hits the river again, it begins to curve to the right, or south, and hits the Quarry Trail, now blazed with Light Blue markers. You should be able to see the Quarry at this point. On a hot day in August you should HEAR the quarry from a half mile away - it is popular with locals who come to float in the Quarry or jump off the cliffs. (It is not recommended to swim here, according to the State... but are you kidding? Take a dip - its very cool. They admit it is not prohibited, either!)
My suggestion here would be to drop packs and explore up the northern bank of the quarry, off to your right as you look at the Quarry. Follow it to the western bank where there is easy swimming access, and return to your packs, because you will see the southern banks after grabbing your gear and continuing on this trail. Following the ridge line between the Quarry and the Eno River, it will turn west with the Rhodes Creek visible on your left down the embankment. Look left for a trail that crosses this creek with wooden steps on the banks. It usually is easy to cross on rocks, but at high water, it may be necessary to remove boots to cross this creek - it never gets deeper than below your knees.
Continue on the Quarry trail (see the detailed write-up on the Quarry Trail for more information on it and the Historic Fish Dam Indian Road that crosses your path near hear) until you pass the brown Quarry Warning Sign. a few dozen yards past that you will hit the Red-Blazed Cabe Land Trail. Turn left, and continue downhill to the river, turning right, or downriver, when you hit it. At the point where you are alomost at the river, look to your right and see the old Head Race for the mill, carved out of these banks by slaves, hundreds of years ago. Continue downriver, consulting the Cabe Land Trail pages for details on finding the old Mill foundations. When you cross the two wooden fottbridges, you will find a sign pointing to the right for the main trail going uphill. You will want to continue straight onto an unnamed social trail, along the river, (often obscured with twigs and limbs so you don't dare follow the river in a public State Park!) until you are forced inland and uphill because of a large creek. The trail is feint but often apparent at this point. Follow this trail through a chainsaw cut in a large downed tree, and it will begin to ascend the hill on your right. Half way up that hill, you will re-intersect with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail off to the left, blazed again in White and Yellow. The MST will turn off this social trail to the left, and go back downhill to a wooden bridge. (Had you continued uphill for about 2-300 yards, you'd find the old abandoned Cabe Family cemetery. When you hit the crest, bear left onto an unblazed path to the cemetery... if you bear right, you are on the MST) Back on the MST where I left you, beyond the wooden footbridge on the MST, the trail approaches the Eno River again, but often on top of the bluffs.
On your right, at this point is a small patch of Private Property, please respect the owner's wishes for privacy and stay on the trail here. On your right will be a barely noticeable social trail leading to an access trail in the nearby neighborhood. Watch on your left for one of the best views of the Eno on the entire trail system. About 25 feet off the trail hanging over the cliffside is a rock that allows for a perfect group shot of you and your party. The bank leading to it is high enough for most tripods to cath a great angle, and there are trees to use for a gorilla-pod if thats what you use.
At a point where the river takes a sharp right turn, the trail takes a sharper right turn and leads away from the river. Here, bushwhack back to the river along an obvious social trail and you'll find remnants of the location for the old Alpha Woolen Mill from the late 1700's. No foundations or structures are left, but the Head and Tail races are plainly evident, and a very odd fishing hole is found on the river banks. The theory is that water from the headrace went into a wooden sluiceway to run the mill water wheel emptying into the large dry hole you'll see, but overflow in high water was diverted, through sluiceway and fell into the riverbank at this deep fishing hole. Enough access to the Eno allows for it to be a suitable hiding place for fish.
Follow the river to just beyond the mill site at a deep creek (small flow, but deep banks) and you will be at the river facing the upper reaches of Bobbitt's Hole. There are several suitable places here to ford the river. Take off your boots and do so - the campsites are on the other side of the river. Ordinarily the river is just over ankles at this point if you choose a good path. Even in high water the river is maybe 18-24 inches deep. The rock bottom is slippery so be careful and cross with a buddy. It is always best to unbuckle any pack or fanny pack when fording rivers. Keep a hiking stick or pole downriver at all times. If you cross with a buddy - it is best to leap-frog your advance - with one firmly planted as the other advances, repeat until you reach the other side. The panoramic image shown below is about a 160 degree view of the crossing with my suggested route superimposed on it. I've done this crossing several times at different water levels and never had a problem with it.
If you did not bushwhack to the river when I told you to and stayed on the MST, you will cross another wooden bridge over a small creek (the one described above as having deep banks at the rivers edge). On the far side of this usually dry creek, you will find a feint social trail headed to the river on the left. This also goes to the abandoned Alpha Woolen Mill, and the Bobbitt Hole Ford pictured above.
Once across the river, you've gone about 6.75 miles today (not counting any side explorations). After getting your shoes back on - (or leave your wet toe shoes on for this short hike) follow the Bobbitt's Hole Trail downriver, with the swimming hole on your right, to a fork in the trail to your left - this is the approach to, and signage displayed for, the Piper Creek Campsites.
Have your permit handy! Stealth Camping anywhere outside established sites, or without a permit in a site is a violation of STATE LAW. Check your requirements here: State Parks Camping Brochure .
Make sure you've gotten your site permits before the trip! I recommend site #10, being closer to the river and Bobbit's Hole, (left picture above), but further from the outhouse located at sites 6 - 8, (center picture above) which are futher up the hill. The Outhouse and firewood pile (right picture above) is at Site #8. Site #9 is slightly further from the river than #10 and on the top of the ridge to your left. All of them have advantages, but being closer to the river, down in a more protected valley and closer to Bobbit's Hole for a midnight swim makes it my choice. Set up camp and consider exploring Bobbit's Hole in the evening as regular park visitors leave to meet the closing gate time. It makes for a great Sunrise swim, too! It is a popular swimming and fishing hole, but locked parking access usually provides some seclusion early and late in the day.
The following morning you have three options:
Personally, I think Option 1) is better, even if you do have to re-ford the river. You see a few historic artifacts and can claim to have stayed on the MST all the way through this part of the Eno Park.
SECTION THREE: (If you took Option 2 or 3, you'll have to cross Cole Mill Road to the southeast side of the river, and shimmy back down the steep concrete embankment to re-gain the MST trail.) The MST continues into the woods in a general north east direction. Not far into the woods, you will cross another magnificent MST wooden foot bridge. Further still, you'll hit the Red-blazed Pump Station Trail, follow it to your left toward the river, and it will continue downriver. See details of this section on the Pump Station Trail page. After you've visited the dam and old pump station, continue on the MST/Laurel Ridge trail to Guess Road.SECTION FOUR:
SECTION FOUR: At a point just upriver from Guess Road, you will see the old Dam for Guess Mill. There are good rocks in the river for a rest here. On the opposite Bank is the Saw Mill Trail, which you will have an option to explore after you've crossed Guess Road. But prior to crossing Guess Road on this side of the river, you will walk down the old Head Race for the Mill, then see some old mill remnants, before having to climb steps to the Guess Road roadbed. CAREFULLY cross this road - it is a 4-lane divided primary road. Take the shoulder on the far side, and cross to the north side of the bridge.SECTION FIVE:
Once on the north side, you'll see a one-story ranch house on the far bank on your right. This is the headquarters for the Eno River Association. Feel free to knock on the door for trail advice, buy a T-Shirt and leave a donation - these people do excellent work! This is also a point where you have a few options;
There are plenty of things to do/see here. There is no Camping at this park.
SECTION FIVE: The remainder of the Grand Eno Trail that I am suggesting, goes further to Penny's Bend, near Old Oxford Rd which is where I suggest you leave your end-of-trail vehicle. Just follow the MST under the Pedestrian Bridge at Roxboro Road, under the road itself, and continue on through the City of Durham's River Forest Trail, which is also the MST at this point. It will merge with the trail system at Penny's Bend. If you're feeling good, follow the river downstream making a big u-turn, ending up at the parking lot. If you're wanting to shorten the hike by a mile or so, turn left at the merge, left again at the trail intersection up on high ground, heading northeast back down to the river and the parking lot.
The so-called Grand Eno Trail ends at this point. However, the MST continues on for another 22 miles to Rollingview Campground, then another 15 miles to Shinleaf Camground. Recently two new campgrounds have been added east of Penny's Bend. One is on Private land, the Ward Campsite, is 3 miles east of Penny's Bend parking area, about 1.2miles short of Red Mill Road on the MST. The other is on Federal land off Redwood Roadjust before the bend at Hereford Road. Both are detailed on the MST Website: http://www.ncmst.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/10-Eno-River-and-Falls-Lake-View-Online.pdf at MM 18.1 and 28.5 respectively. Both have 7 camping spots each and minimal facilites.
Your only option is to do some stealth camping.... now... a word about Stealth Camping. I am not recommending it for obvious reasons... it is illegal and I cannot take responsibility for your illegal actions, because - your honor - I recommended against it. Having said that... most all of the land beyond Penny's Bend along the Eno River is Federal Land operated by the Army Corps of Engineers as the State-operated Falls Lake Recreation area. Can you get away with Stealth Camping? Yeah, maybe, sorta, kinda, possibly. I personally cannot hike from Piper Creek Campsites to Rollingview Campsite, a distance of 33.5+ miles, with a backpack on, so camping somewhere in here is a must for me. You COULD have a car at Old Oxford Road, go home, or find a motel, and continue in the morning, but I always run on the premise of Beg Forgiveness, Don't Ask Permission...but that is MY personal philosophy - this site and my recommendation to you, is don't stealth camp. Remember, this is Federal Land which means you could be hauled to the nearest Federal Magistrate for your day in court. Is it likely? You be the judge of that.
I'd be eager to hear from you how your trip went - let me know.
ver. 3.1 ~ © 2011-
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