Overview: Eno River State Park, a much beloved destination for Durham families, hosts a number of easy to moderate trails for the weekend hiker. If you're looking for an easy hike with spectacular views, try the Cole Mill Trail. This 1.2 mile trail follows the Eno River and then loops to the parking lot through upland forest.
Directions: The park is divided into five access points. The Cole Mill Trail (and the connecting Bobbitt's Hole Trail) is found at the Cole Mill access, located just north of Sparger Road off of Cole Mill Road (maps & directions here).
Observations & Ponderings: Eno River State Park, well-known among the Triangle's many outdoor enthusiasts, never ceases to offer new insight into Piedmont ecology and history. As you walk along the Cole Mill Trail, look across the river to view beautiful laurel covered bluffs.
View from Cole Mill Trail, Eno River SP - Cole Mill Access, February 2009 (© Nicolette Cagle 2009)
View of laurel covered bluffs from Cole Mill Trail, Eno River SP - Cole Mill Access, February 2009 (© Nicolette Cagle 2009)
The Cole Mill trail also is home to a number of different tree and shrub species, including the American bladdernut, with its distinctive three-sectioned seed pod. The American bladdernut is a native shrub or small tree reaching up to 12 feet in height that is most often found in bottomlands, along river banks. In mid to late spring, the bladdernut sports tiny, white bell-shaped flowers. This plant, found across eastern North America, is endangered in Florida and threatened in New Hampshire.
Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) on the Cole Mill Trail, Eno River SP - Cole Mill Access, February 2009 (© Nicolette Cagle 2009)
If you plan on exploring the Cole Mill trail with young kids, check out the sycamore stump. What animals could be hiding in there? Also, you can make this hike into a full day activity by continuing on the Bobbitt's Hole trail, which takes you to a popular swimming hole in the Eno River.