Branching Out: How Nature Can Help You Flourish at UNC

One powerful tool for prioritize mental health and well-being is spending time in nature. The known benefits for college students are plentiful; being in nature…

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves mood and cognitive function
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Improves sleep quality 

Even brief periods of time outdoors can have big benefits. Here are some ideas to get more nature in your day-to-day life:

  • Take a walk in the arboretum or Battle Park.
  • Study or meditate outside.
  • Participate in outdoor recreational activities like biking, disc golf, hiking, or paddling.
  • Attend outdoor yoga classes or nature walks.

Learn more about our favorite nature spots on and near campus and then, go enjoy outside! (pro tip: Don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own? Check out Carolina Adventures Expeditions! They provide gear, guides and routes for some epic outdoor adventures.)

  • Battle Park – Located on the east side of campus and downhill from the Coker Arboretum with hiking and trail running options. The park symbolizes the important connection between nature and art at UNC. Download a trail map.
  • Mason Farm Biological Reserve – Hiking, trail running, and bird watching available. Located 2 miles (3 minutes by car) from UNC. It is south east of the Botanical Gardens and Totten Center. 
  • Bolin Creek, Sewell School, and Carolina North– Mountain biking, hiking and trail running available. Located 7 miles or 15 minutes by car from UNC in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
  • Duke Forest – Hiking, trail running, fishing, horseback riding and mountain biking available. Located 10 miles or 20 minutes by car from UNC. 
  • Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area – Hiking, trail running, fishing, camping and picknicking available. Located 15 miles or 25 minutes by car from UNC. The Occoneechee Mountain summit is the highest point in Orange Country with 190 acres of land and nearly 3 miles of trails.No fees are charged for the use of this park’s facilities. 
  • William B. Umstead State Park – Boating, Fishing, Horseback Riding, Hiking, Trail Running, Camping, Picnicking, Cycling available. Located 20 miles or 25 minutes by car from UNC. Park includes shelters, campsites, canoes, and kayaks that can be reserved for a reasonable fee.
  • Eno River State Park – Hiking, Trail running, Camping, Fishing, and Canoeing available. Located 20 miles or 30 minutes from UNC. A great place to rock hop up the lovely river. 
  • Haw River – Fishing, Canoeing, Swimming, Horseback riding, and Paddling available. Located 25 miles or 30 minutes driving from NC. Bonus – visit the Haw River Ballroom after a day of play for some live music.

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