Get outside, UNC! Your outdoor exploration checklist

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey

The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience -and you don’t have to go far to find them.

The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.

Ask any outdoor enthusiast and these spots will be on their list of adventures while at UNC. Explore them! We start with those closest to campus and swirl outward across the state.

Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside! (pro tip: Don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own? Check out Carolina Adventures Expeditions! They provide gear, guides and routes for some of these fantastic adventures.) Continue reading

Backyard Yoga: Your Guide to Ultimate Relaxation

Get ready to stretch, flex, and maintain inner peace – all at once! By doing yoga, you are taking part in a mind and body practice begun thousands of years ago. Numerous scientific studies tout the health and wellness benefits of practicing regular yoga. We wanted to see what all the hype was about, so we headed outside to get our yoga on! Unlike machines, weights, or a gym membership – doing yoga is free. You can do it almost anytime, anywhere.

Yoga requires very little equipment. In fact, most poses can be done with only a yoga mat. Yoga, as with any exercise regimen, should only be performed if you are well enough for physical exertion. Remember – you do not have to do anything you do not feel comfortable with! Check out the following popular poses, gathered from the web.

ss_FI0507WWFAL001Downward Dog

1. Begin this pose on all fours, with your hands below shoulders, and knees under the hips.

2. Slowly move your hands forward and spread your fingers apart.

3. Move your body into a V-shape by curling your toes and pressing your head inward. Your knees should be bent slightly, with your feet shoulder-width apart.




ss_FI090106TRYIN002Tree Pose

1. Stand on one leg and position the sole of the other foot inside the other thigh. Maintain a forward-facing body throughout.

2. When you have balanced yourself, bring your hands in front of you in a prayer pose.

3. As an alternate, extend your hands above your shoulders, reaching fingers to the sky.








1. Lie on the mat facing downwards. Place your thumbs directly underneath your shoulders. Extend your legs together behind you, with the tops of the feet on the ground.

2. Flex your pelvic muscles, tuck your hips inwards, and flex your glutes.

3. Raise your head and shoulders up and outwards into the cobra pose.





To take full advantage of yoga, perform these poses in a peaceful environment. Take your water bottle along, and sip regularly to stay hydrated. For an added bonus, practice deep breathing with 7 full counts on the inhalation. Stretch before and after doing these poses to keep your muscles supple and healthy.

Bring your yoga habit back to campus! Campus Rec offers several yoga class opportunities per week taught by trained fitness instructors. Check out the UNC Camps Rec Calendar and find a free class to attend!

A Quick Getaway: Hiking the George Mitchell Nature Preserve

Refreshing air, the smell of pine trees, and the company of thousands of trees. Today, I spent my Monday afternoon hiking through the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. With a backpack on back and smile on my face, I enjoyed the chance to break away from the daily craziness and be active in nature. The United States is known for its commitment to preserving the forests and nature, and the town I live in is no exception. The George Mitchell Nature Preserve in The Woodlands, TX is a forested land area outfitted with 2, 3, and 5-mile trail loops. There, you can hike, bike, or run through the various trails. I chose a brisk walk – to get my heart rate up while still feeling relaxed.
The first thing that I noticed as the hike began was the silence – the utter lack of cars, sirens, and civilization. Even though the preserve is located near a road, the trees serve as excellent sound cushions. The peace was broken only by the sounds of birds chirping and the occasional conversation of passersby. I have a long history of backpacking and hiking growing up, so I had the gear I needed for this short trek.
I chose the REI flash pack for this mini-excursion – it’s lightweight, water resistant, and has tons of great storage space. Inside, I made sure to pack my rain gear (top and bottom), first aid kit (you can never be too prepared!), and snacks. Trail mix, dried fruit, and a full water bottle were plenty to get me through the trails. After hiking 2.5 miles – halfway through the loop – I took a short break to eat. The trails were clear and the sun was shining – perfect conditions for a trek. The rest of the hike finished without a hitch, except for a single mosquito bite. I guess bug spray isn’t impermeable!
You don’t have to travel all the way to Texas to get your own taste of a great nature trail. Check out the article “The Top 10 Hiking Spots in the United States” and see if the perfect adventure is nearby. Still can’t get enough of the great outdoors? UNC Campus Recreation offers several outdoor excursions every year during the academic semester through the Carolina Outdoor Recreation Center (OEC). You can also check out our Get Outside! blog post with 22 North Carolina outdoor destinations.
Are you a first year student arriving at Carolina next year? WAFFYS – Wilderness Adventures for First Year Students – are the perfect ice breaker for you. Learn more about these small-group outdoor programs to help first –year college students adjust to college life by clicking the link.​

Get outside! Top 22 Spaces to Play “Near” UNC

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey

When was the last time you stepped outside for a walk in the woods, some fresh air, and natural vitamin D?

The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience. The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.

Ask any outdoor enthusiast and these spots will be on their list of adventures while at UNC. Do you have suggestions for other spots? Additional info we should include about these? Pass along your thoughts in the comments.

Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside!

  1. Battle Park – Hiking and trail running available. Located on the east side of campus and downhill from the Coker Arboretum. The park is named for Kemp Plummer Battle, president of UNC from 1876 to 1891. The park symbolizes the important connection between nature and art at UNC. Download a trail map.
  2. 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. A permit and a key card for the gate must be obtained from the Totten Center for $5, but the gate is typically open during daylight hours. Bicycles or motorized vehicles, pets, and removal of wildlife are not allowed.
  3. Bolin Creek & Sewell School Trails – Mountain biking, hiking and trail running available. Located 7 miles or 15 minutes by car from UNC. A lovely place to enjoy the outdoors. Creek walks and fundraisers occur with the “Friends of Bolin Creek” group. Check them out at
  4. Duke Forest – Hiking, trail running, fishing, horseback riding and mountain biking available. Located 10 miles or 20 minutes by car from UNC. Duke Forest is used primarily for teaching and research laboratory but also included limited public recreation. Group activities must be approved in advance.
  5. 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 charges for the use of this park’s facilities. However, visitors must be 18 years or older to register as campers.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. For facilities and fees: Reservations for camping are not required but recommended.
  8. Haw River – Fishing, Canoeing, Swimming, Horseback riding, and Paddling available. Located 25 miles or 30 minutes driving from NC. The Haw River has recently made an impressive reversal from a heavily industrial polluted river to a home for a variety of wildlife. Bonus – visit the Haw River Ballroom after a day of play for some live music.
  9. Falls Lake State Recreation Area – Boating, Hiking, Camping, Picnicking,Community Building, Swimming, and Cycling available. A great spot to kayak! Located 30 miles or 40 minutes  by car from UNC. Entrance Fee: Car = $5/day; Bus or Van = $10/day
    Campsite Rentals: $18/day
  10. Hanging Rock State Park – Boating, Fishing, Hiking, Picnicking, Camping, Swimming, and Climbing available. Located 200 miles or 2 hours by car from UNC. Rowboat/Canoe Rentals: $5 for the first hour and $3 for each additional hourCabin Rentals: Accommodates up to 6 people for $83/day; by reservation only and minimum two-night stay required. $14 per personCampsite Rentals: $18/day Swimming: $4/day
  11. Uwharrie National Forest – Camping (backcountry and car), Off-road vehicle use, Boating, Hunting, and Fishing available. Located 105 miles or 2 hours by car from UNC. The Uwharrie National Forest was purchased by the federal government in 1931 during the Great Depression and became popular after large gold discoveries in nearby mines. Badin Lake offers numerous recreation activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and hunting.
  12. Stone Mountain State Park – Camping, Trails, Education and Events, Exhibits and Historic Sites, Fishing, Picnicking, and Rock Climbing available. Located 140 miles or 2.5 hrs by car from UNC. Fishing (Special Catch and Release): $15/day per section. Campsite Rentals: $18/day
  13. Roanoke River – Canoeing, Camping (platforms; reservation required), Hiking, Fishing, Hunting and Paddling. Located 160 miles or 2.5 hours by car from UNC. A great place to paddle by day and camp by night on the water via wooden platforms. See the Roanoke River Brochure for more information.
  14. Grayson Highlands State Park – Camping, Hiking, Fishing, Boating, Hunting, and Horseback Trails available. Located 170 miles or 3 hours by car from UNC. Parking, admission and boat launching fees available. Cabins and lodges can also be reserved. Bonus: wild ponies!
  15. Grandfather Mountain State Park – Camping (backcountry and car) and Hiking available. Located 180 miles or 3 hours and 15 minutes by car from UNC. Grandfather Mountain is a landmark outdoor spot for North Carolina. Camping is allowed at 13 backpack camping sites along the trail system. Campers must leave their vehicles at the designated locations since no vehicle can be left overnight in the Grandfather Mountain attraction. Grandfather Mountain State Park offers more than 12 miles of trails. Most of these trails are challenging and therefore, hikers must use the trails’ ladder and cables in some of the steeper sections.There are no fees for hiking or camping permits, but hikers and campers must be able to produce a valid permit when on state park trails or campsites. To find out where to get a permit, visit:
  16. Wilson Creek – Hiking, Camping (backcountry and car), Backpacking, Kayaking, Canoeing, Mountain biking, Horseback Riding, Tubing, Swimming, and Fishing available. Located 190 miles or 3.5 hours by car from UNC. Wilson Creek was once used as summer hunting grounds for the Cherokee Indians. Now, it serves as a wilderness area for numerous activities and events. Trails in the Wilson Creek area are rugged, but you can find some amazing spots to play in the water if you’re open to some adventure.
  17. Mount Rogers, Virginia – Camping (backcountry and car), Fishing and Hunting, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, and Scenic Driving available. Located 190 miles or 4 hours by car from UNC.
  18. Linville Gorge Wilderness – Hiking, Camping (back country), Climbing, Mountain Biking, and Fishing available. 200 miles or 3 hours and 45 minutes by car from UNC. Known as the Grand Canyon of the east coast. Camping: A permit is required to camp overnight on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays between May 1st and October 31st with a 3 days and 2 nights maximum length of stay. To make reservations please call the Grandfather District Ranger at 828-652-4841 or 2144 to secure a permit.
  19. Cape Hatteras National Seashore – Offers Camping, Fishing, Swimming, Off-road vehicle use, Hunting, Shelling, Birding, Kayaking, Canoeing, Windsurfing, and Lighthouse tours. Located 215 miles or 4 hours by car from UNC. Vehicles are permitted on ocean beaches from 6 am to 10 pm, May 1st to September 15th. A night driving permit is required between 10 pm and 6 am. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Climbing Fees Adults: $7 Children under 12: $3.50 Windsurfing equipment is available for rent.
  20. Middle Prong & Shining Rock – Hiking and Camping (backcountry) offered. Located 255 miles or 4 hours and 15 minutes by car from UNC. There are no developed campgrounds in the Middle Prong Wilderness and therefore, backcountry camping is allowed. No open fires are permitted.
  21. Panthertown Valley – Hiking, Fishing, Climbing and Camping (backcountry) offered. Located 275 miles or 4 hours from UNC. Panthertown Valley is great for hiking, as it features an array of threatened and endangered species and natural communities. Overnight camping and catch-and-release fishing are allowed in Panthertown, as long as regulations are followed to ensure the safety of the sensitive areas. Map available for $12.
  22. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Camping (backcountry and car), Lodging, Hiking, Fishing, Picnicking, Wildlife viewing, and Auto touring available. Located 315 miles or 5 hours from UNC. The Smokies have a very biological diverse environment from big animals like bears, deer and elk, to microscopic organisms. There are about 1,500 bears that live in the park. Download a copy of the Smokies Trip Planner.