So, Raven Rock State Park is not new to us. David (my husband) & I both attended Campbell University, so trips to Raven Rock were not uncommon. We also hiked parts of Raven Rock back in the summer, which was fun, but honestly, this past week’s hike was phenomenal.
This year, 2020, was the first time we had gone hiking on New Year’s Day and I believe this will be a tradition we keep from here on out. The weather was amazing & it was just so much fun greeting people along the way with not just a “hello” but also a “Happy New Year!” We decided to hike a couple of trails we did in June of 2019, but I also wanted to visit a new trail we hadn’t done, so we started on the Campbell Creek trail, did the Lanier Falls offshoot trail, & then squeezed in the East Loop Bridle Trail before it closed at sundown. It really was phenomenal. I know we hiked the CCL trail last summer, but it was like hiking a whole new trail because everything had changed since the leaves had fallen. It also seemed like a new trail because we took it the opposite direction we had gone the previous hike & we took a much slower pace than we had in June…and again, it was far more enjoyable because the weather was a LOT nicer compared to the 93-degree weather we hiked it in June. This time, the weather was in the 50s & 60s, the sun was shining beautifully, the sky was a crystal blue, the creeks & streams were babbling throughout, & it was just amazing, overall. I’m so thankful to live so close to such a beautiful park.
On this hike, I layered up since it was a bit cooler. Early on I started out in a couple layers of shirts, my earmuffs, buff, & Under Armor leggings. Once we got going & got the blood moving a little better, I was able to pair down to just the base layers. At that point, the cool wind felt great! I also added a couple gifts we had gotten for Christmas- an aluminum & adjustable hiking stick with a compass from my mom, & a pair of mid-calf hiking socks from my sister. The hiking stick really came in handy for me since I’m still dealing with an ankle injury from a few months ago, so the stick allowed me to take some of the extra pressure off my foot as we went, & it also helped keep stability at some of the steeper parts I crossed to get some good shots of the river. I still stuck with my Keens hiking sandals just because it wasn’t quite cold enough for full on boots (even though I always pack them in my hiking pack as a just in case…especially since my husband almost always wears regular-everyday sandals…with no back…bless him). There were a couple spots along the way where we had to cross creeks or streams to stay on the path, so if you don’t want wet, cold feet, wear full boots, but I was able to stay pretty dry & comfortable.
As I said previously, we did also visit the East Loop Bridle Trail, a 4-mile loop at the other entrance on the other side of the Cape Fear River. We had to drive back through Lillington & down Hwy 401 to get to it, but it really was worth it. One of the Park Office folks said that is one of their most popular trails, especially on the weekends, but it really wasn’t too bad that day. It was especially enjoyable because we got to see some folks riding horses, & there was this BEAUTIFUL black & white speckled horse at one point on the trail and I just got so excited. Obviously, with this trail you have to watch out for the “special presents” the horses leave behind on the way, but otherwise it was wonderful.
Overall, I highly recommend this park. If you haven’t visited make sure you do. It’s free to visit, it’s beautiful, & it is so worth it. Oh…side note, it’s SUPER popular on New Year’s Day in the afternoon. As we got back to the parking lot from our first trail hike people were having to park along the road & in some fields…that’s how popular. But definitely visit Raven Rock, & definitely try hiking as a New Year’s Day tradition, I know we will keep doing it as long as we’re able after this year.
Be blessed, friends!