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Five of the most beautiful hikes in North Carolina

by Insuredwell
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1. Flower Hill Nature Preserve, Johnston County

For years, the place to be in Johnston County in early May was Flower Hill. It’s the site of one of the easternmost stands of Catawba rhododendron — a “freak of nature,” according to North Carolina naturalist B.W. Wells — which just happens to bloom around Mother’s Day.

In 1937 alone, some 4,760 visitors signed the registration book at the event. People came from throughout the state and as far as New England to see the bloom. It sits on the steep, north-facing bluff above Moccasin Creek. The half-mile trail in lets you observe the rhododendrons both from above and below, along the shaded creek. Learn more here.

2. Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve, Charlotte

What’s so endearing about Ribbonwalk is that of its two dozen sibling nature preserves in Mecklenburg County, it’s one of the lesser appreciated. In part because it’s small — just 187 acres. And in part because you don’t know it’s there unless you stumble upon it, so well is it concealed.

But then, once inside, oh what an oasis, a rich collection of 106 species of herbaceous plants, 78 of woody plants, 53 bird species and 24 species of butterflies. Irwin Creek runs through the preserve, at one point past a grove of beech trees dating back 150 to 200 years. An easy three-mile hike. Learn more here.

3. Knight Brown Nature Preserve, Stokesdale.

Dropping down to Belews Creek into the heart of this 189-acre preserve north off Greensboro is like descending into another world. Descending on the aptly named Beechwood Bottomland Loop takes you through a stand of ancient beech trees. A waterfall tumbles into Belews Creek via a tributary, while the creek itself offers a rocky salute to mountain streams found 75 miles west.

The Creekside Loop trail, 3.3 miles long, offers a mellow climb up one of the surrounding ridges, likewise the Leatherwood Loop. The robust canopy and sheltered location makes this a pretty hike, and a pretty decent trek in the heat of summer, too. Learn more here.

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