Little River Regional Park and Natural Area
By Derek Long
Rougemont, NC -- The Little River Regional Park is a cooperative partnership between Durham and Orange Counties.
Spanning the borders of the two counties the 390-acre park encompasses a section of the Little River, considered on of the piedmont’s most pristine waters.
Part of Durham County’s drinking water comes comes from the Little River. “About five years ago we were able to identify river otter in our section of the river,” says Park Manager Michael DiFabio, “and river otter are listed as, not rare but very infrequent to the piedmont area of North Carolina, and to find them in a river system, like the Little River only indicates a good water quality.”
Visitors will find ample amenities at the park including picnic tables and shelters, a children’s play ground, and a large open field, a quarter mile paved ADA accessible trail, and restroom facilities. Shelters are available to reserve and the playground and open field make it a great location for family, church and other gatherings. In addition to providing an opportunity to get out and enjoy nature, DiFabio highlights the fact that, “We do a ton of environmental education programs here at the park, they’re focused on kids and families. We do have some adult oriented type programs that we do. We do star gazing.”
Another feature at the park is the birding trail located behind the park office. It’s recognized as part the North Carolina birding trail.
The majority of visitors to the Park come to take advantage of the hiking and mountain biking trails.
“We have two separate system of trails. One is a hiking trail and the total mileage is about seven miles of hiking trail. We also have a separate system of single-track mountain bike trails. Which were built exclusively by volunteers at the time and maintained by park staff and they total about 8 miles. There’ plenty of mountain bike trails in the area but we’re exclusively single-track which is nice.
What differentiates single-track from other mountain bike trails, says DiFabio, “is the tread you’re riding on is probably no more than maybe six to eight inches wide, whereas a hiking trail usually has a maybe three-foot width or two. So it makes for a little bit more interesting, more challenging, a little more exertion has to go into it, and you’re riding strictly through the woods so you’re not on any type of road, you’re exclusively on a trail built specifically for mountain bikes.
The bike trails include sections to accommodate beginners to advanced riders. “So,” say DiFabio, “folks of any skill level can come out here and learn the recreational use of mountain bike riding. We have a little bit for all experience levels here with our, with our single-track mountain bike trails.”
The Bike trails are well marked with blue fiberglass posts along side the trail.
The hiking trails are marked with green markers and use a number system.
The Ridge, and North River trail is marked by odd numbers, and, the South River Trail by even. That way explains DiFabio, “ if you were to get turned around, and you’re still on the trail, you can go to the next marker, find the number, and then basically we tell folks just count down in number if you need to get out or if you’re lost or disoriented or whatever, by following numbers back down you’ll get back to the trail head. And then, there’s signage at the trail head that’ll take you back here to the parking area.”
There are two main hiking trails at the park, the South River Loop Trail, which is about two and a half miles, and the Ridge trail which is about three and a half miles.
“And both will take you to the Little River, which is really scenic.” Adds DiFabio, “it’s not very mountainous here in the piedmont of North Carolina, but there’s plenty of ups and downs to give you a good workout if that’s your goal to come and hike for a workout.”
The miles of trails are popular for trail runners as well, and for the past ten years the Carrboro based Trailheads have partnered with the park to host the Little River Trail Run held in January. “It’s one of the largest trail runs east of the Mississippi.” Says DiFabio, “and a lot of the proceeds from that come directly back to the park. Over ten years we’ve been able to receive about 50 thousand dollars in donations from a very simple, very fun, trail run that goes on in January.”
So whether you’re looking for a great place to get out and run, hike, mountain bike, or just simply enjoy nature, mark the Little River Regional Park as one of your fitness destinations.