Perhaps the most difficult part of New Hope Overlook is getting there. The Jordan Lake state park doesn't give very specific instructions on how to find the place: "From US 64, turn south on Beaver Creek Road/SR1008. After passing Ebenezer Recreation Area, turn right onto Pea Ridge Road and follow the signs to the park entrance, which is on the right."
HA! "Follow signs." Yeah right. If you're looking for New Hope Overlook trailhead or hiking or whatever then you might miss the sign that says "New Hope Overlook Boat Access." Somehow in my mind "Boat Access" =/= "New Hope Overlook Trailhead." Maybe it makes sense to other people, but when you're on Pea Ridge Road looking for a park entrance and not a boat access or side road to get you to the park entrance you might find yourself turned around. So here's Google maps to help you get there.
But once you're there it's actually a pretty fun hike and worth the trip out to Jordan Lake. Take a right from the ranger's station and park anywhere. The trailhead is pretty easy to locate from the parking lot (farthest corner from the boat access area).
I took the red trail, which is the longer trail marked at 5.4 miles. It coincides with much of the blue trail (2.7 miles), which is a fine enough hike by itself if you're looking for a shorter romp, but why not cover more ground if you've got the time and the interest? (Flash player is acting up for me, so click on the trail below to view the trail, waypoints and pictures at the source).
The trails create a loop so you have to choose: left or right. I went right. This is a great option if you're looking to just do the blue trail (which is shorter and runs concurrently with the red trail for most of the way along the lake shore), or if you are looking for instant gratification along the waterfront. Oh, you prefer to save the best for last and have your dessert at the end of the meal? Then go left why don't you?
On quiet days (aka weekdays or winter) you'll enjoy the placidity of the lake and the rustle of the forest. Go ahead and pretend you're the only one out on the trail. Go ahead and imagine you're the only soul for miles. Jordan Lake isn't exactly the rugged backcountry, but it's just far enough removed that you can wonder at being so near the Triangle.
When you get to the sign that says "Overlook" definitely follow the arrow. It will lead you down a little path to a bench at the edge of the lake. The water laps up against a stretch of red clay beach, and you can have a respite while watching anglers repose on their drifting vessels. If you first went left the overlook is a chance to reconnect with the rest of society. If you went right the overlook is a final goodbye to your busy world. You'll see people here: canoers, other hikers, people on motorboats cutting past you in a froth of white wake, and kayakers who are languidly passing by. Take a moment, grab a drink, reconnect and then move on.
While the New Hope trail certainly isn't strenuous, it is the most difficult trail at Jordan Lake. You're not going to be scrambling over rocks and roots like you would along the Eno River, but you need to be able to make it up and down some fatiguing grades and dodge some fallen logs.
No seriously. What did I tell you about fallen logs? Watch out for them.
If you're from North Carolina then you're well aware that we have these periodic disasters called hurricanes. Every once in a while a major one hurtles up through the center of North Carolina and rips out some old and feeble trees, roots and all. On any trail in central North Carolina you'll see these arboreal skeletons - it's just that some trails are maintained a little more carefully and the fallen logs are cut up and cleared away. Don't expect this on New Hope Trail. After all, you're getting out here to sweat a little, get dirty a little and venture around a little, right?
Speaking of sweat, you'll really work up one once the trail splits away from the lake's edge and heads back toward the parking lot. Here it's all woods and hills and roots, but here's a tip: look up.
No seriously, why don't people ever look up? Do you realize how many characters would have survived in all those horror films if they had walked into a room and first looked up? Jeepers Creepers and Wrong Turn references aside here (after all I don't want you to watch horror films and get too creeped out that you never venture out into the woods again), stop and take a moment to look up while you're on the trail. There are some great bird-watching opportunities around Jordan Lake. What? Why are you scrunching up your nose like that? Oh, you think watching birds is for the birds? (Bad idiomatic phrase here, but we'll leave the binoculars and eye strain for ornithologists and Grandma with her bird feeder). Come on, you mean to tell me you wouldn't find it a little exciting to find a bald eagle?
Yeah, that's right. I said bald eagle. Jordan Lake is known for being a summertime home for bald eagles, so make sure you look up every once in a while to espy our magnificent national symbol. I wasn't fortunate enough to spot one on this trip, but the very first time I went to Jordan Lake a bald eagle greeted me at the New Hope trailhead in a long, looping glide.
But that's just the thing about New Hope trail at Jordan Lake - it's full of hidden treasures waiting to greet you. Peek around each cove bend, step across each wooden bridge and look up into a sky of bright Carolina blue and you'll find yourself transported to a haven - so close to the Triangle, yet so far away.
Jordan Lake website: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/jord/activities.php
New Hope Overlook trail map: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/jord/pics/newhope.pdf