Sunday Stroll: Swift Creek Bluffs

Tall bluffs create montane environment in Cary, NC area

Trying to actually let my Achilles tendon rest and heal has been torturous. Every time it starts feeling remotely better I immediately want to run off and do something - long run, hard hike, challenging climb, heavy weightlifting, you name it - and inevitably the next day my Achilles flares up all angry and full of needles. 

Factor in a cold January and that I am bound and determined to get a warmer sleeping bag before I go adventuring overnight in the winter again and that limits me to easy local hikes. My dad, being a good sport and styling himself as a rugged lumberjack sort of retiree (beard and plaid flannel shirt and all), happily bundled himself up on another frigid January morning to meet me at Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC.

Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve is a Triangle Land Conservancy property that nestles up against Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Swift Creek runs along both parks and is protected by tall bluffs which create a montane environment with flora and fauna commonly found at higher elevations. In January very little is showing off its alpine blossoms, but with the trees bare you can easily spy the creek along the entire trail.

My dad and I followed along the Creek Trail and the Stairway Trail, climbing steep stairs up the bluffs and along the ridge where we looked down at the creek on one side and peeked at Lochmere houses on the other. The trail was less than a mile long and didn't form a loop; we hiked 0.7 miles out and then, when the trail dead-ended at a greenway near a golf course, we turned around and returned the 0.7 miles to our car.

Hike It:

Get there: Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve is in Cary, NC. Primary parking is available via a parking lot directly off Holly Springs Road.

Distance: The trails are limited in this park, and there are no loops unless you get creative with trails outside the park. The Creek Trail is an easy 0.3 miles along Swift Creek. The Stairway Trail (also marked as "Beech Bluffs Loop" and "Stairway to Heaven") climbs up from the creek to the top of the bluffs via stairs and is 0.7 miles. Hiking out and back on the Stairway Trail we hiked about 1.4 miles.

Difficulty: Easy. There are some hill climbs via the Stairway Trail but there are plenty of benches to stop, catch your breath, and enjoy the view.

Dog friendly? Yes, but dogs must be leashed.

Kid friendly? Yes. There aren't many interactive features, but kids will enjoy the creek and the trail is short enough for most kids.

Tips: The bluffs are generally cooler so this may be an enjoyable hike for a hot summer day. On cold days be sure to bundle up.

What else can you do in the area? Check out Crowder Park or Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, both of which are nearby parks in Cary.

Trail map:

Have you ever hiked Swift Creek Bluffs in Cary, or is this on your list of hikes to explore? Let me know in the comments!


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