Friday, May 16, 2014

Eno River State Park - Cox Mountain Trail

Hike: Cox Mountain Loop Trail at Eno River State Park
Hike Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (one steep incline)
Hike Distance (Round Trip): 3.75 miles
Time (Round Trip): 1 1/2 hours
Total Elevation Gain (Loss): 395 feet (398 feet) 

This is one of my three go-to hikes/trail runs in the Durham area (the other two are Company Mill Trail at Umstead State Park and New Hope Overlook at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area). When I'm running it, I add the Fanny's Ford Trail loop on for a 5 mile run. The trail is almost entirely shaded so it's even a nice hike during the heat of the summer. Once again, I don't know why they insist on calling this Cox "Mountain". It is hardly a mountain! But there is one section of the hike that I would call strenuous, especially for a trail run. The rest is pretty easy, as long as you are watching your footing with all the roots in the trail.

The trail starts in the loop parking lot at the end of Cole Mill Road. Driving directions can be found at the end of this post. There are bathrooms and a drinking fountain, as well as a picnic area and trail maps to take with you. 

We started out the hike down the paved path through the picnic area and then followed the trail to the right when we reached the bluff. The Eno Trace Nature Trail is off to the left (a sign indicates this), but we continued the Cox Mountain Loop by turning right at the bluff. We quickly descended to the river before heading across the suspension bridge. 

After crossing the bridge, we continued following signs for Cox Mountain Trail. The trail heads up a little from the bridge and then veers right at the sign below. 

We always do this loop clockwise so the steepest section is uphill instead of down. We turned left at the Cox Mountain Trail sign (need to keep your eyes open for this because the sign isn't super easy to spot.) After the steep ascent, we quickly began to descend back down to the river. The descent isn't too steep, but it does last awhile and might be challenging for someone with bad knees. 

Once we got back down to the river, the trail veers right again and stays along the river. This is my favorite part of the hike. It always has the most amazing reflections! And if you are lucky and enjoy taking pictures, you will visit on a day when there is moisture dripping from the trees. I love these pictures!

The trail then veers to the right (again) and we began going back up; however, this ascent is much more moderate. 

Bottom line on this trail, except for the one left to go up the mountain, we always turned right. Once we climbed and then descended again, we reached the trail we came in on and turned right to head back to the footbridge. (When I add on Fanny's Ford trail for a longer loop, I turn left here). 

The signage is great on this hike and all you need to remember is Cox Mountain Trail and/or Footbridge. It is hard to get lost. The worst thing you can do is miss the first left to go up Cox Mountain the steep way, and then you'll just have to turn left at the next turn and do the loop counter-clockwise. 

Driving Directions from Durham
Take 147 North towards I-85 South and US-70.
Continue onto I-85 South.
Take exit 170 onto US-70.
Turn right onto Pleasant Green Road.
Turn left onto Cole Mill Road. 
Continue to the end of the road where there is a loop parking lot. 

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