From the mountains to the coast, opportunities to enjoy the spectacular nature around us exist no matter what season of the year it is here in North Carolina. Wake County is fortunate to have several outstanding parks and recreational areas in the Raleigh-Durham area that are open year-round for family enjoyment, including Wendell’s very recently opened Sandy Pines Preserve.
Sandy Pines Preserve
Late in the 1700s, the Marriott family homesteaded on a large tract of land in what is now Wendell, growing crops there and keeping livestock. Eventually acquired by the Procter family, the property was maintained as farmland and forest throughout the early 2000s, eventually becoming the largest family-owned property in the county. In 2008 the land was purchased by the Wake County Open Space program for development as a natural area, and today, at 563 acres, the brand new Preserve is the largest of Wake County’s parks.
Nature lovers will appreciate the Preserve’s various habitats and a wide variety of land and water species including hawks, wood ducks, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and beaver. 6-1/2 miles of trails for walking, biking and horse-riding wind their way through floodplain forest, agriculture fields and meadows, areas of Longleaf Pine restoration and mixed pine-hardwood forest, with picnic areas and benches throughout. The park is especially geared toward equestrians – one of just three Wake County parks that offer horse riding paths – with a number of scenic trails between half a mile and 2 miles long running through areas of open fields and pine forest.
The name of the park honors the property’s history of planting and protecting native Loblolly and Longleaf Pines as well as a 2019 reforesting partnership between the Triangle Land Conservancy, NCSU, the NC Forest Service and Wake County to plant additional Longleaf Pines in certain areas of the park.
Park hours through March 31 are Saturdays and Sundays only, 8am until Sunset.
Sandy Pines Preserve
7201 Doc Procter Road
Lake Johnson Park
Lake Johnson’s extensive nature trails feature hammocking posts, benches and a fitness route; over five miles of unpaved trails for hiking and nature exploration; and paved greenways – a section of the Walnut Creek Greenway Trail – suitable for biking and walking. Fishing is allowed for all those who have a current NC fishing license, from rental boats, paddle craft and the park’s boardwalk.
Classes offered at the Thomas G. Crowder Woodland Center and the Waterfront Center include programs and lecture series for children and adults on such topics as the natural environment, composting and even ballroom dancing. The Lake Johnson Pool, open seasonally, includes lap lanes, a wading pool and recreational main pool area.
Park hours year-round are Sunrise until Sunset.
Thomas G. Crowder Woodland Center: 5611 Jaguar Park Dr.
Waterfront Center: 4601 Avent Ferry Rd. (main park address)
Parking for Paved Greenways: 1320 Lake Dam Rd.; 5041 Avent Ferry Rd.
Parking for Nature Trails: 561 Jaguar Park Dr.; 5041 Avent Ferry Rd.
Bass Lake Park
The history of Bass Lake is an interesting one, from the time a country store was built on its banks in the early 1900s until the bursting of the lake’s dam – and draining of the lake – in 1996 with Hurricane Fran. Three years later the lake was restored by the town of Holly Springs and today Bass Lake – fed by three creeks – is a favorite spot for fishing, hiking and picnicking. A wide lakeside porch at the park’s nature center is the perfect place to rock and relax, offering visitors phenomenal views of water, wildlife and stunning natural forest.
Picturesque at any time of the year, the park also offers canoes, kayaks and a true fishing pier. A conference and nature center hosts meetings and events and includes native animal exhibits and a remote, covered picnic shelter. The park also features a variety of nature and hunting education classes, a fall catfish tournament, and activities for younger children including art classes, story times, and nature explorations. Geocaching – outdoor treasure hunting using GPS coordinates to locate geocache containers – and letterboxing – an activity in which participants find boxes throughout the park and record their locations through stamps in a logbook – are also popular activities.
Greenway trails around the lake as well as paths curving through neighborhoods between Bass Lake and Holly Springs’ Womble Park take visitors through miles of stunning areas of pine, oak and hickory. Most of the 1.9-mile loop around the lake is an easy walk around the shoreline along a mulched trail, while the paved Carl Dean Greenway branches off at the southern end of the lake and takes visitors past Sugg Farm – open at various times of the year for special events – all the way to Womble Park.
Park hours year-round are 8am until Sunset.
Bass Lake Park
900 Bass Lake Road
Holly Springs, NC
For tips on North Carolina Land Sales, NC Land and Farms for Sale in Central North Carolina, NC Farms and Land for Sale, or Financing for NC Land, please contact the professionals at Legacy Farms and Ranches of North Carolina.