Hiking Overview & Map
Pine Hill Trailhead, which opened in May of 2020, is the first phase of the Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area park. The first phase of the park contains 3.5 miles of hiking trail, with more trail opening in future phases.
All trails are color-coded and marked with matching blazes every tenth of a mile. Each blaze bears a 4-digit code that can be used for navigation or to help park staff or emergency responders locate you in case of emergency. Keep an eye on the blazes to make sure you’re on the trail you intended! If you get lost, please refer to the nearest trail blaze and compare its number to those on the map. In case of emergency, call 911 and report the nearest trail blaze’s 4-digit code. The trails interconnect in several places and can be combined to view more of the park or add challenge to your hike.
Click here to download a Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area Map (link will open a new window).
Northern Approach Trail
The Northern Approach Trail offers 2.5 miles of hiking through a monadnock forest. You will access this trail from the Pine Hill Trailhead. Hikers enjoy views of creeks and streams throughout the trail, moderate to high inclines, and a spectacular view at the top of the mountain. This trail is more challenging than the Heartleaf Loop with elevation gains of around 330 feet from the beginning of the trail to the top of the mountain. The Northern Approach Trail is ideal for the seasoned hiker.
The Heartleaf Loop bypasses the highest inclines to the top of the mountain and offers a light to moderate hike that is ideal for beginning hikers. The loop is 1 mile from beginning to end and is a great introduction to the mountain.
The Longleaf Loop Trail offers an additional 1 mile of surfaced trail offering clear views of the mountain range above. The packed gravel trail is perfect for runners or hikers with strollers or animals. The Longleaf Loop Trail meanders through a section of the park that has been recently planted with Longleaf Pine, a species native to Eastern North Carolina, but rarely found in the Piedmont.
Longleaf Pines and Prescribed Burns
Prescribed fires, also known as prescribed or controlled burns, are the controlled application of fire by fire experts in order to restore health to ecosystems that depend on fire.
Sections of Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area have been planted with Longleaf pine, a species native to Eastern North Carolina, but rarely found in the Piedmont. Longleaf pine is highly pyrophytic (resistant to wildfire) and dependent on fire. Longleaf pine trees have evolved to not only survive but thrive after fires. As saplings, they have a very short window of vulnerability to fire so most survive fire season to adulthood. Once Longleaf pines reach adulthood, they develop thick bark to shield themselves from fire. Prescribed burns will take place periodically at Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area to aid in the trees’ growth.
Longleaf pines take 100 to 150 years to become full size and may live to be 500 years old.
Due to the mountain’s height and inaccessibility, many species that are not easily found elsewhere in Alamance County, or even in the entire Piedmont region, thrive on and around the mountain. This is one reason that protecting the Cane Creek Mountains from negative human impacts is important. Below are some species prevalent in the Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area.
A natural community called the “Piedmont Boggy Streamhead” is common here, fed by rainfall seeping through the rocks of the mountain and pooling in shallow depressions. These areas make ideal homes for one of the oldest plant species on Earth: ferns. At least 8 different species have been identified on the mountain including New York Fern, Cinnamon Fern, Southern Lady Fern, Christmas Fern, Netted Chain Fern, Royal Fern, Broad Beech Fern and Resurrection Fern.
Historically, blueberries were used by Native Americans for food and medicine because they have many health benefits. Despite this long history of wild berry consumption, blueberry cultivation is a relatively new industry. Blueberry bushes grow wild throughout North Carolina and are prevalent in the Cane Creek Mountains. The most commonly grown variety of blueberry bush in North Carolina is the highbush blueberry. Highbush blueberries are easy to grow in home gardens and prefer warmer temperatures when compared with other varieties.
Southeastern Blueberry Bee
The Southern blueberry bee is known to be the most efficient pollinator in the southern region. The southeastern blueberry bee is one of the few bees that pollinate through “buzz pollination”, which blueberry flowers require. Buzz pollination is when a bee vibrates a flower to receive the pollen using its flight muscles. Southeastern blueberry bees are most active from February through April.
Keep an eye out for other hard to find animals that live here such as the Scarlet Tanager, Long-tailed Weasel, and Green Snake. You also can spot unique plants such as the Umbrella Magnolia, Solomon’s
seal, and Rattlesnake Master.