Hiking Overview & Map
Great Bend Park offers over a mile of riverfront and wooded trail. The trailhead provides a parking area with handicap parking and a vault toilet restroom facility. Starting at the trailhead, follow signs for the Haw River Trail/Mountains-to-Sea Trail which will take you to the Island and Highland Trails or point you towards Glencoe. A combination of wide paths for easy side-by-side walks and narrower nature trails provide a variety of hiking experiences.
If you head to the Island Trail, you’ll cross a bridge over the Glencoe Mill Race taking you up to the rock wall overlooking the impressive Glencoe Mill Dam. From there, you can continue along the Island Trail for riverfront views and picnicking or head over to Historic Glencoe Mill Village and take a stroll through history. This park offers great photo opportunities and a chance to observe wildlife.
This 0.8 mile trail winds through mature hardwood forest on narrower nature-style hiking paths. The Tree ID Tour is marked along this trail with 12 different tree species highlighted in the Tree ID guide. See the Tree ID Hike section below for a complete description and map.
The shorter 0.5-mile Island Trail follows the riverfront and offers fishing access, paddle access, and a number of picnic areas. You’ll pass the mill race and dam on your way to this trail. Beautiful riverfront views make this trail stand out.
Continue to Glencoe
It is a short walk from Great Bend Park to the Glencoe Mill Village, and from there to the Glencoe section of Haw River Trail. The Glencoe Section offers a longer stretch for those looking for a more challenging hike. Section details can be found on the Haw River Trail website.
Great Bend Park offers a popular fishing access point very close to the parking area. This means a short walk for carrying your gear. From the parking area, just follow the Haw River Trail sign down the stairs, across the open field, and onto the trail. You’re there!
The main trail and Island trail are dotted with five picnic areas nestled among the trees along the river bank. Enjoy a riverfront picnic lunch or just stop to take a rest on your hike. The views won’t disappoint.
Great Bend Park offers a take-out point for paddlers coming down the Haw. This isn’t really a place you’d want to put-in as it’s a long hike from the parking area but it can serve as a much-needed break if you’ve just done a long stretch from upriver.
Great Bend Park is located adjacent to the Historic Glencoe Mill Village. This amazingly well-preserved mill town is a short walk from the park and from there it’s only a short distance to the Haw River Trail’s Glencoe Paddle Access. As you walk the trail you’ll come upon the mill race (waterway in left of photo), where water was diverted to power the mill. Across the bridge over the mill race is the impressive dam and a stunning view. From the mill race and dam, you can see the Village in the distance.
Stroll Through History
Glencoe Mill Village is one of the best-preserved mill village complexes in North Carolina. The Glencoe Cotton Mill and village were established in the late 1800s by the Holt family in an area previously home to a gristmill and sawmill. It’s a pleasant walk through town on not-too-busy streets dotted with interpretive historical markers.
If you’re passing through on Tuesdays through Saturday, make time to visit the Textile Heritage Museum (link will open in a new window), which showcases life in the mill towns that thrived along the Haw for more than a century, beginning in the early 1800s.
Learn to Identify Trees
If you’re hiking the Highland Trail, grab one of our Tree ID guides at the Trailhead. There are 12 different species of trees marked along the trail. The guide offers identification information matched up to tree markers and quick facts about each tree species. It is designed so you can match up the trees and learn about them or quiz yourself if you want more of a challenge. The wonderful leaf illustrations were drawn by one of our very own staff members.
Guides are available at the trailhead or you may download one by clicking here (PDF will open in a new window).