“The trail ascends 100 ft up a stairway before offering stunning views of the river below.
— Matthew Rutledge
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This trail is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
The Stairway Trail begins at the parking lot and connects to both the Creek Connector
and the Creek Trail
. Clinging to the 100-foot bluffs that rise abruptly from Swift Creek are massive 200-year old beech trees. The size and stature of the beech are all the more impressive squeezed as they are onto a three-quarter-mile long preserve bound by Lochmere Golf Course to the west, a housing development to the south and busy Holly Springs Road to the east.
The north-facing bluff at Swift Creek has shaded slopes that support flora more at home in the cooler Appalachians: hydrangea, bigleaf snowbell, witch-hazel and alternate-leaf dogwood. (Two miles upstream, in a similar alpine-emulating setting, youll find montane hemlocks thriving at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.) Strategically placed benches allow visitors to rest and enjoy the cool of the bluffs, even in the heat of summer.
There may only be a mile or so of trail, but dont expect to blow through the preserve. In addition to the neck-craning beech, a narrow floodplain offers multiple reasons to take your time. In the spring, bloodroot and trout lily kick off a festive wildlife season that begins mid-February. The preserve earns a place in The North Carolina Birding Trail: Piedmont Trail Guide, especially during migration and early breeding season. And Swift Creek itself is a playground for beaver, muskrat and an assortment of aquatic life.
In the transition from winter to spring, vernal pools that collect at the base of the bluffs offer ideal breeding grounds for spring peepers and upland chorus frogs, noted, respectively, for their high-pitched call and resemblance to a thumb being run over the tines of a comb.
Make your way to the top of the bluff and take advantage of the numerous benches that turn their back on civilization (literally: the Lochmere development is less than 100 feet away). Take in the passage of Swift Creek below and a lush hardwood canopy that puts a concealing roof on surrounding Cary.