Visitors who are seeking to run through some of North Carolina's varied ecosystems will love this gentle loop. Whether you're winding along New Hope Creek, passing through what was once farmland on the Old Field Bluff Trail
, or making your way under the shade of the Beech Loop
, you're sure to enjoy an outing at Johnston Mill.
This park provides ample escape from the urban surroundings of the Triangle area, but doesn't feature the same crowds that can clog trails in other parks. Still, you'll likely want to either arrive early, or choose to run during the week.
Though the Johnston Mill Nature Preserve is smaller than some of the other parks in the area, there is still plenty to do and see in the area. Begin your outing on the Robin's Trail
, which will immediately help you to leave the urban life behind. You'll travel along New Hope Creek initially, so take your time to enjoy the peaceful sounds of the water. In just a short ways, you'll come to an intersection with the Bluebird Trail
. Take a right at this intersection to head southwest on the Bluebird Trail
This short spur will start with a bit of a climb, but soon you'll be covering ground on a gentle trail. The sounds of the creek will fade, but the views of open meadows will make up for it. As you continue, you'll come to the end of the Bluebird Trail
, and you'll continue straight on the Old Field Bluff Trail
From this point, runners will be moving through varied ecosystems, enjoying ridgeline travel along the bluffs, all while looking down upon scenic ravines, creek, and meadows. Keep an eye out for wildflowers, especially if you visit in the spring! Triangle Land Conservancy benches line this path, providing ample stopping places if you'd like to take a moment to enjoy your surroundings.
As you continue on, you'll find yourself making your way east on the second half of the Old Field Bluff Trail
. Soon, you'll come to an intersection with the Beech Loop
. Take the southeastern branch by turning right. Runners who are interested in the history of the park will enjoy this portion of the outing, as the recent farming use of this area is clearly visible. The forest in this section is in recovery, and this portion offers a rare chance to watch as the natural environment again takes over the area.
Once you've enjoyed working your way around the Beech Loop
, you'll come to the final intersection with the Robin's Trail
. Take a left on the Robin's Trail
to return to the parking area and your vehicle or turn right to extend your journey. Either way, you'll again be treated to the sound of New Hope Creek as it babbles along, right next to the trail.
Once you're ready to head back to civilization, simply follow the trail back to the trailhead.
The long history of the area is on display on these trails, as visitors will be able to see the fallen hearths and stones of the Johnston family's gristmills and homes. Inhabiting the land for nearly 200 years, this family first settled in the area in the early 1700's. Visitors will be especially able to see evidence of the family's activities in the winter, when undergrowth and leaves don't obscure the views.