During this ongoing time of social distancing and revised stay-at-home orders, I continue to explore the hiking trails that satisfy my desire to be outdoors yet are close to home.
A place that has been on my shortlist for quite some time has been the hiking trails of the Piedmont Environmental Center (PEC) in High Point.
The center is run by the city of High Point with exhibits and environment-oriented classes, though the building is currently closed and classes have been suspended due to state-ordered COVID-19 restrictions.
However, the center’s 6.6 miles of hiking trails remain open during daylight hours, and the center’s restrooms and vending area are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Bill Faver Lakeshore Trail, a 1.8-mile loop trail that circles the center’s South Preserve, gives visitors the broadest variety of woodland trails with access to lakeshore habitats. Other trails bisect the South Preserve allowing hikers to make a shorter loop and spur loops, such as the Wildflower Trail (0.4 miles) and Raccoon Run (0.6 miles) allow hikers to add distance and see other parts of the preserve.
To get to the trails, pass through the center’s covered porch and continue across the grass lawn until you see a kiosk with a map of the south preserve. Hike to your left to follow a clockwise route of the preserve.
The entire trail system at PEC is covered in a canopy of mixed hardwood and pine trees, a welcome relief from summer’s mid-day sun. Junctions with intersecting trails are well marked with both signs and colored trailposts corresponding to the aforementioned map.
About 0.1-mile on the left is the Wildflower Trail. This time of year the Wildflower Trail has few wildflowers to show but does roll over undulations and crosses a creek filled by recent rains.
The lakeshore trail parallels the bustling, paved Bicentennial Greenway here before descending toward High Point Lake. By comparison, I only saw two small groups during my entire two-hour hike on the natural surface trails.
Walk softly as you approach the lake and you might get a look at a bale of turtles sunning on logs or a great blue heron wading in the inlet’s grasses. During my hike I saw at least three herons and one I saw multiple times as he tried to escape my advances around the lakeshore.
As the name implies, the lakeshore trail follows High Point Lake for about 0.4 miles before turning a bit inland. Go another 0.4 miles and you will intersect with Raccoon Run. This spur loop will take you back to the lakeshore on a peninsula with views of High Point City Lake Park and the reservoir’s dam.
Continue past Raccoon Run and you will get additional views of the lake before returning to the center’s parking lot in about 0.7 miles.
All of Piedmont Environmental Center’s natural surface trails are limited to pedestrian traffic. Two multi-use, paved trails — the 6.7-mile southern segment of Guilford County’s Bicentennial Trail and the 4.45 High Point Greenway — are accessible from the PEC. Parking is limited at PEC so those looking to use the greenways for cycling might consider using some of the other parking lots such as Jamestown or Gibson parks for Bicentennial Greenway or High Point’s Armstrong or University parks for the High Point Greenway.