Raleigh-Durham, NC: Buckquarter Creek-Holden's Mill Loop

Just 20 minutes outside of Durham, take this 3.9-mile loop to get a good look at an old mill as you traipse through bluffs, banks, and boulders along the Eno River.
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Just 20 minutes outside of Durham, take this 3.9-mile loop to get a good look at an old mill as you traipse through bluffs, banks, and boulders along the Eno River.

In under 4 miles, get the best of two loops that weave through the Eno River Valley. Enjoy views of the river, watch closely for deer and other mammals drinking from the stream, and finally — scale a ridge to gaze over the entirety of old Holden’s Mill (climb down to explore its remains!). This half-day hike offers the perfect balance of manmade history and natural beauty; ruins certainly don’t ruin the area’s primitive valley charm.

This circuit connects two loop trails that meet at Buckquarter Creek. The hike begins next to the Piper Cox House, and trail maps are available at the trailhead. It is a short walk down to Fews Ford on the river where Buckquarter Creek goes right. Quickly the loop begins. Going right takes you up on a hill above the river, where the trail meets a Y. Stay left to reach the farthest point of the loop. Here, you can either continue for a shorter loop, or cross the bridge over Buckquarter Creek to add in the Holden's Mill Trail.

The loop for Holden's Mill begins immediately after crossing the bridge. Turn right to come back along the river. The trail then begins a long, but not-too-steep climb up a ridge to the top of a hill above the Eno. Unfortunately, at least in the summer, there are no views, although you should keep an eye out for deer hightailing along the river. The trail emerges in a power line cut that provides some views, then descends to a small creek.

At this creek, cross for a quick loop out to the ruins of Holden's Mill. The trail splits for another loop, and again, go right. It rises up a small hill and then looks down on the mill. There are three large stone walls visible, which seem to have been the mill and the water wheel canal. Also visible down next to the river are the remains of a dam. Continue along the trail and it will drop you down to the river, along which you will hike all the way back to your car.

The lower side of the loop takes you to the remains of the dam. The trail down here is sometimes hard to distinguish as it climbs over boulders, and even where it is obvious, it is narrower and a little more overgrown with grasses. However, if you just stay along the river, you're sure not to get lost. At the point where it seems like the trail goes down the mill canal, stay right to walk along the river and not in the mill canal. This trail will eventually take you right up to the ruins where you can explore them if you want.

Continue along the river in a section with lots of boulders that seems to resemble rivers in New England. The trail returns to the small creek where you should go right to finish the Holden's Mill Loop. It continues over large boulders, crosses under power lines, then turns up Buckquarter Creek to cross back over the bridge to return to Buckquarter Creek Trail (go right to finish the loop), which follows the river.

The trail here is exposed and can get quite hot on a sunny summer day, so keep refilling your water bottles in the rivers along the way. And enjoy the scenic last stretch: climbing over stone stairs, the trail rises above the river, walks along a beautiful cascade, and over wooden stairs before returning to Fews Ford, from where it is a short walk to your car.

MORE PARK INFO: Eno River State Park, (919) 383-1686; ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/enri/activities.php

-Mapped by John Thomas

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.3

Waypoints

BUC001

Location: 36.079176, -79.007181

The trail begins on the right when you get to Fews Ford, a ford across the Eno.

BUC002

Location: 36.079159, -79.006913

The loop trail begins here. Go right to save the river scenery for the return trip.

BUC003

Location: 36.079141, -79.006666

An unnamed trail climbs some stairs on the right. Stay left on the Buckquarter Creek Trail

BUC004

Location: 36.081795, -79.004391

The trail descends steps and then ascends some more on the other side of the ravine

BUC005

Location: 36.083806, -79.004778

The trail joins a gravel double track. Follow the sign and stay left.

BUC006

Location: 36.085367, -79.005829

At the Y, stay left on Buckquarter Creek Trail. The Ridge Trail breaks off to the right.

BUC007

Location: 36.085662, -79.007932

The trail comes to Buckquarter Creek here and turns left to parallel it.

BUC008

Location: 36.085384, -79.008125

A bridge crosses Buckquarter Creek connecting that trail with Holden's Mill Trail on the other side. To just do the Buckquarter Creek Loop, continue onward without crossing the bridge. To do the whole circuit, cross the bridge. Holden's Mill loop begins immediately after crossing. Go right to save the best views for the return trip. You will eventually return to this bridge, after doing Holden's Mill, and you should turn right to finish the circuit.

BUC009

Location: 36.088922, -79.01733

The trail crosses power lines here.

BUC010

Location: 36.086234, -79.020742

The trail meets a small creek here. You can either avoid the creek and continue on the current loop for a shorter hike. Or, you can cross the small creek to do the full circuit and see Holden's Mill

BUC011

Location: 36.084552, -79.021322

The loop to and around the mill begins here. Go right to keep the river for the return trip.

BUC012

Location: 36.084014, -79.021729

The ruins of Holden's Mill are below. It looks like you can see the mill and the old canal used to turn the water wheel.

BUC013

Location: 36.083165, -79.021643

The trail appears to take you into the canal that feeds the mill. Instead, go right over the old dam and walk along the river bank.

BUC014

Location: 36.083997, -79.021354

The trail goes by the mill again.

BUC015

Location: 36.086876, -79.018167

The trail climbs over several boulders in this area. The trail isn't always obvious in this area, but common sense should keep you from getting lost. As long as you're next to the river, you're good.

BUC016

Location: 36.086737, -79.016966

Power lines go over the river.

BUC017

Location: 36.080581, -79.005507

Buckquarter Creek Trail walks along a trail on the hillside above the Eno over a series of stone steps.

BUC018

Location: 36.080199, -79.005958

At a truly beautiful part of the river with small waterfalls, swirling pools, and a long and wide cascade, the trail climbs a wooden staircase.

Fews Ford

Location: 36.079124, -79.007202

A wide portion of trail

Location: 36.084118, -79.005121

Through the trees of the Eno River Valley

Location: 36.085558, -79.008007

The trail continues

Location: 36.085419, -79.008275

The trail continues

Location: 36.08906, -79.014595

Fossils

Location: 36.086217, -79.020731

The Eno River

Location: 36.08313, -79.021676

Visible wall at the mill

Location: 36.083928, -79.021804

Banks of the Eno River

Location: 36.086806, -79.018028

Small falls

Location: 36.08587, -79.012663

Path along the river

Location: 36.081777, -79.004896

View of the dam

Location: 36.08039, -79.005647

Serene waters

Location: 36.080008, -79.006054