The long, balmy days have arrived in the North Carolina Triad, and a summer’s worth of outdoor recreation awaits in Winston-Salem. The region is full of outdoorsy ways to take advantage of the sunny weather, from paddling along local waterways to more high-flying adventure such as a hot air balloon ride or zipline (with wine waiting at the end). So here’s how to hit the trail, take to the air, and get on the water with 10 recommended picks to satisfy your inner adventurer this summer in Winston-Salem.
1. Mountain bike at Tanglewood Park.
The fast and flowy trails at Tanglewood Park offer novice, intermediate, and advanced loops for all MTB levels. A 1.5-mile beginner trail starts out with a series of tight turns, then levels out for a rolling, non-technical ride to the end. Be prepared to navigate roots, rocks, and log jumps on the two-mile intermediate trail. A 3.75-mile advanced loop tests advanced riders with tougher climbs, fast descents, and the most technical terrain in the park. Detour shortcuts throughout the trail network give bikers the chance to opt out of features. Another plus: The trailheads, located just outside the park gate, have free parking, water, and restrooms.
2. Kayak (and camp) along the Yadkin River.
Paddling the steady current of the Yadkin River is a slice of summertime heaven, and the easy pace makes the river especially enjoyable for beginning paddlers. For newbies, consider letting an outfitter do the planning. Yadkin River Adventures offers two- to six-hour self-guided outings, with shuttle service and gear included. Choose a distance to suit your paddling experience, from 5.5 up to 15-plus miles. Have your own boat? The outfitter also offers shuttle service up or down river, eliminating the need for a car drop.
If you want to make it a longer adventure, consider a paddle-in camping trip with Yadkin River Adventures. A two-day paddle takes you five to 10 miles each day, with riverside camping under the stars. Self-guided trips include shuttles, boats, and gear; a shuttle service is available for paddlers using their own boats.
3. Bag peaks and see waterfalls in two great state parks.
Explore miles of trails, ranging from wide, riverside footpaths to strenuous climbs and rock scrambles, in two state parks just a short drive north of downtown Winston-Salem. Pilot Mountain State Park, known for its distinctive rocky knob rising 2,000 feet above the landscape, offers a network of summit trails, including Grindstone, Jomeokee, Ledge Springs, and Little Pinnacle Overlook, that travel through diverse woodland habitat to cliffs and overlooks with 360–degree views of the surrounding Piedmont.
Hanging Rock State Park’s 18-plus miles of trails showcase the park’s streams, waterfalls, lake, and river. Hanging Rock, Moore’s Knob, Cook’s Wall, and Indian Creek trails combine the park’s most impressive water features with challenging elevation gain. In the summer, be sure to get an early start to avoid hiking in the heat of the day.
4. Bring your yoga outdoors.
Wake Forest Innovation Quarter’s Bailey Park is ground zero for one of the largest yoga classes in the Triad: Sunset Salutations, a monthly outdoor yoga class led by instructors at PAZ Studios. The event began as a way to encourage community in downtown Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter, one of the fastest-growing urban districts in the country. Hour-long classes are free, open to the general public, and move inside to the atrium of Wake Forest Biotech Place if it rains. Bring your own mat and arrive early to stake out your spot at this popular event.
5. Try stand-up paddleboarding.
Eager to join the legions of folks who tool around local lakes and rivers on a SUP? Take an introductory SUP lesson with Triad ECO Adventures to master basic techniques and safety. Once you’ve got those down, progress to SUP yoga and fitness SUP classes with Paddlefit-certified instructors on Salem, Belews, or Oak Hollow lake, or work your way up to a day trip on the Dan or Yadkin river. For a whole new perspective on the sport, sign up for a Glow Paddle SUP trip: You’ll depart at dusk on lighted boards that illuminate the aquatic life swimming just below your board.
6. Zipline, wine, and dine.
Sanders Ridge Winery may be most well-known for its vino, but it’s making a strong case for adding ziplining to the natural partnership of wine-ing and dining. And summer is the ideal time of year to check out this unique property, tucked into the woods off Highway 421. Start out with an aerial appreciation of the property’s old-growth forest on 12 lines and 14 platforms at the Big Woods Zipline. Then, head over to the winery to get a literal taste of the place by sampling award-winning wines—Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscadine, and Viognier are some of the French grape varietals grown on the 15-acre vineyard—followed by Southern-leaning American cuisine at the Sourwood Restaurant. If one day of outdoor adventure and wine isn’t enough, the Cabin at Sanders Ridge is available for overnight stays.
7. Saddle up to explore the trails.
Guided trail rides at Tanglewood Stables explore miles of dedicated bridle paths across grassland, bottomland hardwood swamp, and riparian forest along the Yadkin River. Common sightings along the way include red-headed and pileated woodpeckers, wood thrush, barred owls, and wood ducks.
8. Take flight in a hot air balloon.
Get ready for a bird’s-eye view of summer in Winston-Salem—and the adventures below that you’d like to check out—from a hot air balloon. Two-to-three-hour flights with Carolina Balloon Adventures soar soundlessly over landmarks like Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, and the rivers and meadows of the Yadkin Valley, rising up to 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the landscape. Flights take off at dawn and dusk, taking advantage of calm winds and cooler temperatures.
9. Run the Salem Lake Trail.
Winston-Salem is known in running circles for its hilly topography, so the moderate elevation of the seven-mile natural surface trail around Salem Lake is a welcome option in the heat of summer. The wide path loops around the lake with visible mile markers, making it easy for novices to pace themselves and more advanced runners to increase distance with additional loops. Ample shade provides plenty of respite from the heat, and a paved spur trail to downtown adds mileage with the enticement of a post-run pint and/or bite at breweries and restaurants at the far end of the trail.
10. Log a half-century on the bike.
Summer is an ideal time to amp up your adventure bucket list (and the training that comes with it), and for local cyclists, the 50-mile round trip from Winston-Salem to Pilot Mountain State Park is a must-do ride. The trip combines scenic country roads with a heart-pumping, two-mile grind up the peak of Pilot Mountain. Lewisville’s Shallowford Square is a perfect staging area to kick off the adventure, with ample parking and green space for prep and recovery. Enjoy the rolling terrain to Pilot Knob Road, where you’ll hit the final two-mile slog to the summit. Pushing through the 10-16 percent grade is worth the effort, with views of the Sauratown and Blue Ridge Mountains at the peak, where you can stop to admire the vistas (and catch your breath).
Originally written for OrthoCarolina.