Mason Farm Biological Reserve - Chapel Hill, NC
We all are looking for hidden nature gems right now, and we have one for you that is literally hidden behind a golf course in Chapel Hill. Introducing Mason Farm Biological Reserve.
Mason Farm Biological Reserve is part of the North Carolina Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill. After driving through a golf course parking lot, you will see a small gravel road on your right and a large rock engraved with the name of the Reserve. After driving down this single-lane gravel road for a bit, you will come to a small inlet on your right where you drive your car on an elevated concrete bridge through Morgan Creek to get to the parking lot. Driving across this bridge is probably the most Oregon Trail-esque thing we’ve done in the Triangle, but trust us, the water is not high at all - it doesn’t even cover your feet when you walk on the concrete - and any vehicle can get across. (However, if it has rained heavily around the time you are planning to go, it might get high and you should check this out before go on the Reserve website.)
The walking trail in the Reserve is technically a loop, but currently from what we understand, the boardwalk that was at the back portion of the loop is no longer, and if you want to do the full loop, you’re going to need some galoshes to fight the mud that is there. While this sounds like a great adventure, we were definitely not equipped to handle that, not to mention we got to a point where the trail narrowed and the grass was taller than Peter (who’s over 3 feet at this point). We still had a great time, going left at the fork and walking out and back, probably about a mile each way.
For any birders following along, we saw some fellow birders who said they saw some Indigo Buntings, but we sadly didn’t catch a sight of those brilliant blue birds. We did see many other birds, plus lots of butterflies and dragonflies, and some absolutely amazing mushrooms.
Our best tips:
1. We found the trail mostly shaded with a few sunny areas, but not enough that we thought we needed sunblock.
2. Definitely apply your bug spray.
3. Not a stroller-friendly hike.
4. Enjoy wading in the creek to cool off after your walk - this was our favorite part of the day!
IMPORTANT: To visit the Reserve, you need to obtain a permit from the Reserve’s website. This really seems like more of a formality because the minute you input your information on the website, you receive a permit in your email inbox. Per the Reserve’s instructions, this should be printed out and placed on your dash when you visit. We’ve included the link to the Reserve’s website on our website’s Links page (link in bio). We have read online that this isn’t really enforced, but it is so simple, there’s no reason not to do it.
Lastly, all credit goes to Peter’s dad for finding this amazing hidden gem.
Let us know in the comments if you make it out to the Reserve and what your favorite part is!
(Note: We're currently working on updating our website with our reviews. This review was originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on July 20, 2020.)