Trail Report: Watershed Trails in Greensboro, North Carolina

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Trail Details

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • City / State: Greensboro, North Carolina /
  • Distance: 12.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: +/- Negligibleft.
  • Categories:   ,

With another sweltering summer in the rear-view mirror down here in Dixie, I hit a section of North Carolina’s famed Mountains-to-Sea Trail (hey, it’s famous with us) that runs through the Greensboro Watershed. The trails around Lake Townsend and Lake Brandt promise some of the best hiking in the Triad region of North Carolina; they’re all well-marked and fairly flat, so you can get put in major mileage without wearing yourself out.

My hike linked two trails: the 2.5-mile Osprey Trail and the 3.8-mile Townsend Trail. There aren’t any loops to be had along this route, so out-and-backs are the only option. Of the two trails, the Osprey is a bit more scenic and makes a nice five-miler if you take it the whole way.

These are basic trails that don’t require a lot of description — note that it’s pretty easy to miss turns and end up in the nearby neighborhoods, but it’s just a matter of retracing your steps till you see the white blazes again and getting back on track.

One caveat: there are at least a half-dozen transmission tower clear-cuts along the way. It’s hard to avoid these things around here — just about all the local trails pass under some of them.

Click the Photos tab for pics and chitchat.

Links for this hike



Trail Photos

Lake Townsend, Greensboro, NC, dawn

Lake Townsend near the Osprey Trail parking area. I atoned for goofing off all day Saturday by getting up ridiculously early on Sunday and hit the trailhead about 15 minutes before sunrise. Here's what I saw from Church Street, looking out over Lake Townsend. Not bad if I do say so.

Clouds over Lake Townsend

This is a little ways down the Osprey Trail. Check out the sun warming the tree canopy, which is starting to show splashes of fall color. It was below 50 (F) when I started and a petty stiff breeze blew across the lake all morning. We start looking forward to this kind of weather around the 15th of May; nice to finally have it arrive.

Swamp on the Osprey Trail

I  know there are swamps around lakes around most of the United States, but I always feel like I'm in the South when I see them around here. I'm also glad it was cold enough to keep the snakes in their dens.

Sunken boardwalk on the Osprey Trail

This boardwalk section of the Osprey Trail was under about three inches of water right here. I was thankful for having waterproof hiking boots.

Mushroom from ground level

Sometimes I do silly things like place the camera on the ground, turn on the auto-shutter-release and just see what happens.

Another mushroom view

Same mushrooms from ground level. Great place to deploy my trusty Gorillapod.

Leaves in the water

Dead leaves in the water can be photogenic if you're patient and know where to crop.

Bridge on the Townsend Trail

One of many bridges along the way.

Trail Notes

  • Amenities: Lake views, wildlife, birdwatching
  • Best for: Beginners, families, kids, locals, people who need easy trails
  • Best times to go: Autumn for leaf season; winter after a snowfall.


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Tom, Trail Sherpa's content editor, created Two-Heel Drive, a Hiking Blog, in time for fall colors of 2005. He hiked every trail worth hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to the middle of North Carolina in the summer of 2009. He'd rather be roaming the Blue Ridge.