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Stairway Trail

Intermediate
 4.5 (4)

The trail ascends 100 ft up a stairway before offering stunning views of the river below.


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Map Key

0.6

Miles

1.0

KM

Point to Point

385' 117 m

High

302' 92 m

Low

89' 27 m

Up

76' 23 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

29%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

This trail is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.

Description

The Stairway Trail begins at the parking lot and connects to both the Creek Connector and the Creek Trail. Clinging to the 100-foot bluffs that rise abruptly from Swift Creek are massive 200-year old beech trees. The size and stature of the beech are all the more impressive squeezed as they are onto a three-quarter-mile long preserve bound by Lochmere Golf Course to the west, a housing development to the south and busy Holly Springs Road to the east.

The north-facing bluff at Swift Creek has shaded slopes that support flora more at home in the cooler Appalachians: hydrangea, bigleaf snowbell, witch-hazel and alternate-leaf dogwood. (Two miles upstream, in a similar alpine-emulating setting, youll find montane hemlocks thriving at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.) Strategically placed benches allow visitors to rest and enjoy the cool of the bluffs, even in the heat of summer.

There may only be a mile or so of trail, but dont expect to blow through the preserve. In addition to the neck-craning beech, a narrow floodplain offers multiple reasons to take your time. In the spring, bloodroot and trout lily kick off a festive wildlife season that begins mid-February. The preserve earns a place in The North Carolina Birding Trail: Piedmont Trail Guide, especially during migration and early breeding season. And Swift Creek itself is a playground for beaver, muskrat and an assortment of aquatic life.

In the transition from winter to spring, vernal pools that collect at the base of the bluffs offer ideal breeding grounds for spring peepers and upland chorus frogs, noted, respectively, for their high-pitched call and resemblance to a thumb being run over the tines of a comb.

Make your way to the top of the bluff and take advantage of the numerous benches that turn their back on civilization (literally: the Lochmere development is less than 100 feet away). Take in the passage of Swift Creek below and a lush hardwood canopy that puts a concealing roof on surrounding Cary.

Flora & Fauna

Typical eastern forest vegetation. Maples, oaks, poplars , ferns and during the summer lots of wildflowers. Several species of birds.

Contacts

Shared By:

Matthew Rutledge with improvements by Jean-Claude Linossi

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 4 votes

#7928

Overall
  4.5 from 4 votes
5 Star
75%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
25%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#258

in North Carolina

#7,928

Overall
6 Views Last Month
614 Since Dec 21, 2015
Intermediate

0%
0%
75%
25%
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Photos

Boardwalks allow you to cross the bottomland floodplains without getting your feet too wet though still expect some water on the trails throughout the year.
Jan 5, 2016 near Apex, NC
The stairway up the Beech Bluff is short, but steep. Take a moment at the top to catch your breath and enjoy the view!
Jan 5, 2016 near Apex, NC
A boardwalk at Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve in July.
Jan 5, 2016 near Apex, NC
Atamasco lilies in the swampy area.
Mar 31, 2018 near Apex, NC
Black snake
Mar 31, 2018 near Apex, NC
Hepaticas on the hill sides
Mar 31, 2018 near Apex, NC

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Check-Ins

Jul 11, 2020
Staci Barfield
4mi
Jun 6, 2020
Staci Barfield
4mi
May 25, 2020
Lars Holmberg
2.1mi — 49h 22m
Feb 4, 2019
Sue Harmon
Dec 13, 2018
Don Childrey
0.6mi
Apr 11, 2017
Jean-Claude Linossi
Walked this trail with my grandchildren. Nice forested area. Many wildflowers in the spring. 0.6mi — 0h 30m
May 1, 2016
Justin Paul