Next on our list of weekend adventures is Dunn’s Mountain Park (and nature preserve). Located in Salisbury, NC, I was drawn initially to this park because of the paved uphill trail to the summit and the fact that the trail is only a quarter mile or so each way. Once I was there, though, I was surprised how much history there was to the area as well.

This made it an attractive trip for my family, since our little guy could walk the trail fairly easily and we could pull his wagon along for when he got tired.

Price of Entry: Free
Trail Difficulty: Easy (and mostly paved)
Variety of Trails: Mostly just the one

What The Park Offers

The parking area features bathrooms in a hybrid building that’s also where you can go for shuttle rides to the top of the mountain (at certain times). The path up to the summit has numerous cool sights along the way, including massive boulders and several vistas where you can look down at parts of the quarry.

Near the top you’ll find several picnic tables strewn about. Some of them overlook parts of the quarry and others are surrounded by trees, so you have your pick for the kind of vibe you’re looking for if you’re sitting for a few or having a meal.

There is also a ranger station at the top, where the shuttles drop you off if you go that route. The guys there are very friendly and knowledgeable, and the one gentleman told us all about the history of Mr. Dunn founding Salisbury in the 1700s, how the park came to be, and some other notable things to check out in the area.

(Those included the original house Dunn lived in, which is available for tours at key times, as well as Dan Nicholas Park.)

The summit has some great views of the granite quarry along with, on a clear day, an ample view all the way to Winston Salem and other nearby mountains.

There’s also a small blacksmithing building that you can peek inside to see a collection of old, historic tools.

As A Photo Opportunity In The Advance to Winston Salem General Area Of NC

I’m always on the lookout for new places to explore that don’t require a ton of driving. If you’re in the Winston Salem area, or even as far west as Mocksville, this is a straightforward drive that won’t chew up your whole day.

Get directions here.

1740 Dunns Mountain Rd.
Salisbury, NC 28146
Visit their website for more information.

There’s a ranger cabin at the top of the mountain and usually at least one person on duty. They are very knowledgeable and willing to chat about the history and surrounding area, so if that’s of interest to you make sure to stop by and say hi.

What’s Ideal For Photos:

  • A relatively short, easy to walk trail will get you to the top for some landscape photography opportunities, as well as bird watching.
  • Several of the giant boulders along the trail are cool in themselves, but you can’t get very close to any of them because of fencing.
  • On a clear day you have a spectacular view to several nearby cities, and major landmarks stand out against the mountains and trees in the horizon.

What Could Be Better:

  • I understand the need for fences for safety at a quarry, but so much of the area is fenced off that it detracts from the ability to actually get a clear view of a lot of the quarry, even at the summit. I found myself having to stretch to shoot photos over the fence or through it, and sometimes the angles and distance were not ideal either because of where you are forced to stand because of the fences.
  • Plus, when it feels like everywhere you look there’s a fence telling you to stay away, it detracts a little from the sense of “public” in public park.
A magnificent yellow tree on the trail at Dunn's Mountain
Great autumn colors along the trail.
Zoomed in view of the trees from the summit
Zoomed in view of the trees from the summit.
Autumn leaves at the summit, near the ranger cabin
Autumn leaves at the summit, right next to the ranger cabin (left)

History of Dunn’s Mountain and the Area

The land was originally privately owned by the Dunn family. For many years conservationists and nature enthusiasts appreciated the area, and envisioned how the land could be used for public enthusiasts. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the dream for it to be more began to take shape.

Through a blend of local advocacy, government interest, and a sprinkle of serendipity, the area was eventually designated as a public park. The transformation involved careful planning to preserve its natural beauty while making it accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Those involved carved trails, erected signs, and added ample picnic tables at the summit to create a peaceful area for families to spend an afternoon.

It’s a hotspot for birdwatchers and nature photographers, drawn by the promise of capturing a rare species or a perfect sunset.