Year Round
Weekly Schedule

7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.



Hiking Trails at the North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo invites its guests to venture down one of our many hiking trails. Please respect the Zoo rules and the privacy of adjacent land owners. 

Open Year Round on Days the Zoo is Open
Access is Free

April - October: 6:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
November - March: 7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Zoo Gates Close:

April - October: 7:00 p.m.
November - March: 6:00 p.m.

    Please remain on marked trails.
    Respect all wildlife; Do not approach or disturb any animals or plants.
    The following are not permitted: Littering, Alcohol, Weapons, Camping, Fire, Horses, Bicycles, Vehicles, Smoking

    Purgatory Trail Map

    Dogs are welcome on Purgatory Trails

    • Dogs must be leashed (max 6 ft.) at all times. 
    • Dogs must have current rabies vaccination and not be left unattended.
    • Dog owners are responsible for cleaning up after pets.
    • Only qualified service animals are allowed inside the Zoo.
    • Handicapped Accessible Trail 0.2 miles long

    The trail begins at the north end of the Zoo's North America Region parking lot the trail is accessible for wheelchair users with a wide, level gravel-paved path. This portion ends at a service road (please do not walk down the service road to the parking lot) before connecting to Purgatory Trail on the other side. 

    • Purgatory Trail 0.7 miles long

    Purgatory Trail begins at the north end of the Handicapped-accessible Trail (see above), on the other side of the service road (please do not walk down the service road). This trail continues uphill for a mile to the top of scenic Purgatory Mountain. It is a fairly easy walk.

    • Middle Mountain Trail 1.5 miles long

    This trail branches off Purgatory Trail and heads north along a rocky ridge to the top of Middle Mountain. The trail then follows switchbacks down the steep north slope of the mountain, ending at the trailhead on Woodell Country Road. .

    • Mountain Laurel Trail 0.8 miles long 

    This trail links the Purgatory Trail and Middle Mountain Trail, forming a loop with these two trails. It follows the sides of a ravine above a small creek, passing a large stand of mountain laurel at the southernmost point of the trail. 

    • Moonshine Run Trail 1.3 miles long

    This trail branches both left and right off Purgatory Trail at the foot of the Purgatory Mountain summit knob. It makes a complete circuit loop around the mountain while traversing the most rugged and remote areas accessible in this trail system. 

    Parking Lot Connector

    Only qualified service animals are allowed on the Parking Lot Connector Trail.

    Park Map

    Parking lot connector is near the bottom of the park map linking the two parking lots.

    Open April - October
    Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

    • Parking Lot Connector 0.7 miles long

    The parking lot connector trail connects the North America and Africa parking lots and signage is posted at either trail entrance. This trail has a stone dust surface and is an alternative way to get from North America to Africa parking lots instead of taking a shuttle bus.

    Hiking Trails in Randolph County

    These trails are not within the Zoo's immediate area and are accessible to the public during daylight hours unless otherwise stated. Please respect adjacent property owners when enjoying the trails. 

    Open Year Round
    Hours: Daylight Hours
    Some trails may require a reservation

    • Pisgah Covered Bridge 0.25 miles long

    This trail runs along one side of the West Fork of Little River and crosses a footbridge to return along the opposite bank.

    • Ridge's Mountain Preserve 0.8 miles long

    Access to this trail is by reservation only. 

    To make a reservation, call 336.879.7717, Monday-Friday during working hours. There is some parking available at the gate. The trail follows the crest of the mountain. The first half of the trail is fairly level and follows an old road to a clearing. At the clearing, a short trail leads east to an upland pool. The second half of the trail is narrower, steeper and rockier. It ends just short of the southern summit. (The southern summit is private property and does not belong to the Zoo). Ridge's Mountain is a Nature Preserve and contains 270 acres of land.

    • Spring Trail  1.7 mile loop

    Access to this trail is by reservation only. 

    To make a reservation, call 336.879.7717, Monday-Friday during working hours. Located at Ward Nature Preserve at the headwaters of Bachelor Creek just south of the Zoo. This hiking trail is a 1.7-mile loop with two bridges that offer scenic views of the meandering creek and fern-covered slopes.  The mature hardwood forest is brimming with wildlife, including a diversity of songbirds, box turtles, and white-tailed deer.


    Local Trails, Parks and Recreation

    There’s so much more to do when you come to the Heart of North Carolina! Check out our local community and explore the area’s network of hiking trails.


    Location of Trails at Purgatory


    35.631959968276, -79.766503139505