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With gas prices and unemployment at record highs, many are feelingthe pinch come summer. The dream of the ideal vacation some place remoteevaporates with a hard look at budget and savings. Sometimes, however, the“ideal” summer has more to do with quality time and a change in scenery thanfancy theme parks.

Nestled in the heart of Harnett County, just 40 miles from Fayetteville is agem waiting to be discovered. Raven Rock State Park offers hiking trails, picnicareas, campsites and amazing views. Located between Sanford and Lillington,off U.S. Hwy 421, this state park is a great way to spend a few hours or even afew days. Famous for its 150-foot-tall rock outcropping stretching more than amile along the Cape Fear River, Raven Rock has been fascinating visitors sincebefore European settlers arrived in the mid-1700s.

According to Park Ranger David Brown, Raven Rock boasts 11 miles ofhiking trails, nine in all, on the south side of the park. The longest trail is theCampbell Creek Loop, which is 5 miles long, or 6 miles if you opt to take thespur as well.

Says Kelly Fisher, Harnett County teacher and mother of three, “ I like thewalking trail behind the Welcome Center. It is stroller friendly, and you can stillexperience the wonder of God’s creation.”

Brown cautions that most of the trails require a jogging or bike wheelstroller due to the natural rock and gravel bars. The trails also have timbers atintervals to aid hikers with slopes. “From the parking lot to the overlook, thetrails are fairly even though,” says Brown.

If your goal is to hike to Raven Rock itself, you will have to navigate 100stairs to get all the way down to the river area.

Accessible from the separate entrance off Hwy 401 N, there are two horsetrails on the north side of the river. While hikers are welcome, the trails aremaintained for horse riding and hikers are urged to leave room in the smallparking lot for horse trailers.

The park also has a number of “primitive” camping sites at a nominaldaily fee. A primitive or backpack campsite consists of a fi re pit and either acomposting or vault toilet nearby. “We get a fair amount of campers in thespring and early summer,” says Brown. This year the park has seen an increasein the number of campers due to the early good weather. Brown says that thenumber of campers usually drop off as the weather gets hot.

Fishing is also a popular sport at Raven Rock. Visitors are limited to fi shingduring operating hours, but campers are welcome to fi sh at any time. Allfi shermen are required to hold the appropriate fi shing license.

For more information, or to sign up for Raven Rock’s free mobile app, besure to visit the Raven Rock State Park website: www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/raro/main.php.

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