The Panther Branch Natural Area is owned and managed by the Eno River Association. It is a 56-acre preserve open for low-impact recreational uses, such as hiking along approximately 2 miles of trail, picnicking, and photography. It opened to the public in April 2023.
Support our Parks!
Panther Branch Natural Area was purchased and protected by the Association in 2017 with funding support from the NC Land & Water Fund, Orange County, City of Raleigh Watershed Protection Program, and other Eno donors.
Seed funding to prepare the site for public opening was provided by Dominion Energy, First Horizon Foundation, Mountain Dew, the Duke Doing Good – Community Fund, and general operating support from members like you.
You can ensure this site can welcome the anticipated 5,000 visitors in the first year alone with your additional donation today.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Stay on Designated Trails
- No Off-leash Dogs
- No Bicycles, Motorized Vehicles, or Horses
- Do Not Litter (pack it in, pack it out)
- No Camping, Fires, or Hunting
- Fishing permitted with a valid fishing license
- No Disturbing or Collecting of Flora and Fauna or Extraction of Rock/Minerals or Water
- No Weapons, Illegal Drug or Alcohol Use
- No Entering or Damaging Structures
- Parking: Gravel surface lot within 50 feet of trailhead
- Trail difficulty: Easy to moderate natural surface, varying widths from 2-6 feet, varying grades including several steep inclines (Yellow Trail), the Yellow Trail requires traversing a 25 foot wide creek using boulders, hiking poles recommended
- Language: Signage in English and Spanish
- Other features: benches located in parking lot and on the east side of the Red Trail
- Visit our Accessible Activities page for more ways to discover the Eno
Indigenous Land Use
This is the traditional and ancestral homeland of the Eno, Shakori , Sissipahaw, Occaneechi, other people of Siouan descent, and their descendants, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. The Eno River Valley was their home for thousands of years before the arrival of people from other continents. Indigenous people are the original stewards of this land.
Colonial Land Use
While we don’t know much about the early history of this property, we can presume that it was in farm use. The only known historical feature for this property is Lebanon Road, which was the colonial road known as the “Great Road” that led from Hillsborough to Faucett Mill, a former grist mill that was built before 1792, and then continued west to Guilford County.
Panther Branch Natural Area was originally two separate, adjacent properties owned by members of the Iski Family. When they placed the property on the market, a realtor connected them with the Eno River Association. The landowners had a desire to see their properties preserved and eventually opened to the public. The realtor knew about our work through the Festival for the Eno where she volunteered for several years.
The property was acquired in 2017 with financial support from the County, State, and City of Raleigh. In 2022, thanks to the support of additional funders, a parking lot, trails, and other amenities were installed. The facility opened to the public in April 2023.
While we also love riverside hiking, we have to acknowledge the ecological impact it has on water quality and river health. Riverside trails damage riparian buffers — forested or vegetated land along a body of water which stabilize the streambank. In addition to preventing soil from eroding into the water, riparian buffers act as a filter to remove pollutants.
Because preserving riparian buffers is critical to protecting our water resources and improving the climate resilience of our communities, the NC Land and Water Fund limits activities within 50 feet closest to the waterway for properties they help fund. Specifically, the 30 feet closest to a waterway must remain undisturbed, and the 20 feet outside of that can be managed vegetation. So, not only is it the best ecological decision to keep trails off the riverbanks, it is also required by our funding partner. Learn more about riparian buffer regulations.
The Neuse River, of which the Eno is a tributary, provides drinking water to more than a million North Carolinians downstream. Panther Branch features over a mile of river frontage, and we’re proud to support the water quality of the Eno River for all our friends downstream, by giving you the opportunity to enjoy it from afar. Thanks for staying off the banks!