Shallow Ford Natural Area


Address: 1955 Gerringer Mill Road, Elon
Total Acres: 197
Operated By: Alamance Parks, (336) 229-2410,

Prior to the installation of modern bridges, the Haw River was a major barrier for travelers through Alamance County. The river could only be crossed by ferry or at the few places where rocks and low water created a natural crossing, called a ford. The most popular ford in northern Alamance County was “The Shallow Ford,” located near this spot.

The Shallow Ford became an important crossing for travelers, traders, and soldiers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first bridge across The Shallow Ford was built by 1835. Over time, a small community called Shallow Ford arose near the crossing. The Shallow Ford Post Office was a short distance northeast of the park.

The park is named in remembrance of the crossing and the travelers who used it. It now boasts four hiking trail loops and an Observation Deck situated in the midst of a Wildflower Meadow. The Deck and Meadow were developed in 2015. The Wildflower Meadow is seeded with a mix of annual, perennial, and biennial flowers, with new plantings each year. Enjoy strolling through the flowers or watching the birds and insects attracted by the plants.

Basin Creek Trail

Distance: 0.75 miles
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Blaze: Orange

This 0.75 mile loop leads through mature forests and open fields to the site of the original grist mill constructed by Lewis Gerringer in the late 1800s. The trail returns along the banks of Basin Creek past beech trees and unique rock formations. Use this trail to access the Observation Deck and Wildflower Meadow.

Hidden Hill Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Yellow

The Hidden Hill Trail travels through a wide diversity of habitats on its 2.2 mile journey. After diverging from the Basin Creek Trail, it winds through pine thickets of reclaimed farmland, revealing furrows left from decades of plowing. The trail then climbs to the highest point on the property at 679 feet before winding down the banks and bluffs of Plum Creek, where a rich diversity of plant life thrives on the north-facing slopes. The return leads past vernal pools and wetlands that are home to a variety of turtles, salamanders, and frogs. Begin on Basic Creek Trail- the Hidden Hill Trail branches off at the 0.4 mile mark.

Homestead Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Blue

The Homestead Trail leads up Basin Creek to the Tickle/Gerringer Homestead. The site was originally the home of Michael and Hannah Tickle in the early 1800s. The rock chimney, hand-dug well, and root cellar are still visible. The trail returns along the Haw River, passing the site of the original grist mill on Basin Creek. Begin on Basin Creek Trail- the Homestead Trail begins across the bridge over Basin Creek.

Shallow Ford Loop Trail

Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Green

The longest trail in the park, the Shallow Ford Loop Trail combines elements of the other three trails to provide a complete overview of Shallow Ford Natural Area. The trail climbs up the Hidden Hill Trail, winds down Plum Creek, and crosses Basin Creek on the northern end of the park. It then continues past the Tickle/Gerringer Homestead and along the Haw River, before rejoining Basin Creek on the return trip. Begin on Basin Creek Trail, turning onto the Hidden Hill Trail at 0.4 miles. At 1.5 miles, turn right, crossing the upper bridge over Basin Creek. At 1.9 miles, turn right again onto the Homestead Trail. After 3.0 miles, cross back over Basin Creek on the lower bridge and return via Basin Creek Trail.