How to Find the Chainsaw Art Fallen Tree in William B. Umstead State Park

A beautiful piece of art made from a fallen red oak tree awaits visitors
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Photo courtesy of Lauren Bell Isaacs

Fall is here and there is no better time to get outdoors with your kids to explore and enjoy this short, but sweet season. Whether you call it a nature walk or a hike, a great way to welcome fall in the Triangle is to go on a journey through the woods with your family.

One of the items that has been on my Triangle bucket list is to find the chainsaw art tree in William B. Umstead State Park. A few years ago, a giant red oak tree fell across the Graylyn multi-use trail in the park. Rather than see the tree's life come to an end, park ranger Jessica Phillips hired a pair of chainsaw artists, Jerry Reid and Randy Boni from Smoky Mountain Art in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to transform the century-old tree into a work of art in November 2017.

After doing some research about how to access the tree, I found that this destination made the perfect hike for a young family: low mileage and elevation gain, a wide and easy gravel trail, surprises along the way, and an interesting end reward in the form of the chainsaw art fallen tree. 

While there are several ways to find the chainsaw art tree, here's the one that works best for small kids and beginner hikers. Our crew included two parents, two kids ages 2 and 5, and an active grandfather. The hike is one mile round-trip on a wide, multiuse trail — meaning you will find hikers, runners, mountain bikers, lots of leashed dogs and maybe even trail riders on horseback. We did a quick Google search for directions but unfortunately found them not descriptive enough. (We're novices!) Pro tip: Save these instructions to your phone ahead of time as cell reception is spotty in the park.

Here are our tried-and-true directions:

  • Enter the park at the Crabtree Creek entrance (Highway 70/Glenwood Avenue) and follow the signs to park your vehicle at the Sycamore Road parking lot. You can enter "Sycamore Parking" into Google Maps for the exact spot.
  • Once parked, head to the corner of the parking lot where you'll find a water fountain, a trailhead sign, trash and recycling cans, and maps. (Take one!)
  • Follow the path up a short hill. You'll pass this old cabin on the right. There's not much to see inside but let curiosity get the better of your group and take a peek in. 
  • Continuing on, once that path comes to a T, turn right. Continue up this short stretch of trail and when that comes to another T, take another right onto the Graylyn multiuse trail. Travel approximately 0.3 miles on the Graylyn multiuse trail and you'll find the fallen tree on your left.​ That's it! Easy.

Once at the tree, a fun game you can play with your kids by asking them to count all of the animals on the tree (we counted 14). You can also identify the animals by name.

Be sure to explore the massive root section of the tree too. It's a work of art in itself.

Conveniently located next to the chainsaw art tree is a picnic table in case you need to refuel the littles with a snack and drink for the walk back. There is no trash can so please be sure to teach “Leave No Trace” principles to your kids. You can find a trash can back at the trailhead by the parking lot.

There's even a bench cut-out in the log where you can (attempt) to get a nice fall, family photo. That, in fact, may be the most difficult part of this outing.

If you're looking for more family-friendly hikes in the Triangle, check out:


Lauren Isaacs is the Digital and Social Media Specialist for Carolina Parent.



Categories: Exercise, Family, Outdoors, Seasonal Fun, Things To Do