Harris Lake Public Programs

Photo of staff and kids at public program

Harris Lake County Park offers programs covering nature, history and recreational topics. Public programs are open for registration to the general public.

Registration for Public Programs & Reminders

Public Program Registration & Reminders

To register for one of our public programs, click the button below the program description to be taken to the registration page on our online registration website.

Having trouble registering for a program online? Contact the park office at 919-387-4342 or email us at harris.lake@wakegov.com for assistance.

Important Program Reminders:

  • For Family Programs, every participant must be registered online in advance.
  • "Walk ups" (those not registered online but show up) may not be able to participate in the program. Register early!
  • Pets are not permitted at programs.
  • If a program has a minimum age, children who do not meet the minimum will not be allowed to participate. Children who do meet the age requirement must have a parent or guardian with them in the program. Age limits are established for safety and program content.

Self-Guided Activities

Geocaching

Photo of a young man who has found a hidden geocache

The hunt is on during this high-tech "treasure" hunting game, where park visitors come equipped with GPS devices in search of hidden geocaches! The geocaches located in Harris Lake County Park are hidden containers that have been approved by park staff and placed on park property for your exploration and enjoyment. Geocaches can be of varied sizes and hidden in easy to difficult-to-find places. Use GPS devices to help find these hidden containers and then record your find on the paper log provided in the geocache. Some geocaches have little items, such as toys and stickers, that you can collect and replenish as you play, so the activity can be a real "treasure hunt." This activity can be self-guided by getting coordinates from Geocaching.com and bringing your own GPS unit, or you can participate in one of our scheduled “Geocaching 101” public programs.

To learn more about geocaching, watch this short introductory video created by Park Manager Christina Hester.

Placing a Geocache
Geocaching on Wake County Park property is handled on a park-by-park basis. Please visit a specific park's website or contact them directly to learn about their geocaching policies.

Geocaching is an accepted recreational activity at Harris Lake County Park though at this time, no additional/new geocaches will be approved until further notice. The park maintains a maximum number of caches on park property. Those wishing to establish a new cache must receive approval from Harris Lake County Park prior to placing a cache. To obtain the approval you must complete and submit a Geocache Placement Request Form to the park office. Please refer to this form for more information.

Orienteering

Photo of Harris Lake County Park orienteering course marker #1

If you love the outdoors, exploring and map reading, then orienteering is for you! Orienteering is the sport of navigating through an unfamiliar area using a map and perhaps a compass. The object is to make your way through a series of points identified on a map and return to the finish line in the shortest amount of time possible. The route of your journey is up to you.

Orienteering is sometimes called, “the art of map and compass reading.” This fun outdoor recreational activity dates back more than 100 years and uses “low-tech” tools to navigate the landscape. Often set as a timed challenge, orienteering is a fun way to exercise and build wilderness survival skills. Finding the points and markers is a sort of “treasure hunt” for participants of all ages.

Harris Lake County Park’s Orienteering course includes a short course (5 waypoints) and a long course (16 waypoints) that navigate you to different parts of the park, including wooded, field and play areas. They are accessible at all times of the year that the park is open. You can use our Harris Lake County Park Orienteering Course brochure as a guide for getting started, as well as our printable course sheets to fill in the points as you find them. Each point has a rubbing – try to collect them all!

Orienteering Short Course (5 waypoints)

Orienteering Long Course (16 waypoints)

Group Orienteering
Group Orienteering

Mobile Tours

"Official" graphic for the Harris Lake County Park mobile tours

Take a mobile tour and see the park through a new lens!

Harris Lake County Park has three interactive cell phone tours that you can access from home or while you're at the park. You can access each tour from the hyperlink title below.

NEW! Educational Garden Tour
Along this tour, you will learn about some of the history of the park, some of the plants in the garden, and great ways to help wildlife in your backyard.

Cypress Tree Trail
Test your knowledge and learn more about some of our common trees.

Red Fox Run Interpretive Trail
Discover more about the plants and animals found at the park.

Womble Interpretive History Trail
Explore life on a farm as you learn about one of the families that lived on the property before it became a park.

Mobile tours have also been developed for other park sites and you can view them all here.

For more activities you can enjoy from the comfort of your home, visit Harris Lake From Home and find all of our Wake County Parks From Home pages at Wake Parks From Home.

Go For a StoryWalk®

The graphic for Harris Lake County Park StoryWalk®

Take a self-guided StoryWalk® at Harris Lake County Park! A StoryWalk® is a children’s book that is presented page by page along a trail or path. It combines the pleasures of reading a children's book while enjoying nature. Every other month, the paved trails in our Day Use (shelter) area or the paths in and around our Educational Garden and Natural Play Area will feature a different illustrated children's book. Interactive activities are included at the bottom of each set of storybook pages to further engage your child as you make your way through the book. StoryWalk® will be available during current park hours. Beginning in August 2022, you can go for a StoryWalk® at the New Hill trailhead of the American Tobacco Trail located just 10 minutes from Harris Lake County Park (1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Road)!

The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont, and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.

Oct. 1–30: Be Nice to Spiders, written and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

Cover image of the book Be Nice to Spiders, written and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

NEW! Adventure Backpacks

Photo of the self-guided activities available in the Bug Out! Adventure Backpack at Harris Lake County Park

Parents and teachers, would you like to enhance your visit to the park? Our four new Adventure Backpacks contain self-guided educational activities complete with instructions, equipment, guides, and take-home activities for further enrichment.

Choose from the following offerings:

  • Birds of Wonder Explore the wonderful world of birds! Go birdwatching with binoculars, learn how to keep birds safe, practice your worm-hunting skills, and more!

  • Bug Out! Be an insect investigator! Go on a big hunt to safely catch insects, discover how to create insect habitat in your own backyard, play a game to move like different insects (Can you fly like a dragonfly? Scurry like a roach?), and make a fun craft and insect-themed snack with take-home activities!

  • Exploration Learn how to be a nature detective as you explore the park! Participate in a special challenge to decipher clues as you visit different areas of the park, make your own scat, and more!

  • Journey to the Past Embark on a journey to the homesite of a family who lived on this land before it became a park. Play games of this bygone era, go on a scavenger hunt, try your hand at our "history mystery", and use props to play make believe at the Womble family Wash House!

Adventure Backpacks are located in a bin at the Park Office building (first right after you enter). Stop by anytime during park hours to sign one out and begin your adventure! 

Virtual Public Programs

Wild Wednesday Program Series

Join us for our Virtual Wild Wednesday Program Series! Virtual public programs will be interactive, including  games, stories, activities, and/or live specimens with suggestions for further enrichment and an invitation to explore the outdoors. Zoom meeting links and other pertinent information provided upon registration.

Spiders: Weavers and Hunters
Wednesday, Oct. 19, 3–3:30 p.m.

Spiders are some of the most misunderstood creatures. We will investigate the life cycle, biology, and benefits of this fascinating and important group of animals. Virtually meet some live spiders collected from around the park. 

Water + Land = Wetland
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 3–3:30 p.m.

Meet the powerhouse of ecosystems: wetlands! Learn what makes them special, the different types you can find around the world, the amazing benefits they provide, and the vast array of critters that call them home.

Tracks, Scat, and Other Animal Evidence
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 3–3:30 p.m.

More often than not, wildlife is aware of us long before, or even if, we become aware of it. Even if you don’t see wildlife, animals often leave clues behind that tell us who has been there and what they’ve been doing. Investigate different signs of wildlife in winter through interactive activities and see examples from our nature collection, then put your nature detective skills to the test in your own backyard.

Other Program Opportunities

Family Programs

Designed for families to enjoy together, these programs are geared toward all ages, unless a minimum age is specified. For Family Programs, all participants must be registered online in advance.

Each family member attending must be registered in advance through our online system.

Super Spiders
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 6–7 p.m. 

Spiders are not so scary when you get to know them! They have important jobs in nature. We will read a super spider story, observe some spiders up close, and look for spiders around the park. For all ages. Meet at the Cypress Shelter.

Harris Spook-tacular: Spooky Soiree
Saturday, Oct. 8, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (Three time slots available)

"Don't Feed Your Fears" and join us for a Spooky Soiree mini-event! Go on a walking scavenger hunt to see if you can follow the clues and find all of the spooky objects to win a prize, learn more about misunderstood and not-so-spooky critters like spiders, snakes and other creeping crawlies by meeting them up close, make nature crafts, take a spin at some spider games, and enjoy many more fun surprises! Costumes are encouraged! Register for one of three time slots. Online Registration is Requested. For all ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter.

Fall Bird Hike at Harris Lake County Park
Saturday, Oct. 22, 9–11 a.m.

Join local bird expert Larry Zoller as we explore the different habitats of Harris Lake County Park to look and listen for our resident birds as well as fall migrants that have stopped to rest and refuel here during their long journey. Bring a water bottle and your own binoculars and field guide if you have them. For ages 8 and up. Meet at the platform in the Educational Garden.

Pumpkin Carving Wagon Ride
Sunday, Oct. 23, 1:30–3 p.m.

Celebrate the season with a wagon ride along the back roads of our park to search for a hidden pumpkin, then return to the Loblolly Shelter to carve a Halloween masterpiece with your family. Each family will be limited to one pumpkin. (You may bring additional pumpkins of your own to carve.) For all ages. Meet at the wagon parked at the playground. 

Family Disc Golf with CADL
Saturday, Nov. 5, 9:30–11 a.m.

This special instructional program is for players of all levels. Disc golf professionals from Capital Area Disc League (CADL) will provide interactive lessons for beginners (and those who just want to sharpen their skills!). Try out what you have learned on a short practice course!  Bring your own discs or borrow ours. Choose the time slot that best suits your schedule. For ages 5 and up. Meet at the Cypress Shelter side of the large open playfield in our Day Use area.

Birdability Birding
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 9–11 a.m.

Join park staff on a bird outing to look for our year-round species, as well as migratory visitors. Birders of all experience levels are welcome! This outing will be less than 1 mile on flat, paved trails and the fishing pier. Our route will be fully accessible for wheelchairs and others with mobility concerns. We will spend some time scanning the lake for waterfowl, so if you have a spotting scope please bring it! Binoculars will be available to borrow for anyone who needs them. Meet at the Loblolly Shelter.

Geocaching 101
Sunday, Nov. 13, 2–3:30 p.m.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden “caches.” We will learn how to use traditional GPS units and the Geocaching app (by Groundspeak) and then find real geocaches hidden in the park. Wear closed-toe, comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle. For ages 6 and up. Meet at the Cypress Shelter.

Fall Wagon Rides
Sunday, Nov. 20

Choose a time: 1–2 p.m. or 2:30–3:30 p.m.

Bring the family out for a wagon ride along the back roads of the park to enjoy the fall colors and the beauty of autumn! Staff will interpret the natural and historical features of the park along the ride. Space is limited on the wagon, so please register early! For all ages. Meet at the wagon parked at the playground.

History Hike at Harris Lake County Park
Sunday, Dec. 4, 2–3:30 p.m.

Long ago, many families lived and worked on what is now Harris Lake County Park. Harvesting crops, tending livestock and carrying out daily chores were a major part of life in this bygone era. Through engaging tales gathered from interviews of past residents and our Story Map mobile tour, we will take a walk back in time on this one-mile hike. Best for ages 8 and up. Meet at the kiosk in the gravel Disc Golf parking lot.

Wagon Ride with Santa
Sunday, Dec. 18

Choose a time: 1-2 p.m. or 2-3 p.m.

Harris Lake County Park will welcome a special holiday visitor this December! Santa will take time out of his busy schedule to join us for a cup of hot cocoa and a ride on our wagon along the back roads of the park. Spend some special time with Santa. Photo opportunities will be provided. Prepare for chilly weather - bring a blanket to stay warm. For all ages. Meet at the Loblolly Shelter. 

Kids Discover Nature

This monthly series for children ages 2–5 with accompanying adult introduces them to the natural world through stories, hikes, crafts and games.

The adult does not register for these programs.

Kids Discover Nature: The Snail's Spell
Thursday, Oct. 6, 11 a.m.–noon

Join us for a fun-filled program of creativity and imagination! Together we will read the sweet tale of The Snail’s Spell by Joanne Ryder and picture what it would be like to be a tiny snail living in a garden. Then, we will learn more about the fascinating world of snails and pretend what life is like for the smallest creatures in the garden.  For ages 2–5. Meet at the Cypress Shelter.

Kids Discover Nature: Magic of Fall
Thursday, Nov. 10, 11 a.m.–noon

Fall is finally here! Come experience the fall foliage at Harris Lake County Park and learn why leaves change color this time of year. We will read It’s Fall by Linda Glaser and enjoy the vibrant colors of the cut-paper illustrations by Susan Swan. Then we will explore the park in search of the many colors and shapes of fall. For ages 2–5. Meet at the Cypress Shelter.

Kids Discover Nature: Owl Moon
Thursday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m.–noon

What animal comes out after you have gone to bed? OWLS! Learn how to talk to the owls as we “hoot” our way through Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, a lovely story about a father who takes his daughter out for a moonlit walk in the snowy woods. We will explore the woods to look for places where owls might be hiding, and make owls to take home. For ages 2–5. Meet at the Cypress Shelter.

Kids Drop-Off Programs

Photo of two boys using nets at one of the park ponds dipping for aquatic critters

These programs allow older children to explore nature on a higher level and are designed for them to attend on their own, without parent participation.

Nature Lab: Kids Get Holiday Crafty
Thursday, Dec. 22, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. 

Cost: $16/child

Bring your kids to the park for a day of crafting and nature while you take advantage of a few more hours of holiday shopping. The crafts your child creates will make great keepsakes or gifts. We will provide a snack, hot chocolate, and all the supplies! Each child should bring a lunch and a box to take your creations home. For ages 6–10. Meet at the Park Office (first right after you enter the park).

Citizen Science Thursday

Photo of bird nests inside one of the park's nest boxes

Volunteer your time with our monitoring and citizen science projects. Tasks will vary depending on what needs attention but may include: cleaning or repairing habitat boxes or installing new ones, monitoring our current boxes, gathering data on wildlife and plants found in the park to contribute to our Natural Resources Inventory Database, or assisting with other relevant tasks. Come prepared to learn and work as you manage our natural resources! Dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes and bring work gloves and a water bottle. All participants must have a signed Volunteer Release.

Each family member attending must be registered in our online system.

Preregistration is required and no walk-ups will be accepted. To keep participants and staff as safe as possible, we ask that you:

  • Stay home if you’re not feeling well.
  • Alert staff immediately if you start to feel ill during programming.
     

There are no Citizen Science Thursday programs available at this time. Please check back for future offerings.

Adult & Educator Workshops

Photo of adults listening to an instructor under one of the park's picnic shelters

Harris Lake County Park periodically offers programs and workshops for adults and older teens, many of which are eligible for NC Environmental Education Certification or CEU credits.

No Adult or Educator Workshops are available at this time. Please check back for future offerings. In the meantime, see our other Public Program offerings.

Become a Junior Park Explorer!

Junior Park Explorer graphic

Do you like to explore parks and preserves? Do you like winning prizes? Our Junior Park Explorers program is for you! Learn more here.