Neuse River Trail Opening


A couple of months ago we attended the Neuse River Trail grand opening at Anderson Point Park located at 20 Anderson Point Dr.  Most grand openings we attend are usually low-key and only involve a few important speakers, but this celebration was full of food trucks, live music, crafts for kids, local vendors and more.  As typical, we sat through 5 minutes of the grand opening speeches and then played on the playground before hitting up the food, vendors and crafts.

The Neuse River Trail is located on the eastern side of Raleigh paralleling the Neuse River with 7 bridges over the river throughout the trail; it  begins at Falls Dam Lake and continues south past the WRAL Soccer Park, Buffaloe Rd Park, Milburnie Park, Anderson Pointe Park and to the Johnston County line.  The new section of trail added 20 additional miles, bringing the total distance of this paved trail to 27.5 miles.  The Neuse River Trail allows for easy connections west to Crabtree Creek Trail or Walnut Creek Trail and is a great connection between the municipalities of Wake Forest, Raleigh, Knightdale, and Johnston County.  Part of the trail is also a segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail that extends from the Great Smokey Mountains to the Outer Banks.

img_3085After devouring some delicious pizza from my favorite local food truck, Klausie’s, Ashley and I headed south on the trail for about a mile before her patience and the time got the best of us.  The parts of the trail we walked were gorgeous – the trails are 10ft wide, the views of the river are amazing, and the bridges make for exciting photo ops.

To access the Neuse River Trail near Anderson Point Park, the parking spots are either inside the park or at the parking lot near the canoe put-in at 22 Anderson Point Dr. At this location, you’ll be near mile marker 17 of 27.5.  I can’t wait to return and explore more of the trail on bike next time!

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: condition of trail, scenic views of river, photo ops, bridges

Thumbs down: signage to trails from within park

Museum Park Blue Loop Opening

img_3025About a month ago we attended the Museum Park’s Blue Loop opening at the NC Museum of Art.  It was the perfect spring morning to spend with friends while walking the new trail and enjoying live bluegrass music.  The Blue Loop is a one-mile trail that includes a new cut-through between the pond and Lowe’s Park Pavilion and extends through a wooded section on the southwestern side of Museum Park.  It was made possible by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

The FREE celebration featured live music from Big Medicine Bluegrass Band and the A&T Drumline, healthy snacks from local food trucks, and a celebratory lap around the Blue Loop.  Special guests included Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, NCMA Director Lawrence Wheeler, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Brad Wilson.

The NC Museum of Art is located at 2110 Blue Ridge Rd.  View the Museum Park map for a complete look at the Blue Loop.

Thumbs up:  lots of shade and open space, wide paths, rolling hills (perfect for a challenging run/walk)

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Brookhaven Nature Park

img_2210Fall is prime time for hiking, enjoying the great weather and taking in the leaves changing colors.  We recently visited Brookhaven Nature Park in the Brookhaven neighborhood at 5125 Berkeley St near Crabtree Valley Mall.  Brookhaven is a city park, but the Jr Woman’s Club of Raleigh helps maintain and beautify it.  After arriving at the park we explored the pavilion area and then headed off on the Main Trail, which is a narrow, unpaved path that criss-crosses several streams.  Part of the trail is labeled wheelchair-accessible, but the paved trail seemed rather uneven and the decline was rather steep (imho).  This time of year the trail was covered in rust-colored leaves so we took extra caution when hiking, especially with Ashley in the backpack.

For being in a North Raleigh neighborhood the trail is actually pretty hilly, so we were surprised by how much actual “hiking” we did.  Its peacefulness should also be noted, especially with its close proximity to so many busy Raleigh roads.  Along the hike we came across a small pond with a deck for taking in the views and scouting for fauna.  On this particular day the reflections on the pond made it look like the trees were sprouting from the water…it made for great pictures!  The deck also featured a few informational signs about the fauna in the area, snapping turtles and mallards.

After leaving the pond we followed the Main Trail some more and then took the Pine Tree Loop and Upland Forest Trails to increase our hiking distance, which actually only totaled about 1 mile.  Even though the hike was short overall it was a fun, quick way to explore a naturally hilly part of Raleigh.  Be sure to bring another adult with you to this trail and all trails; this park is not staffed and the trails are not heavily traveled with other visitors.

Thumbs up: photo ops, good hiking workout, peacefulness, proximity within city, shadiness

Thumbs down: confusing signage near end of the trail


Jordan Lake State Park: New Hope Overlook

img_2178With Fall in full swing, it’s a great time to do some hiking in Raleigh’s backyard.  Months ago we visited Jordan Lake State Park for some hiking and a picnic and with the leaves changing colors now it’d be a perfect time to go back.   Having survived Profile Trail in western NC we wanted to try one of Jordan Lake’s more challenging trails.  After researching the NC Parks website we decided on the blue trail at New Hope Overlook.   Jordan Lake has several hiking trails across many entrances so be sure to research ahead of time which one to go to.  New Hope Overlook is located off WH Jones Rd and has a cash-only entrance, where the fee is $6/car.

The parking lot at the trail head is shared with the boat ramps, so there should be plenty of parking for all patrons.  Before heading on the trail we scoped out the path again at the on-site map.  Needing to be home for a 1pm naptime we opted for the 2.7 mile Blue trail instead of the 5.4 mile Red trail.  The trail is heavily wooded and follows the perimeter of the lake through much of the trail.  Being so close to the water made for some great photo ops and a chance to see a lot of wildlife, such as ducks, herons, turtles and frogs.  It also gave us a chance to take a few breaks and let Ripken enjoy a cool dip in the water.

img_2183The Blue trail had a moderate difficulty with some gradual hills and tree stumps along the path.  It was well cleared and easy to follow.  It took us about 1.5 hours to finish the hike, making it a great mid-morning outing with Ashley and Ripken.  After the hike we headed over to the shore line near the boat ramps for a yummy picnic lunch.  Unfortunately there weren’t any picnic tables so we roughed it on the shore line.  We all had a great time and can’t wait to head back to Jordan Lake soon for some more hiking and perhaps some camping!  Visit the NC Parks website for more information about the features of Jordan Lake.

Directions from Raleigh: follow 64 west and turn left on Beaver Creek Rd before crossing over Jordan Lake, turn right on Pea Ridge Rd, and then a right on WH Jones Rd.

Thumbs up: scenery, shady trail, clearly marked paths, lake views, moderately challenging trail

Thumbs down: lack of picnic tables near parking lot

House Creek Trail Grand Opening

img_2710At the House Creek Trail dedication and grand opening ceremony yesterday, you really got a sense of the anticipation and excitement around this new trail.  Many guests spoke about the history of the greenway system, especially highlighting the fact that House Creek was Raleigh’s first pilot greenway trail back in the 1970s.  It was a short gravel path made possible by the Barefoot family, who was also in attendance at the grand opening.  Fast forward forty years and the addition of the new House Creek Trail brings the total greenway mileage up to 78!  At 2.9 miles long, the House Creek Trail is a vital north/south connection between Meredith College and the Crabtree area.

The grand opening took place inside Glen Eden Pilot Park.  After the ceremony we headed towards Crabtree Valley Mall on the newly paved path.  While on our way, we cruised by I-440 rush hour traffic in the distance, crossed bridges, noticed large land developments underway, and visited the Marshall Memorial Park.  Not aware of the Marshall Memorial Park, we stopped to take a look and a quick rest.  The park is a project funded by Rick Marshall, long-time Raleigh realtor, in honor of his father, Lt. Col. George F. Marshall.  Lt. Col. Marshall was killed in World War II while commanding troops during the British-American invasion of Oran, also known as Operation Torch.  The park is quietly located near the intersection with Blue Ridge Rd and contains a iron arbor and several stone seats and a wooden boardwalk, making it a good place to reflect and relax.

img_2712After passing the memorial park, we came to Blue Ridge Rd, which was rather busy around 5pm.  Several signs alert you of the busy two-lane highway, so we were able to cross with ease and continued to the corner across from the McDonalds.  In all it was a relatively easy .75 miles from Glen Eden Park to the McDonalds.  The mile markings begin near the McDonalds and display every .25 miles.

After arriving back to Glen Eden Park, we continued south on the House Creek Trail where we crossed under the Glen Eden Rd tunnel and kept on until the 1.5 mile marker.  The path is well landscaped throughout; natural grasses, plants and trees line most of the shady path with newly planted magnolias and other hardwoods throughout.  If you’re concerned about walking on the sidewalks of Glen Eden Dr or other areas that seem more dramatic from the beltway, don’t worry – this greenway trail has more railings and safety features than any other I’ve seen!  The stone wall along the tunnel slightly reminded me of Hokie Stone at VT!

Covering half of the new trail was a perfect end to a gorgeous fall day.  We passed so many bikers, joggers and walkers enjoying the new trail.  We’re excited to start at the southern end near Meredith College and work our way north next time.  Check out my previous post about House Creek Trail when it was under construction.

Thumbs up: landscaping, safety railings, signage, safety of the area, memorial park, connection created between Meredith College and Crabtree

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Walnut St Park

On the ninth day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, we headed out to Cary with my friend, Kristina, and her daughter, Lucy to visit Walnut St Park.  Wow, what a great park for crawlers and cruisers!  Besides the large open spongy surface, there are tot swings, a jungle gym with smaller slides, and an area with balance beams and climbing structures that proved to be so exciting for the non-walkers!

Walnut St Park is run by the Town of Cary and is located at 1420 Walnut St, not far from Cary Crossroads shopping center.  Not a surprise, but the main entrance sign is easy to miss when driving on Walnut St, so look for the cross-street of Nottingham Dr.

This park has both a tot play area and an older kid play area that are both very close to each other.  Both playgrounds are covered in the spongy surface with the exception of the small sandbox with diggers in the tot area.  There are swings, jungle gyms, and a small pavilion in each playground area.  The older kid playground also has some amazing climbing structures that were very popular.

If you’re looking to take the dogs on a walk or stroll the kids around, this park has a great paved walking trail.  According to the information sign, 2.5 loops around = 1 mile.  While walking around the trail, you’ll see many birdhouses, an area dubbed the wetlands, a natural mulch walking trail, and a large 1.5 acre open recreational space.  There are many benches scattered throughout the trail and a few picnic tables near the large open field area.  Don’t forget to check out the fancy brick “imaginary garden” promenade that cuts through part of the loop.  Check out the Town of Cary’s website for information about future phases of the park, which include adding a basketball court.

So, I know I can’t say it enough, but the Town of Cary does a great job with creating playgrounds with the spongy surface, which is so nice for the really small crawlers and cruisers!  Ashley and Lucy had a fantastic time roaming through the climbing structures, swinging on the tot swings, crawling from one end of the playground to the other, all the while trying to sneak a taste of the nearby mulch chips!  This would be a great park to bring your lunch followed by a romp around the playground.

Thumbs up: playground, walking trail, tot area, nearby pavilions

Thumbs down: somewhat hard to see entrance sign from Walnut St

Day Seven: Millbrook Exchange Park

On the seventh day of Raleigh Parks Christmas, Kris gave her husband Bill (that’s me) an assignment: visit the Carolina Pines dog park with the dog and baby while she was doing Raleigh Jaycees board of directors stuff. After some confusion about where the car seat and stroller were, we ended up at a different dog park: Millbrook Exchange.

There’s a lot going on at Millbrook Exchange: a pool, community center, tennis center, dog park, basketball courts, baseball fields, and playground. Today, we just explored the dog park.

There are actually two dog parks here, sharing a common fence: a large area (maybe 2 acres) for large dogs, and a small area (1/4 acre-ish) for small dogs. Ripken plays like a large dog, but he can get crazier than a sack of rabid weasels at the dog park and I’ve got a baby to manage, so we stick to the vacant small dog area.

There are plenty of water bowls, tennis balls, and poop bags; no need to bring your own. Lots of mature hardwoods and pines, too–perfect for shade in the summer or doggie outhouse all year round.

Ripken and Ashley both had a blast, and we left the dog park after dozens of Ripken races up and down the fence

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and horsey rides for Ashley on daddy’s shoulders.

Next, we walked around and photo-documented some of the other facilities, as you can see in the gallery below. But, it was getting close to nap time and we had to split. This one deserves another visit and a feature-length post in the spring.

Thumbs up: Lots of mature trees, tons of facilities, both large and small dog parks.

Thumbs down: Seems like parking might be an issue on nice days; it was 75% full on a damp Saturday morning in December.

Fallon Park

On the sixth day of Raleigh Parks, we visited Fallon Park, which is located just northeast of the Five Points area and not far from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.  Fallon Park is a long and slender wooded area between Royster St and Oxford Rd at 2601 Oxford Rd.  A small stream runs off from the nearby Crabtree Creek and meanders through the park creating small pools for splashing and admiring the water creatures.

The lower level of the park has a large open field with a pavilion, picnic tables, and benches.  There is also a leaning deodar cedar tree planted almost 40 years ago that immediately grabs your attention.  Be sure to walk along the unpaved path in the park, where you’ll cross over bridges, admire the large rocks along the stream, and enjoy the natural setting.  On this particular day we passed quite a few people jogging and walking their dogs.  On the northern side of the park, there is a gazebo and additional benches and picnic tables.  If you continue heading north on Oxford Rd you’ll eventually come to a portion of the Crabtree Creek Trail, which can take you either to Lassiter Mill Park or Kiwanis Park.  I’d love to visit this park again in the spring or fall when the trees are in bloom or changing colors.

Thumbs up: natural setting, exploring the stream, neighborhood setting

Thumbs down: downed trees along stream

Strickland Road Park

On the fourth day of visiting Raleigh Parks we headed to North Raleigh to check out the newly constructed Strickland Road Park.  It’s located at 12804 Strickland Road, not far from the intersection of Leesville Road.  This park has picnic tables, benches, a walking trail with access from the nearby neighborhood, swings for kids of all ages, and a large playground area.

The playground area has equipment for kids ages 2-5 and 5-12 to use and all the equipment is in the same area making it convenient for parents with kids of different ages.  There is a large jungle gym with monkey bars, slides, and climbing areas for the older kids.  There is a sandy playground area and fun slide for the younger ones.  Between the two areas is a sitting area with benches, which is nice for the parents.  The nearby swingset has a spongy surface, which is great for crawlers to play around on.  I also love that even though this is a new park, much of the surrounding woods are still in tact, making it seem like a real park.  The new camellia bushes that have been planted are already in bloom adding some great color to the landscape.

According to the City of Raleigh’s website, there are future plans to add basketball courts and a community center to this park.

Thumbs up: playground areas, sitting areas for parents

Thumbs down: sidewalks on busy Strickland Rd would increase walk ability to this park

Brier Creek Park

Wow, it’s amazing to think how much the Brier Creek area has changed from when I first moved there almost 9 years ago!  I didn’t recognize most of the streets or shopping areas, which may be why I got a bit lost on our way to Brier Creek Park, the park of our second day of Christmas.

Brier Creek Park is located right next to Brier Creek Elementary School. Even though the address is 10810 Globe Rd, you actually enter from Bruckhaus St unless coming by foot, where there are sidewalks galore leading to the paved walking trail inside the park.

Inside this park, you’ll find basic features. There’s a large covered pavilion with nine picnic tables and large grill, public restrooms, two soccer fields, and a small playground for ages 2-12. The playground has a few structures for climbing on and around and a few slides. The surface is made of the spongy material, which is great for the crawlers. Even though it’s a small playground, it’s probably a great place for younger siblings to burn off some energy when the older ones are playing soccer nearby.

Thumbs up: walk ability, pavilion area, large open recreational fields

Thumb down:  little shade and landscaping, no swings on playground