Mingo Creek Trail MP 0 to 2.25

IMG_8407Looking for a fun family bike ride over the holiday weekend? Discover the Mingo Creek Trail of Knightdale where it features flat rides, long causeways and interesting creek life!

We love finding new (to us) greenway sections to explore, so we headed to Anderson Point Park to access the Mingo Creek Trail. Mingo Creek Trail is part of the Town of Knightdale’s greenway system that connects from the Neuse River Trail. We parked in the large parking lot (just outside the main entrance to Anderson Point Park) and biked north on the Neuse River Trail.

We shortly passed MP 17 for the Neuse River Trail and then turned right, following signs for Mingo Creek Trail. Then, we winded up a paved path before biking across the Neuse River. The trail eventually led to a clearing with residential homes on one side and railroad tracks on the opposite side. Around MP 1, the trail’s gradual hill leveled out to the Princeton Manor neighborhood at the Hodge Rd intersection.

IMG_8426We maneuvered through the neighborhood sidewalks and carefully crossed Hodge Rd to continue on Mingo Creek Trail. Shortly after, we biked along the half-mile causeway, which was sandwiched between marshy areas and residential homes. We stopped on the causeway to watch the turtle and duck families sunning in the water. A great heron (or egret) also caught our eye.

Eventually we biked under the I-540 bridge and turned around at the Lynnwood Rd Connector at MP 2.25. Knowing we’d have a 2.25-mile return trip, we enjoyed a picnic on the side of the trail before calling it a successful ride. I hope to bring the girls back to finish biking this trail over the summer where it ends at Mingo Creek Park.

Thumbs up: easy to read Town of Knightdale greenway map with incremental markings and mileage table, connection to the larger Neuse River Trail for longer rides, interesting wildlife viewing in marsh, great family bike ride, sunny bridges and causeways make for great photo ops

Thumbs down: lack of signs made maneuvering through neighborhood near Hodge Rd confusing

2017 First Day Hikes

2017 First Day HikesLace up your hiking boots and head outside on New Year’s Day for an organized hike in a local park.  Every state park in NC (city parks are catching on, too) organizes 2017 First Day Hikes to encourage fitness and reconnecting with nature in the new year. Last year we visited Murrells Inlet, SC for the first time, but this year we’re staying close to home and hope to discover something new (weather forecast at publication: a little chilly and dry)! 

List of organized First Day Hikes at parks and greenways within an hour of Raleigh:

  • Durant Nature Preserve – enjoy a family-friendly guided nature walk (at least 1 mile) followed by hot chocolate and discussions with staff about what you saw; 2-4pm; start location: 8305 Camp Durant Rd (north entrance); pre-registration is suggested but not required; prepare for natural surface walking; non stroller-friendly; event information
  • Walnut Creek Wetland Center – enjoy a family-friendly guided nature walk (at least 1 mile) followed by hot chocolate and discussions with staff about what you saw; 2-4pm; start location: 950 Peterson St; pre-registration is suggested but not required; wheelchair and stroller-friendly; event information
  • IMG_5058Falls Lake State Recreation Area – scavenger hunt with hike along Rolling View Track Trail (0.75 miles); start times at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm; pre-registration is required; prepare for natural surface walking; event information; my 2015 First Day Hike review
  • Jordan Lake State Recreation Area – 2.7 mile hike of Blue Loop along New Hope Overlook trail; start location: New Hope Overlook by boat ramps; 9am start time; event information; my 2012 review of New Hope Overlook trail
  • img_4160Umstead State Park – 1.3 mile hike along Pott’s Branch Trail; start location: small parking lot by Pott’s Branch trailhead (Hwy 70/Glenwood Ave); 9am start time; event information; my 2014 review of Pott’s Branch Trail
  • Eno River State Park – options of 2 mile or 4 mile hikes; start location: Fews Ford Access; 2pm start time; arrive early as this is a popular event and parking can be hard to find; event information
  • Raven Rock State Park – 2.5 mile easy hike along Raven Rock Loop Trail to the park’s centerpiece, Raven Rock; start location: picnic shelter at Raven Rock Loop trailhead; 2pm start time; event information
  • Kerr Lake State Recreation Area – 1 mile nature hike; start location: park office (6254 Satterwhite Point Rd); 1:30pm start time; event information
  • First Walk Cary at Morris Branch Greenway – bring the family for a walk along Cary’s Morris Branch Greenway; parking location: 115 Allforth Pl and follow signs for walk start; 10am start time; stroller-friendly; event information 

If the above times or distances don’t work with your schedule, visit a park and explore on your own. Check out my list of previously reviewed trails in the area.

Biking To & Around North Wake Landfill District Park

IMG_6714If you can’t tell by the themes of some of my latest blog posts, biking has been our family’s new passion.  Having a bike hitch, bike trailer and at least one child biking on her own really opens up the family bike outings to beyond the driveway or cul-de-sac.  Even though Bill is usually the one to strap the bikes onto the hitch and gather all the gear, I’ve made it a point to learn how to do it on my own in hopes that I could take the girls out by myself.  Feeling rather confident about strapping all the bikes onto the hitch, remembering all the gear and snacks, I took the girls for a bike ride on Abbotts Creek Trail one summer morning in August.

For this trip, we parked at our tried and true parking lot at 10888 Bedfordtown Dr in the Bedford neighborhood.  After biking down the access path we turned right on the Neuse River Trail.  We then turned right onto the beginning of Abbotts Creek Trail.  We biked past the blue heron habitat and over a large wooden walkway before coming to Falls River Ave.  There wasn’t any obvious directional signs for how to stay on the greenway, but remember my past time on this trail, we turned left on the sidewalk of Falls River Ave.  After mostly walking our bikes up the hill, we then made another left to stay on Abbotts Creek Trail, which continues to be more hilly than the first portion of the trail.  Ashley walked her bike up several of the hills, but made up for it on the downhill portions of the trail. After about 1/2 mile of riding we turned left into the entrance of the North Wake Landfill District Park and biked/walked up the steep trails to the playground area where the girls ran around and climbed like monkeys for over an hour.

IMG_6703The bike ride back to the car was successful and even a bit adorable as my stop-and-smell-the-flowers daughter took advantage of light greenway traffic with her simultaneous bike ride swaying and singing.  Despite the hot weather, the girls made the trip so much fun and were so patient with me as I carefully installed the bike equipment back onto the car.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago when we headed back to the landfill park (9300 Deponie Dr, just off Durant Rd) with our bikes, but this time we drove in and parked at the playground and rode our bikes around the road surrounding the big hill.  The road around the hill has been updated from a two-lane car road to a two-lane road with one dedicated bike/pedestrian lane and a one-way car lane.  The road is about 1 1/2 miles long and a short median separates the bike/pedestrian lane from the car lane and has several pedestrian crossing areas.

DSC_0220We biked to the bottom of the trail that leads to the top of the landfill, parked our bikes and walked to the top.  I’m the only one in our family who has ever been to the top of the landfill, so I was excited to share the views with everyone.  The little ones took turns exclaiming their discomfort for walking up the hill, but it’s such a short walk (less than 1/4 mile) that they pushed through it.

Even though it was a cloudy morning, we could still see some downtown Raleigh buildings.  The beautiful blue sky poked through, which gave great contrast to the super lush grass on top of the mountain.  The girls loved being up so high and enjoyed playing photographer with my new big camera. We had the top of the hill to ourselves that morning, making it a really fun family outing!

With the girls being a bit older now, we really were able to utilize this park for all its assets – greenway access, advanced climbing features on playground, and large open spaces.  I look forward to bringing them back when they’re much older to explore the mountain bike skills course. It’s hard to imagine this place was once a fully functioning landfill.

Thumbs up: park located along the greenway, great playground areas with variety of features, separated two-lane road around landfill hill, clean and fully functioning restrooms

Thumbs down: poor signage along Abbotts Creek Trail at Falls River Ave

Neuse River Trail Beach – MP 4.5

IMG_6510Last summer Bill and I biked by this “beachy” section of the Neuse River Trail and vowed we’d make it back with the kids on a bike ride someday.  That someday was this summer, with Ashley leading the pack on her big girl bike and Claire chomping on snacks in the bike trailer.    The Neuse River Trail is our favorite spot for family bike rides with young kids because the trail is relatively flat and wide with several parking spots along the way making it easy to break your ride into small chunks.

For this bike ride we parked at the trail parking lot in the Bedford neighborhood at 10888 Bedfordtown Dr, biked down the access path and turned right onto the Neuse River Trail heading south.  We followed the greenway for about 2 miles before coming to milepost 4.5 where there’s an oxbow in the river that has created a wider sandy spot along the river bank.  Note: if you don’t want to bike/run the 2 miles, you can park closer to the oxbow at 6100 Thornton Rd and bike/run 1/2 mile. We parked and locked our bikes in a grassy spot off the greenway and walked down to the beachy area with our picnic supplies and towels (everyone already had
bathing suits on).
splashing in the neuse river beachIt hadn’t rained recently so the beachy area was actually wider and longer than I’ve seen it at other times and the river flowed slowly.  The water was pretty warm except in the middle of the river, which was over our heads in several spots.  We didn’t bring life jackets with us and the water wasn’t very clear so the girls mostly played near the shore line looking for tadpoles, playing in the sand/mud, or splashing in the water with the other young family that was there.  While we were there a few paddle boarders passed by including a father and young daughter out for a ride (next summer’s bucket list goal).

After playing in the water for awhile we enjoyed our picnic lunch on the beach before heading back to the car.  The bike ride north was a bit more uphill than the ride out, but the girls kept their cool and did great.  I look forward to returning to this secret spot again next summer!

Helpful Hints:

  • Wear shoes good for getting wet in the river
  • Bring life jackets for little ones
  • Be conscious of recent rains before coming out; river levels may be too high to safely play
  • Bring towels and small sand buckets
  • Parking options: 10888 Bedfordtown Dr (2 miles away) or 6100 Thornton Rd (1/2 mile away)

Thumbs up: fun bike ride/swimming activity, exploring the shore line for tadpoles and fish, lots of shady spots, very private area where you can’t see the beach from the greenway

Thumbs down: water was murky so be careful when swimming

Honeycutt Creek Trail: Strickland Rd to Honeycutt Park (MP 2.25 to 3.5)

honeycutt creek trailAfter exploring the northernmost section of East Mine Fork Trail, we crossed Strickland Road via the pedestrian access near West Millbrook Middle School to catch up with Honeycutt Creek Trail.  Heading east on Strickland Rd, we shortly passed mile marker 3.5 for Honeycutt Creek Trail.  Honeycutt Creek Trail was part of the 2003 & 2007 bond referendum that opened about a year ago and features 5.6 miles of greenway, some of which is unpaved.
Continuing on Strickland Rd, we followed greenway signs and turned left onto Carriage Tour Ln, which offered some great views of the gorgeous homes in the neighborhood.  Following the signs, we turned right on Chatterson Dr and found the official entrance to Honeycutt Creek Trail at 305 Chatterson Dr.  The beginning of the trail starts in dramatic fashion along a tall concrete walkway built between the homes of the Bent Tree neighborhood and forest that backs up to I-540.  The concrete walkway then leads into a slightly inclined wooden walkway that sits high off the ground offering great views of the nearby creek, residential homes and neighborhood pond.

pedestrian tunnelAfter running along the walkways we crossed under the I-540 pedestrian tunnel near the 2.75 mile marker.  I was pretty out of breath pushing the double stroller up the small hills we’d run so far, but I was definitely not prepared for the long, steep hills on the other side of the pedestrian tunnel.  Holy hills, Batman! Thankfully, Honeycutt Park (our destination) was only 1/2 mile away.  Honeycutt Park seems to be one of the lesser visited parks, yet it has great playgrounds with fun features for kids of all ages.  It also holds a special place in my heart as it was the last park our then family of 3 visited before little Claire was born (I have vivid memories of sweating it out in the full July sun).  The playground is in full sun, but there is a large nearby pavilion along with other park features including sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, and baseball fields.

After some playground time and a picnic lunch at the pavilion we headed back the way we came.  I was thankful the route was downhill, but had to work hard to control the heavy stroller down the steep hills.

If you wanted to continue north along Honeycutt Creek Greenway, follow the trail through the park and along Honeycutt Road to the Durant Rd intersection where it transitions to an unpaved trail.  According to the map, it continues north to Raven Ridge Rd where it connects with the South Shore Trail (part of Mountains-to-Sea Trail).  A note of caution: a portion of the unpaved trail between Durant Rd and Raven Ridge Rd is managed by the NC Wildlife Refuge Commission, which allows seasonal bow hunting.  According to the website, brightly colored vests are available for temporary use and signs display making it obvious of the game lands you’re entering.

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: connectivity to Honeycutt Park and beyond

Thumbs down: steep hills

Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve

IMG_2812One Sunday morning at the end of October I took the girls to the newly opened Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.  The park is located at 2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd in Northeast Raleigh and contains about 146 acres of property on an oxbow of the Neuse River.  The city purchased the property in 1994 as a future park site, and it is now being developed in multiple stages.  According to the city’s website, Phase I development included improvements to the entrance drive and dam, parking, signage, soft surface walking trails, connection to Neuse River Greenway, picnic shelter and restroom facility. Future phases include developing an educational center, playground, amphitheater, and canoe launch while promoting sustainability and enhancing the land’s natural characteristics.  We’ve been keeping an eye on this park ever since we explored the nearby Neuse River Trail so it’s nice to connect to a nature preserve along the greenway!

IMG_2819After parking in the main parking lot, we headed toward the large pavilion and then to the large open space to run and kick the ball around.  Down from the large pavilion is an old red farm house  and white picket fence leading to a rustic barn, all perfect for an outdoor photo op (which we witnessed while there).  In looking at future phases, the farm house looks to be used for the education/art center.

Hoping to take advantage of energetic little ones we kicked the ball across the field to the other side of the tree line in hopes of finding the nature trail.  Luckily I looked at the park’s website before coming out to the park to know a 0.5 mile natural walking trail runs along the tree line in a horseshoe shape.  There were no signs within the park indicating such trail exists, but that’s probably because of the park’s infancy.  So we headed to the tree line where you can barely make out the river through the woods and started our short walk.  The girls really got into collecting berries and learning about plants in nature this fall so they really enjoyed this walk.  Along our way we saw lots of berries, colorful leaves, tall and fuzzy grasslands, pine cones, moss, and sticks.  The main parking lot and large open fields aren’t visible from a few sections of the path, but for the most part you can see the whole park from anywhere.  The path horseshoed around toward the old farm house and barn where we saw a one year old’s cake smashing photo session going on, which was a lot of fun!  The photo op motivated me take a few pics of the girls under the beautiful maple trees, which were just starting to show their color.  I had to bribe them with the promise of chocolate once we got home!

IMG_2843After our walk we rested under the pavilion with snacks and water and then used the compost restroom facilities before heading home.  I look forward to coming back to this park over the years to see new developments and to hopefully better time the changing of the colors of the leaves.  Check out their list of upcoming park programs including a New Year’s Day 2016 Hike!

Thumbs up: connection to the greenway, open land for endless running and playing, easy 0.5 mile nature trail, future park developments, photo opportunities, compost restrooms, native landscaping

Thumbs down: lack of signage about nature trail inside park

Neuse River Trail: MP 7.25 to 9 & Suspension Bridge

IMG_0632Towards the end of March we headed out to Neuse River Trail to explore the area surrounding Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, in anticipation of the new park opening sometime this spring/summer.  Using the RGreenway app, we mapped our starting location at the small parking lot at 198 Trailhead Ln outside I-540 and off US-401.  Knowing we wouldn’t pass a playground along our run, we brought the girls’ bikes and scooters to play on after our run.

We walked along the access trail to the main Neuse River Trail and turned left at the compass in the trail to head north towards Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.  After crossing over a wooden boardwalk we passed milepost 8 1/2.  The vegetation at this point in the year was very sparse, but showing signs of life to come (you’ll see a remarkable difference in a future Neuse River Trail post that I write).  We stopped every once in awhile to point out interesting things in nature to the girls – a rotting fallen tree, a wicked looking pale-as-a-ghost tree across the river, fallen gumballs, and pigeons resting under underpasses.

After running under US-401 we came to another amazing feat of steel, cables, and pillars – a massive suspension bridge spanning across the river with access to Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve.  The other suspension bridge I’ve seen along Neuse River Trail is further south at milepost 13.5.  Even though signs indicate the park is closed for construction we looped around and over the bridge for a closer look.  After a short 1/4 mile run we stopped at the “Greenway Closed” signs on the edge of the park and headed back across the bridge and further north along the greenway.  We crossed over some more bridges before turning around near run-down barns around milepost 7 1/4.

IMG_0661This portion of the greenway continues to be relatively flat and shady.  The areas surrounding the greenway are mostly dense forest to one side with the river to the other.  We saw quite a few fisherman on both banks of the river with most of them concentrated in spots near US-401.  Our run back to the car was much faster than the run out so we took advantage of happy little faces and retrieved a balance bike, scooter and helmets from the car and let the girls ride on the greenway.  It wasn’t a busy morning on the trail, so the girls had a carefree time riding.  Ashley biked south on the greenway all the way to milepost 9 where we crossed over a small bridge with a shallow creek below, perfect for spotting turtles.  Claire enjoyed her first scooter ride where we pushed her from behind as she cruised along.  They were troopers for such a long morning run of about 4 miles and then some bike time.

Upcoming event: Celebrate the completion of the Neuse River Trail on Thursday, June 4 at Anderson Point Park with live bands, food trucks, kids’ games and more

Thumbs up: suspension bridge, wide/flat trail, shady

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Ironwood Trail to Shelley Lake: MP 0 to 2

IMG_0535.jpg
Numerous sewer/drain pipes along the way

Sunday mornings this past spring were also dedicated to exploring new sections (to us) of the greenway.  While we didn’t plan it this way, maybe we felt the need to run off our food and beer overindulgences from Saturdays?  Regardless, we loved getting out for fresh air and exercise with our recent run along Ironwood Trail.

Starting at North Hills Park we set off towards Shelley Lake via Ironwood Trail.  After slowly walking down the steep hill, we followed signs towards Shelley Lake and turned right onto Crabtree Creek Trail.  A very short run later we turned right again towards towards Shelley Lake where Mine Creek and Crabtree Creek intersect.  The greenway parallels Mine Creek, offering close-up views of the rushing water.  We soon crossed over North Hills Drive and ran behind Northbrook Country Club, which sits at ground level with the greenway.  Having been to that pool before, it was neat to see a different perspective of that area.

IMG_0545.jpg
Running under Millbrook Rd

As we continued on our run, the greenway trail got narrower and bumpier; this seems to be a much older section of the greenway that has seen the effects of tree roots under the path.  Passing by the plentiful sewer/drain pipes along the way reminded me of being in a Mario Bros video game.  We crossed over a wooden bridge at one point before running under Millbrook Rd and arriving at the bottom of Shelley Lake.  It was a nicely shaded 2 mile run to Shelley Lake (4 mile out and back total for us) with lots of foot traffic along the route.  Being a north/south greenway connection to Shelley Lake (and the trails surrounding the lake) it allows for those runners or bikers needing a longer run to increase their mileage.  While the signage along the trail indicates we were running on Ironwood Trail, the online COR maps label this same trail as Mine Creek Trail, so that was a bit confusing.

More Resources:

Thumbs up: views of creek, shaded trail, being the north/south connection from North Hills Park to Shelley Lake and beyond

Thumbs down: narrowing path, signage discrepancies between trail/online maps

Crabtree Creek Trail: North Hills Park to Crabtree Valley Mall

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.00.37 PMTimes have been rather difficult in our household for the past few weeks.  My mom unexpectedly passed away at the end of March so my world has been flipped upside down and writing has been pushed to the back burner.  As I set out to get back into writing park reviews, I’m reminded that I started this blog because of my mom.  She’s the one who created lasting memories for me at our local parks growing up.  She’s the one who enrolled me in summer camp.  She’s the one who taught me (and the rest of Stafford County youth) how to swim.  She’s the one who helped me get my first job at Curtis Park Pool.  She’s the reason I want to create lasting park memories for my kids, nieces, and friends’ kids.  So please bear with me as I get back into writing…

IMG_0075.jpgA few months ago my sister and her family were in town so we set out for another run on another (new to us) section of Crabtree Creek Trail.  To ease the double stroller intensity we put Claire and baby Ava in the same stroller and let Ashley ride solo.  We started at North Hills Park with the goal of running to the far western edge of Crabtree Creek Trail.  As mentioned in previous posts, the greenway trail at North Hills Park starts out extremely steep so use caution.  At the end of the steep hill we turned right, kept straight across the small footbridge, and then made a left to stay on Crabtree Creek Trail (turn right to proceed to Shelley Lake).  We shortly passed mile marker 12.5 before passing the access to North Hills Dr.  After crossing another bridge and running under Glenwood Ave we found ourselves behind Crabtree Valley Mall.  The greenway is mostly flat and residential in these sections and the foot and car traffic was very steady for a Saturday morning.

We passed mile parker 13.5 behind the mall and then ran under Edwards Mill Rd, which is when the foot traffic decreased and the residential landscape changed to empty commercial lots for a short while.  We even came across an abandoned wood and steel suspension bridge to nowhere. Glad to have running buddies with me, the landscape turned more inviting and more commercial on the Glenwood Ave side of the greenway and more residential to the left of the greenway.  We meandered along, taking in the wooded scenery and trying to find turtles in the creek before turning around just past the 14.5 mile marker at the western edge of the greenway by Lindsay Dr.

Despite the sunny pictures below it was a chilly day so everyone was bundled and made few noises throughout the long 5.5 mile trip.  After some playground time at North Hills Park we grabbed some Snoopy’s take-out and then headed to Raleigh Brewing Company for some much deserved beverages!  It made for the perfect combination of outdoor exercise, family fun and local beers!

Thumbs up: flat trail, views of the creek, several parking options along trail

Thumbs down: abandoned commercial lots past Edwards Mill Rd

Crabtree Creek Trail: North Hills Park to Lassiter Mill Park

IMG_9604Have I mentioned that we spent a lot of time on the greenway this winter?  So, here we are again, exploring a new (to us) portion of the Capital Area Greenway on the Crabtree Creek Trail from North Hills Park to Lassiter Mill Park (about 2.5 miles round trip).  We started at the greenway entrance at North Hills Park (100 Chowan Circle) so the girls could run out some energy at the playground afterwards.  If you’ve never been on this portion of the greenway, I’m forewarning you that the hill from the parking lot to the greenway is extremely steep, but the trail levels out at the bottom.

After we ever-so-slowly pushed the double stroller down the hill we turned left to follow the trail east under I-440.  The greenway wasn’t particularly busy this morning and running under overpasses tends to creep me out, so I’m glad Bill was with me.  Shortly after passing a bridge and access to Alleghany Dr, we saw mile marker 12.  Based on the placement of mile marker 12 on the greenway it seems the placement of mile marker 12 on the COR greenway map is too far west.  This portion of the trail is sandwiched between Crabtree Creek and beautiful residential homes.  The recent heavy rains caused the creek level to be pretty high, so between the rushing water and neighborhoods we all had nice things to see.

IMG_9642Then shortly after passing mile marker 11.5 the trail abruptly becomes unpaved and very narrow.  In hindsight we should’ve taken one of the Alleghany Dr access paths, but there were no signs beforehand to indicate strollers or bikes wouldn’t be able to pass up ahead.  So, we continued on the unpaved trail for a short time, all the while traversing over tree roots and narrowly squeezing between the creek and neighborhood roads above.  When it seemed impossible for the double Bob to continue on, I ran up ahead to see how much further until Lassiter Mill Rd.  At the end of the unpaved trail there is a set of stairs leading to Hertford Rd.  Take a left onto Hertford Rd and follow it along behind Root Elementary School and then cut over to Lassiter Mill Rd.  Turn left onto Lassiter Mill Rd where you’ll soon see Lassiter Mill on the left and Crabtree Creek Trail on the right.

While the signage on this portion of the trail is less than desired, the scenery along the creek is serene and enchanting.  Before you head out, review the greenway map or bring along your phone with GPS and/or utilize the RGreenway app.

Thumbs up: scenery along trail

Thumbs down: lack of signage alerting to unpaved trail ahead, narrow trail