Biking the Neuse River Trail – MP 2.75 to 8

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IMG_1430On the heels of family visiting at the end of May, my aunt offered to watch the girls while Bill and I headed out for a date night.  Instead of gorging ourselves at a new restaurant, we decided to dust off our bikes and chomp away at another segment of the Neuse River Trail between the Bedford neighborhood and US-401 (followed by beers at a new brewery, Compass Rose Brewery).

For our bike ride we parked in the trail parking lot at 10888 Bedfordtown Dr in the Bedford neighborhood in North Raleigh.  We followed the access road to the trail, turned right to head south, went over a small bridge and then bared to the left to stay on the main trail.  This part of the Neuse River Trail is mostly flat and shaded with several bridges (including covered ones) to pass over and under.  We passed several folks biking and running on the trail and even more folks canoeing and tubing down the river.  Here are a few highlights along our route:

  • IMG_1394milepost 3.5 – look over the river to spot old gas or electricity lines running across an old steel bridge
  • milepost 4.5 – access to oxbow in the river due to years of erosion and sand deposition creating a really sweet swimming hole with sandy beach.  The water flows very slowly in this spot and we saw a few younger kids fishing.  I’d love to bike with the girls down here and bring a picnic and bathing suits.
  • milepost 5 – large bridge access to (presumably future) Wake Forest trails
  • milepost 6.5 – access to WRAL soccer park
  • milepost 7.5 – access to Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve (still under construction, set to open August 2015)
  • milepost 8 – suspension bridge near US-401

For two people who hadn’t ridden bikes in at least 4 years, this was the perfect ride to ease back into things.  Overall the ride was a little over 11 miles total (out and back) and provided a lot of great scenery and ideas of future outings for swimming, biking and maybe even some tubing!

Thumbs up: access to swimming hole and several parks along the way, relatively flat and shaded trail, variety of water activities available

Thumbs down: nothing to report

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

Neuse River Trail: MP 0 to 1.5

IMG_9816.jpgFor the few days it’s been sunny and above 40 degrees this winter you could easily find us at a park or greenway soaking up the fresh air.  Even though we’ve explored a lot of the southern end of the Neuse River Trail, we hadn’t run along the northern portion (aka Upper Neuse Greenway) until this winter.  It’s a great location to get some exercise and then have a picnic along the shores of the dam.

The Neuse River Trail is nearly 28 miles long and officially starts just south of the Falls Lake Dam.  We parked in the lot adjacent to the dam, which is near the intersection of Old Falls of Neuse Rd and Pleasant Union Church Rd.  From the parking lot, walk along Pleasant Union Church Rd and bare left onto the paved trail that goes under Old Falls of Neuse Rd.  As another parking option, turn right onto the service road before crossing the bridge over the Neuse River.  Follow the road 100 yards to the greenway parking lot, which has space for about 30 cars and is across from the canoe launch.  I prefer to park in the dam parking lot because it offers amazing views and has picnic tables for post-run picnics.

IMG_9828.jpgOn this particular day the water level was elevated, so it was relaxing to hear the rushing water flow over a screaming 18-month old (yes, she screamed for about 95% of our run).  Regardless, this trail is great in that it parallels the river offering great water views and glimpses of the native flora and fauna.  We saw herons, beautiful budding red berry bushes (maybe winterberry shrubs) and tall native grasses.  We passed under Falls of Neuse Rd and over small bridges.  We also passed by the Bedford at Falls River neighborhood with greenway access to Falls River Ave and then turned around at the 1.5 mile mark, which is by the fork in the trail; keep left to stay on the greenway or stay straight for another access point to Falls River Ave and a greenway parking lot.  The steady stream of foot traffic and proximity to made me feel secure about returning on my own and the relatively flat, wide trail might make it ideal for kiddo balance biking!

After finishing our run we enjoyed a picnic lunch near the dam and then walked down to the shore line for some good ol’ rock throwing.  If you’re still looking for something do after exploring the greenway and dam, hike up the nearby unpaved trail to the top of the dam for more gorgeous views and some playground time.

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: safety of trail, beautiful views, relatively flat trail, abundance of parking lots

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Falls Lake Dam

IMG_4949This fall we wanted to further explore Falls Lake so we set off with intentions to start closer to the dam and finish Day Hike A of the Mountains-to-Sea trail.  Falls Lake Dam is on the eastern side of the lake (see map) and has helped control flooding from the Neuse River ever since its completion in 1981.  Having previously hiked a portion of Falls Lake starting at Raven Ridge Rd we wanted to start closer to the dam in hopes of actually seeing it before the kiddos got too tuckered.

Unfortunately the main entrance gates to Falls Lake park were closed on this Sunday morning so we had to park in the small parking lot near Falls Center Management Rd/Falls of Neuse Rd intersection.  After a long walk into the park on the paved trail that parallels the road, the little ones in the group were restless for any trail hiking so we explored the areas around the dam including the (surprise!) playground instead.

IMG_4938The playground is designed for ages 5-12 and includes a few slides, climbing structures, tic-tac-toe, and several nearby picnic tables and benches.  It’s a small playground, but the perfect size for a park with so many more activities.  After taking in the views from the top of the dam, we walked down the unpaved trail adjacent to the playground where we got up close and personal with the beginning of the Neuse River.  The girls enjoyed throwing rocks in the water while we saw fishermen and birds.  There’s also a small parking lot, canoe launch, restrooms, information map, picnic tables, and access to the start of the Neuse River Trail greenway at the bottom of the dam.

Even though we didn’t make it to our planned trail that day, everyone had a fun time whether it was on the playground, along the river bank, or finding furry caterpillars.  I look forward to attempting Day Hike A again sometime soon where we’ll park in the lot closest to the dam!

More Resources:

Thumbs up: views from top of dam, playground, considerable amount of picnic tables

Thumbs down: signage in park, nc state park information online lacks details (no mention of gate closure, playground, parking near dam)

Neuse River Trail: MP 13.25 to 15 & Suspension Bridge

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While I’ll be at the beach over Labor Day week, I wanted to share a must-do item for exploring Raleigh over the holiday weekend.  If you’re looking for some exercise, flora, fauna and beautiful scenery, this portion of the Neuse River Trail is it – it has a suspension bridge, croaking frogs, majestic herons, and an old dam!

Most recently we explored the Neuse River Trail from milepost 13.25 to 15.  We parked in the small paved residential lot at 2894 Abington Ln in east Raleigh.  After a short run down to the trail, we came to the compass in the greenway and decided to head north for a bit in search of the huge suspension bridge (by looking at the online greenway map, it looks like you cross the river just north of here).   Within 1/4 of mile we came upon the suspension bridge at milepost 13.5, which seems to come out of the middle of nowhere!  It seems so unique and breathtaking to me to have a suspension bridge on the greenway; I’m pretty sure I got goosebumps (granted it was 100+ degrees outside) and felt very sentimental for my city!

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We ran another 1/4 mile north until milepost 13.25 and then turned around and headed south.  We ran back over the suspension bridge where we saw some fisherman casting lines.  Further along we passed residential homes to the west and wetlands to the east with several overpasses in between and white barn fencing in certain areas that gave this trail a farm-like feeling.  There are more stretches of sunny parts along this trail than what I’m used to, I think mostly due to the neighborhood developments; it added some intensity to this hot summer run so don’t forget extra water!

We ran south until the Milburnie Dam, which we have explored in the past.  Again, it’s amazing to see what parts of Raleigh you’ll miss if you don’t get on foot!  So get out and explore this weekend!

More Resources:

Thumbs up: beautiful views, wetlands with information signs, suspension bridge, parking lot with access to trail, mile markers

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Neuse River Trail: MP 11.5 – 13.25

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Over Memorial Day weekend, we headed out to Buffaloe Road Athletic Park to run along the Neuse River Trail and then have some playground time back at the park.  Unfortunately, the playground was closed for resurfacing so our short run turned into a much longer run and lucky for us the girls didn’t mind too much.

Buffaloe Road Athletic Park is located at 5812 Buffaloe Rd in east Raleigh.  We parked in the parking lot adjacent to the playground and headed out on the nearby trail.  With little signage to go by, we ran along the wooden boardwalk that dead ended at a small stream.  After getting turned around, we found a paved trail in the park and followed it along the perimeter of the park towards the aquatic center entrance.  We continued following the greenway signs, crossed the road before getting to the aquatic center main building, and finally found the Neuse River Trail after a few more right hand turns! Whew, we had a mile  (mostly uphill) under our belts already!   When you see the huge “traffic circle” feature in the trail, you know you’re there.  For future reference, we’ll park closer to the aquatic center if we need access to the greenway.

IMG_6589We turned right heading south onto the Neuse River Trail and we shortly came upon the 11.5 mile marker and a large bridge that crossed the Neuse River.  It had rained a lot in Raleigh over the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend, so the water levels were still pretty high and the river was flowing fast, which made for great toddler conversations.

There was quite a good bit of foot and bike traffic along the way so it was nice to see so many people using the greenway.  This portion of the greenway has a good variety of elevation – there are several flats parts mixed with some hilly parts.  We made several stops along the way for toddler nature potty stops and to admire the high water levels and nice houses across the river.  We even made it all the way south to where some good friends live across the river; even though we couldn’t see their house through the dense forest, our GPS showed where we were in comparison to their house so that was neat!  When looking back over the COR greenway map, we ran until just north of greenway parking #44 (2894 Abington Dr).

IMG_6611The run home felt much shorter with several less stops than the way out.  When we arrived back into Buffaloe Road Park, we followed signs to the athletic park instead of to the aquatic center.  With this option, we ran along the northern perimeter of the park and got to witness the massiveness of the baseball fields.  When we got back to our car, we were pooped! Ashley made a final pit stop in the restroom facilities near the closed playground and then we headed out for some well deserved lunch.  I look forward to taking the girls back to the park later this summer when the playground surface is finished.

More Resources:

Thumbs up: views along the greenway, condition of the greenway, photo ops, having playground and running options in one spot (despite playground being closed)

Thumbs down: no mention of playground being closed on COR website, lack of signage to greenway from playground

North Wake Landfill District Park

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A playground at the landfill…say what?!  Yes, the North Wake landfill closed in 2008 and local residents worked with the county to repurpose the closed landfill into a park which now features paved trails, mountain biking trails, a large playground area, pavilion, and access to Abbotts Creek Trail (part of Neuse River Greenway).  North Wake Landfill District Park is located at 9300 Deponie Drive off Durant Rd in north Raleigh.  When you first turn off from Durant Rd, it’ll feel like the landfill is still open because you have to wind through some of the old parts of the dump, but follow the signs for the park.

We spent most of our time exploring the playground area and paved trails that access the nearby greenway. While the playground area has many unique features, I strongly disliked the layout where it is adjacent to a steep hill that my adventurous 3-year old decided to conquer at great speeds, despite strict instruction NOT to do so. So, after recovering from a near heart attack when she sprinted down the steep hill (and received a short timeout) we had a nice time exploring the play areas.

The playground has two areas – one for ages 2-5 and one for ages 5-12. In my opinion this park is definitely more of a “big kid” park. The younger playground area has several climbing structures that are more appropriate for an older and more confident 2-year old. It also has a few slides, two tot swings, and a music feature but it’s a taller playground with little room for playing on.

img_5596The bigger kid playground is any young climber’s dream.  There are huge spider web ropes that connect to the playground along with a sideways rock wall.  The playground also has several monkey bars, slides, twisty ladders, climbing stepping stones and more!

Both playground areas are covered in a thick wood chip surface and are adjacent to several picnic tables, the public restrooms and water fountains.  Also nearby is the large Sycamore pavilion with seating for up to 100, according to the Wake County website.

Descend along the paved trail from the playground to reach access to the western side of Abbotts Creek Trail.  Inside the park there are also several mountain biking trails, a mountain biking skills area, and paved walking trails.  I’d like to come back and walk or bike the short Top of the Hill trail, which takes you 469ft above sea level for great views of the surrounding area.  There is little shade at this park, so plan accordingly!

For more information about this park, visit the Wake County Parks website.  I found the park brochure with map to be very helpful.

Thumbs up: repurposing a landfill into a useable recreation space, variety of climbing activities for older kids, proximity and plethora of picnic areas

Thumbs down: steep hill near playground area, lack of park map inside park (didn’t know about most of the walking or bike trails until going online after getting home)

Neuse River Greenway: MP 15-17 & Milburnie Dam

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While I was training for the City of Oaks 10k last fall, it gave us a chance to try out several trails during my longer runs on the weekend.   One Saturday we headed over to the Neuse River Greenway near Anderson Point Park for a 4 mile run.  The Neuse River Greenway runs through Anderson Point Park and since I had explored part of the trail south of the park, we decided to park in the small lot prior to the entrance to Anderson Point Park and run north.

The parking lot at 22 Anderson Point Dr is rather large and serves for access to the greenway, overflow parking to the park, and canoe launch access to the river.  After parking, we headed north on the greenway and shortly saw mile marker 17 and signs for Mingo Creek Trail, which is maintained by the Town of Knightdale.

Along our 4 mile run (2 miles out and back) we passed over several pedestrian bridges, ran under New Bern Ave, passed a good amount of bikers and runners and discovered the beautiful Milburnie Dam.  The nearby greenway bridge provides great straight-on views of the dam, which has been out of commission since the 80s.  Milburnie Dam was first built in the mid-1850s as a power source for a paper mill.  From powering a paper mill, streetcars, and gristmill this dam has seen several changes since its inception according to the on-site information guide.  While the dam hasn’t been in use since the 1980s, it has since created a vibrant habitat for several animals.  In researching more about the dam it seems that removal of the dam has been debated for the last decade so its future use is unknown.  In the meantime, be sure to visit this great spot for some amazing photo opportunities…yet another reason why running on the greenway can provide beautiful surprises.

There is a small parking lot for quicker access to Milburnie Dam near the intersection of Old Milburnie Rd and Loch Haven Rd.

Check out Raleigh Nature’s blog post for more information on the Milburnie Dam.

Thumbs up: beautiful views of Milburnie Dam, relatively flat and shady greenway, having a playground near the greenway

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Abbotts Creek Trail

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It might be snowmaggedon part 2 in Raleigh right now, but months ago it was a beautifully warm day for a run in North Raleigh along Abbotts Creek Trail.  Abbotts Creek Trail is 2.9 miles and connects Simms Branch Trail with the Neuse River Trail.  We parked on-street near the intersection of Falls River Ave and Ashmead Ln.  Abbotts Creek Trail is connected by the sidewalk near where we parked so after some walking back and forth, we got our bearings and headed north on Falls River Ave where we shortly caught up with Abbotts Creek Trail.  Again, I’d love some directional signage throughout the greenways.

Abbotts Creek Trail is a wide, flat, and paved trail that runs between the Bedford at Falls River subdivision to the north and Abbotts Creek to the south.  It nicely carves a path through a moderately wooded forest (great for shadiness in the hot NC summer).  Along our run we passed several bikers and joggers, crossed multiple bridges, and explored the blue heron habitat.  While we didn’t see any blue herons, we did see evidence of their nests, which were easy to identify with help from the information guides.  Near the habitat are several benches, great for resting while doing some bird watching.

img_4316When we reached the end of Abbotts Creek Trail we turned left north onto the Neuse River Trail for a bit before turning around.  While on the Upper Neuse River Trail we passed the 2 3/4 mile mark and were impressed with the information guides about the floodplains and benches along the way.  Our out and back run was a total of 3.2 miles and I look forward to getting back up here again to explore the southern half of Abbotts Creek Trail, which I think leads to the North Wake Landfill District Park.

Thumbs up: flat and wide trail, lots of shade, fun nature stops along the way, busy foot traffic

Thumbs down: signage

Neuse River Trail Opening

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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