Neuse River Trail MP 26.25 to 27.5 & Town of Clayton Greenways

claytongreenway - 49Over Memorial Day weekend, my sweet in-laws watched the girls while Bill and I enjoyed a biking and beers day date. Wanting to explore a new (to us) portion of the greenway, we headed to the southern portion of the Neuse River Trail near the Wake/Johnston County border. In all, we biked 15-miles (out and back total), crossed two counties, followed a river, detoured around an unpassable bridge, passed a historic bridge, and saw some art before grabbing beers at Deep River Brewing – a pretty awesome afternoon!

We parked in the greenway access parking lot at 6008 Mial Plantation Rd and turned left heading south toward Johnston County. We immediately crossed under Mial Plantation Rd bridge and passed the MP 26.25 sign. The trail is mostly flat with beautiful views of the rural fields separated by white split-rail fence. Shortly after, we biked past the Wake/Johnston Co line at MP 27.5, creating a fun selfie spot. The Town of Clayton maintains the greenway past the Wake County line with a portion of it affiliated with the East Coast Greenway.

Clayton River Walk on the Neuse

claytongreenway - 19Continuing on Clayton’s greenway (technically called Clayton River Walk on the Neuse), we arrived at the Riverwood neighborhood where we found the bridge damaged and unpassable. At the time we didn’t see signage showing a detour route so I jumped onto the Town of Clayton website. I learned that last fall’s Hurricane Matthew caused near record flood levels for the Neuse River and took out the bridge. The town’s website shows a detour route through the Riverwood neighborhood that adds an extra five minutes via biking. The Town of Clayton is currently working with FEMA to replace the bridge, and there is no estimated completion timeframe.

claytongreenway - 33After biking the hilly detour through the neighborhood we met up with the trail and continued south. The trail remains mostly flat and sunny with clear views of the river. We passed a large sandy access spot for the river, complete with benches. Then, we biked under Covered Bridge Rd with a history that dates back to 1863 when it was first commissioned as a ferry replacement. Historians believe the bridge was covered around 1883 and most recently replaced in its current concrete form in 1980.

Shortly after passing Covered Bridge Rd, we passed MP 31 and crossed a large pedestrian bridge over the Neuse River. We enjoyed seeing so many benches and picnic tables donated by the Rotary Club of Clayton. About 1/2 mile later, we made a sharp right turn through a construction zone to stay on Clayton’s greenway, officially called Sam’s Branch Greenway at this point. 

Sam’s Branch Greenway

claytongreenway - 39After safely maneuvering through the sand and dirt construction zone, the 1.25-mile paved trail leads away from the river towards North O’Neil St. Along the way we passed beautiful community art displays of hand-painted wooden fish. Then we biked by a public art garden featuring butterfly-shaped bike racks, benches, totem pole and a little free library. The trail also showcases information signs about forest animals in the area before passing a developing neighborhood and ending at a large greenway access parking lot at 1358 N O’Neil St.

Even though N O’Neil St is one of the main arteries leading to downtown Clayton (and Deep River Brewing) we aren’t adventurous enough to bike on main roads yet. So, we turned around and biked the 7.5 mile return trip to Mial Plantation Rd. We noticed better detour signage around the damaged bridge on our way home.

Despite the detour and construction we passed, it’s pretty amazing you can bike nearly 33 miles one-way from Falls Lake Dam to Sam’s Branch Greenway trailhead. With greenway connections to the Town of Knightdale (via Mingo Creek Trail) and future connections to the Town of Wake Forest greenways, people all over the area have so much access to outdoor adventures.

Helpful References

Milepost Points of Reference

  • Falls Lake Dam – MP 0.0
  • Mial Plantation Rd greenway parking – MP 26.25
  • Wake/Johnston County line – MP 27.5
  • Covered Bridge Rd & Clayton River Walk on the Neuse trailhead – MP 31
  • Sam’s Branch Greenway trailhead – MP 32.5

Thumbs up: donated benches and picnic tables sprinkled along the way, public art displays, scenic views along river, greenway access points, jurisdictional connections

Thumbs down: detour signage coming from the north, construction zone near intersection of Clayton River Walk on the Neuse and Sam’s Branch Greenway

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

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 11.5 – 13.25

IMG_6559

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

Neuse River Trail Opening

img_3079

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

Anderson Point Park

My mom visited this past weekend so on Friday morning we headed out to Anderson Point Park at 20 Anderson Point Dr in east Raleigh. This park is bordered by 264/64 bypass on the north, the Neuse River to the east and Crabtree Creek on the west. From the park you can also access the greenway via the Neuse River Trail which is over 4.5 miles of unpaved trails. Here’s a satellite view of Anderson Point Park from Google Maps.

When you arrive at the park, go around the cul-de-sac to the far left to the parking lot. From there we found a very helpful park map detailing all the features.  We then walked by the Large Shelter and headed left along the main trail, which is about 3/4 mile loop. The shelter is a large pavilion with several picnic tables, restrooms, and an adjacent open field with a back stop.

Main entrance sign
Informational board near parking lot
Parking lot
Large Shelter pavilion
Restrooms at Large Shelter
Open field with backstop near Large Shelter
Another view of the open field

Walking along the paved trail we first came to the amphitheater. It’s a beautiful stone-terraced amphitheater with lush green grass at each level. At the bottom is a large tree surrounded by a stone wall with benches and swings along the perimeter. The tree provides great shade for picnics or reading on a hot day.  My mom did comment on how difficult it might be to see any type of performance at the bottom due to the hedges at each terraced level.

Amphitheater
Large shade tree and benches
Ashley with her Cici
Looking from the top of the amphitheater

Back on the trail we followed the spiral pathway up to the scenic overlook. There’s a circular flower garden at the top surrounded by a stone wall perfect for sitting and enjoying the views of the park. There are also several covered swings at the top great for relaxing and taking in the scenery.

Pic of the paved trail
Flower garden at the top
Shaded benches at the top
View from the top overlooking the park

Continuing on, we passed bluebird trails and bird houses that attract martin birds. Luckily my mom, who is a bird enthusiast, was with us to identify the bird houses. The surrounding natural vegetation still allows for great views of the park.

Houses along the bluebird trail
Martin birdhouses

Next, we came upon a large open field with a backstop across from the Retreat Cottage. The cottage can be rented for conferences and events and contains a small nearby parking lot to use.

Open field with backstop near cottage
Sign outside cottage
Retreat Cottage for rent

Close to the cottage is the Small Shelter, which is a covered pavilion with several picnic tables and restrooms. It has an adjacent open field surrounded by crape myrtles and magnolias. Nearby there is also an information board with details about renting the various shelters, open fields, and Retreat Cottage.

Small Shelter with picnic tables
Restrooms near Small Shelter
Open field near Small Shelter
Beautiful crape myrtles and stone work near open field

Next on the trail is the largest playground I’ve ever seen. Part of the playground is covered in a mulch base and part is a sandy base. There is a large jungle gym, multiple swing sets, and several teeter totters with plenty of seating along the perimeter and sloped, grassy hill. The entire playground area is full sun, so be sure take a break at the nearby water fountain. The Small Shelter would be perfect for birthday parties with the playground being so close!

Looking down at the playground
Slides down the grassy hill
Large jungle gym
Swing sets
Another view of the jungle gym
Sandy area with teeter totters
Water fountain

Continuing on, we arrived near the entrance, which has several shade trees and swings overlooking a large part of the park.  The signs are helpful in directing you to the various parts of the park.

Shade trees and swings near entrance
Benches at the entrance
Signage near the front

We followed the trail back to the parking lot and headed out of the park, but not without stopping at the canoe launch that we passed on our way in.  Park in the lot there to get on the Neuse River Trail or head down the gravel road to the launch area for the Neuse River.

Canoe Launch sign from Anderson Point Dr
Gravel lot near put-in area
Launch area
Looking north up the Neuse River
Looking south towards the railroad tracks and 264/64 bypass

This is a great open park with lots of unique amenities surrounded by a paved trail that is perfect for walking the dogs and babies or going for a run.  We had a fun morning with lots of exploring, so we finished off our adventure with cupcakes from The Cupcake Shoppe!

Yummy red velvet

Thumbs up: scenic overlook, shelters, open fields, access to greenway, canoe launch area, playground, beauty of amphitheater, birding

Thumbs down: unsure of usage of amphitheater