Raven Rock Loop Trail at Raven Rock State Park

Raven Rock Loop TrailIn mid-January we headed to Raven Rock State Park for a morning hike and picnic. Raven Rock State Park is located about an hour south of Raleigh along the Cape Fear River in Harnett County. The underlying rocks in the area formed nearly 400 million years ago through heat and pressure. High winds and rushing water gradually shaped the huge crystalline rock where ravens perched. River captains relied on the outcrops until hurricanes permanently damaged the locks and dams in 1859. Railroad transportation soon replaced river travel, and the state established the park in 1969. The old Northington lock and dam are visible from the park.

We parked in the southern section of the park near the Visitor Center at 3009 Raven Rock Rd in Lillington. Newly built in 2010, the Visitor Center is a great first stop before heading to the trails. Inside the center we explored the exhibits with the topography map, animal scat samples, and history of the the dams. The ranger was friendly and helpful when guiding us to the trailhead. After making a last-minute stop in the clean restrooms, we walked along the left side of the road to access the Raven Rock Loop Trail.

The Raven Rock Loop Trail is about 2.6 total miles. We walked clockwise around the loop, so the beginning of the trail was wide and gently sloped. The back half of the trail was slightly steeper, making the girls push harder at the end of our trip. About a mile into the hike, we arrived at the overlook above the Cape Fear River. The overlook provides beautiful views of the river and surrounding forests.

DSC_0086Then, we walked a little further until we arrived at the steep zig-zag stairs leading to the Raven Rock outcrop. We carefully walked down the windy stairs, stepping to the side to allow others to pass us. At the bottom we reached flatter ground with easy access to the river and the enormous Raven Rock outcrops. The girls loved climbing around the huge rocks and over the tree with the tangled web of tree roots. Portions of the rocks were large enough to crawl under and around, making for fun hiding spots. We also enjoyed listening to the trickling springs dripping from the moss-covered rocks overhead. 

DSC_0096After climbing around the main Raven Rock attraction, we ascended up the windy stairs and finished the steeper part of the loop trail. We crossed the stream a few times and enjoyed looking for wild animals through the bare forests. Lastly, when we returned to the trailhead we passed picnic tables, a large pavilion and the entrance for the American Beech Trail featuring the Kids in Parks Track Trail. Though we didn’t have time to hike it, this easy 0.5 mile hike features fun adventures such as Nature Hide ‘n Seek to excite kids about hiking. We also passed signs with information about the canoe-in camping.

Though hiking can be tricky with small kids, the more you hike together the less whiny easier and more fun it can be. For hikes longer than 1 mile, we still bring our hiking backpack for our 3 1/2 year old. We always pack lots of snacks and/or picnic lunch and started letting the girls use our older cameras to capture sights along the way. The girls started melting down towards the end of this trail because we unknowingly saved the steeper portion for the end. Next time, we’ll hike this loop trail in reverse order and visit in warmer months to take advantage of playing in the streams!

Thumbs up: friendly park staff, informative visitor center, steady foot traffic along trail, beautiful views over river, interesting rock outcrops

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Yosemite in a Day with Young Kids

Yosemite with young kidsWho’s up for a last minute visit to Yosemite with young kids during the super busy summer months? We are! Capitalizing on our successful Norther Ca trip, we rolled the dice on our final full day and drove our family two hours west to explore Yosemite for the day. With plans to rendezvous at my uncle’s rural 1910s family cabin situated on original Yosemite roads, we left early in the morning with a full tank of gas, fully charged iPads, open minds, and lots of food.

Yosemite National Park spans nearly 1200 sq miles in Eastern Ca, making it about the size of the state of Rhode Island. It reaches across the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is mostly known for its mammoth granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoias, and diverse plants and animals. The geology of Yosemite National Park is a result of a combination of volcanic activity, uplift, erosion, exfoliation (responsible for the dome-shaped granite areas), and glaciation that happened over 25 million years ago. Starting in the 1850s, explorers, artists, and writers advocated for preserving Yosemite Valley and slowly expanded the protected area to include nearby forests and mountains. Yosemite switched from a state park to a National Park shortly after the National Park Service was started in 1916. We visited 100 years later!

Getting There

IMG_6941Since the Yosemite trip was last minute,  intermittent cell service limited my mobile-friendly research as we drove through harrowing switchbacks and rural towns.  Following my aunt and uncle’s advice, we headed to the popular Valley area of Yosemite in hopes that we could catch glances of El Capitan, Half Dome and some of the waterfalls. Driving from Sonora, Ca we drove along 120 East through Groveland and the Big Oak Flat Entrance.  The drive through Yosemite starts out hilly with dense conifers and then becomes hillier with sparse shrubs, dead underbrush, sand, rocks and old dying pine trees. Then, suddenly before crossing into the big tunnel, the massive granite rocks explode before your eyes. You catch really quick (yet far away) views of El Capitan and Half Dome before going through the tunnel. After the tunnel you wind through switchbacks catching different views of the granite formations. Yosemite is enormous – it takes at least 40 minutes to drive from the main entrance to the bottom of the park.

Bridalveil Fall Trail

IMG_6947Knowing the park would be busy, we aimed for short hikes easy in difficulty and with easy access. Using the simple Yosemite Valley day hike chart, we hiked the 0.5 mile (round trip) Bridalveil Fall Trail on our way into the park. We parked at the trailhead and follow the paved path to the 620 ft waterfalls. Since we visited in late summer, the waterfalls trickled, but I imagine in spring time after snow melts the falls are quite a spray. Other visitors climbed along the large boulders to the bottom of the light waterfall. Even though the waterfall spray was barely visible, it was amazing to look up at the massiveness of the rocks and feel so tiny.

After Bridalveil Fall Trail, we parked in the main parking areas near the Visitor Center/Museum so we could scope out the center and easily hop on the free shuttle buses. In my little research, I learned the shuttle buses were key to getting around busy Yosemite Valley. The trailheads and points of interest are spread out so we either walked along the wide bicycle paths or rode the bus. Wishing for more time in the museum and to see the short Spirit of Yosemite film, we pushed on and walked about a half mile along the bicycle path to access the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail.

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

IMG_7088Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is a one mile paved trail with little elevation change making it an easy walk for everyone. The path is mostly shaded with giant sequoias and huge slabs of granite rock making for nice photo backdrops. About half mile into our walk we arrived at the observation bridge of the falls.  Lower Yosemite is the bottom waterfall section of the three-part Yosemite Falls. Unfortunately, with it being late summer the waterfall sprayed a mere trickle, but we tried to imagine the command it carries in spring after the snow melts. Before leaving the falls we admired, in jaw-dropping fashion, as pea-sized rock climbers scaled the mountain.

 

Views of Half Dome

IMG_7016Wanting to get closer to Half Dome I quickly researched places within the valley to catch a glimpse. I learned the meadows behind the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly known as the Ahwahnee Hotel) provide good views of the massive mountains, so we rode the shuttle bus to stop #3 outside the hotel. The hotel was built nearly a century ago with the design influences of Art Deco, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Arts & Crafts Movement. We walked to the back of the hotel, through a small path and turned left on the pedestrian path. Before crossing over the pedestrian bridge we arrived at the best spot we could find with a good glimpse of Half Dome (elevation 8800ft) in the background. Even from so far away it’s amazing to imagine people (including my crazy aunt) hike the 16-mile round trip.
After capturing a few pictures with Half Dome in the background, the girls and I splashed around in the crisp, cool Merced River that flows behind the hotel.  We were hot and tired from the long day and we felt refreshed after a quick dip.

Driving out of Yosemite Valley, we followed my aunt’s handwritten directions for meeting them at my uncle’s rural cabin. After a harrowing 7 mile drive up original access roads into Yosemite, we arrived at the cabin. I immediately relaxed after enjoying a beer on the hammock and we took in the beautiful sites of the meadow from the back deck. My aunt and uncle planned a delicious steak dinner with all the trimmings – it made for a very memorable early birthday celebration! After a restful night’s sleep, we left for San Francisco the next morning feeling very accomplished as a young family of four and thankful to experience Yosemite! We can’t wait to return to Yosemite and spend an entire week camping and exploring the different trails – maybe one day we’ll even hike to the summit of Half Dome!

Looking Ahead & Tips For Young Families

Having spent only about 5-6 hours in Yosemite, we definitely maximized our visit with seeing a few waterfalls and catching a glimpse of Half Dome and El Capitan (on the way out). The girls pushed through the early afternoon hour when they’re usually quietly relaxing, but felt refreshed with our backpack snacks and a quick ice cream treat. 

  • Plan ahead and stay for a few days – camping spots in the park fill up months in advance, so plan your trip early or stay outside the park
  • Less is more – bring a small backpack to carry around the park with essentials and snacks; visit the convenience stores and restaurants to refill with snacks and treats
  • Bring a good camera – I’m kicking myself for not having my big camera with me
  • Park & ride – park your car in one of the main lots and ride the bus as much as you can
  • Do some swimming – there’s lots of options for cooling off in the creeks and Merced River
  • Visit in late spring when the waterfalls are at full peak
  • Wear your patience pants – if visiting in summer be aware of the large crowds and take breaks accordingly

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: breathtaking views, massive rock formations, free shuttle bus rides, bike/pedestrian path connecting many points of interest, paved trails provide accommodations for everyone

Thumbs down: little time for planning on my part, drier waterfalls in summer mean less dramatic views, busy summer crowds

Blue Ridge Parkway: Moses Cone Memorial Park & Linn Cove Viaduct

IMG_5696We were very fortunate to spend a few weekends in the NC mountains this summer.  On our second mountain trip we met up with my in-laws and stayed in a beautiful mountain cabin near the Appalachian Ski Mountain between Boone and Blowing Rock.  On a tip from friends, we headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway and visited the Moses Cone Memorial Park & the Linn Cove Viaduct.

The Moses Cone Memorial Park is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 294, just a short drive from Blowing Rock.  Moses Cone Memorial Park preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, who was a textile businessman and conservationist in the late 19th century.  The park features 25 miles of hiking and bridle trails and Flat Top Manor, which is a 13,000 sq ft Colonial Style mansion.  The bottom floor of the manor houses the Parkway Craft Center, which features handmade crafts by regional artists and a souvenir shop.  We also had the pleasure of watching a pottery demonstration, which the craft center regularly schedules.

After the pottery demo and catching some breathtaking views outside the manor overlooking Bass Lake, we headed left of the house to walk the Figure 8 trail.  This short 0.7 mile hike is great for families with small children or grandparents as it is well shaded and flat.  Originally created by Moses Cone for his daily walks, this unpaved path meanders in a figure 8 shape through the property, making it a perfect walking trail to explore the variety of trees and flowers.  Informational signs highlight the hickory, oak, maple, mountain laurel and black cherry trees along the trail.  If you’re craving a longer or more strenuous hike, check out the map of trails around the park.

IMG_5732After spending over an hour at the park, we turned left out of Moses Cone Memorial Park and headed 10 miles south to the Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304).  At an elevation of 4,100 ft, the Linn Cove Viaduct is a concrete bridge engineering marvel snaking around Grandfather Mountain; it is over 1,200 ft long and consists of 153 concrete sections weighing 50 tons each.  Construction of the Linn Cove Viaduct was completed in 1983, cementing the final link of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Coming from the north, we drove over the viaduct and then turned left into the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center parking lot.  We hiked the short 0.2 mile walk along the Tanawha Trail to the Linn Cove Viaduct observation deck.  Along the short walk we saw several mountain springs and a variety of mountain flora. Walking underneath the viaduct gives you a sense of the bridge’s massiveness – each bridge segment spans several arm-lengths in width, and has enormous amounts of concrete supported by large piers.  We then walked higher up the Tanawha trail to get an eye-level view of the viaduct and mountains in the distance.  Though our trip to the viaduct was quick, everyone in our group (not just the engineers) really enjoyed and appreciated seeing such an engineering feat up close.

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: beautiful views from Moses Cone Park overlooking downtown Blowing Rock, access to close-up views of viaduct, infinite outside experiences along Blue Ridge Parkway

Thumbs down: manor house in desperate need of painting and renovations, bathroom facilities at Moses Cone Park

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 22 to 23.75 & Sunflowers Field

IMG_1945Near the end of July we ventured to the southern section of the Neuse River Trail in hopes of finding the beautiful field of sunflowers that were in bloom (from a hot tip by TriangleExplorer).  We’ve run or biked a large portion of the Upper Neuse River Trail, but haven’t done much exploring along the Lower Neuse River Trail so it seemed like the great thing to do before the sunflowers lose their blooms.

We parked in the small greenway parking lot near the intersection of La Costa Way & Auburn Knightdale Rd in southern Wake County.  After parking we walked down the short access road to the compass in the greenway and turned right to head south.  We quickly passed mile marker 22 and even though it was a weeknight we saw a good amount of foot traffic.  We ran over some small bridges, ran parallel to acres of old farm land that separate the greenway by rolling white picket fences, and ran under the Battle Bridge Rd tunnel before coming to the field of sunflowers around milepost 23.5.  There is little shade along this greenway so we were hot and sweaty from pushing the double stroller and happy to walk up the hill towards the sunflower fields.  Unfortunately, my timing was off so we missed the sunflowers at their peak and saw mostly wilted sunflowers that were losing their seeds.  The 50 acres of sunflower fields are used as an application site for biosolids from the nearby Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The sunflowers are eventually harvested and seeds are used to produce biodiesel.  Read here to learn more about the sunflower fields.

IMG_1935We continued south along the greenway and caught a closer glimpse of a few sunflowers still in bloom.  We turned around when we reached mile post 23.75 near the intersection of Brown Field Rd.

It was a hot and humid July night for a run, so we took our time on the run back and enjoyed some much deserved Bad Daddy burgers and beers on our way home through downtown Raleigh.  I can’t wait to catch the sunflower fields in their peak next summer (calendar has been updated).

Hot tips for next year:

Thumbs up: scenery of sunflower fields, beautiful open farm land

Thumbs down: hot, sunny trail in summertime

Historic Oak View Park – Hunnicut Trail

IMG_1849Sunday mornings in Raleigh with little ones require creativity!  The few indoor play places that are open are usually crowded so that’s when we escape to the outdoors.  One summer Sunday morning we decided to re-visit Historic Oak View Park in search of their vegetable garden and newer nature walking trails.

As (bad) luck would have it, we parked on the side of the parking lot that is not adjacent to the hiking trails so we set off on the only trail we saw – the paved trail near the pear trees.  It took us behind the nearby office buildings and towards the front of the park where we saw grape vines before crossing the main entrance road and following the main trail through the pecan grove and by the tenant house under construction and the main house.  Even though we hadn’t planned to follow the brick path through the main part of the park, it was nice to revisit familiar buildings, see the progress on the tenant house renovation, and admire the newer copper drain pipes on the main house.  Unfortunately we couldn’t access any of the buildings because they were either under construction or didn’t open until 1pm on Sundays.  The areas near the vegetable garden were also blocked off because of the nearby construction on the cotton gin building.  When we arrived back to the car we luckily spotted the nature trails we originally set out for.  After a quick toddler potty break down the street (restrooms in park aren’t open until 1pm) we came back to the nature trails.

IMG_1845We headed down the main trail path, which has a small gravel base, making it doable with a Bob stroller.  After a short 100yd walk we came to the small pond, amphitheater, and gazebo.  After playing in the gazebo we walked around the Hunnicut Trail, which is a 0.4 mile loop through the woods.  It was a nicely shaded and flat gravel path making it an easy walk for little ones. The forest was alive with noises from hundreds of insects and birds.  We passed an old vehicle gate, presumably evidence of the old working farm’s history.  After we returned to the main path we walked over the old stone bridge, which led to the back of the nearby office park.  A short while later we walked back up the path towards the parking lot.  We look forward to returning to Historic Oak View Park this fall to see the progress on the renovations and to explore the other short nature trail, Jones Creek Trail (0.7 miles).

More Resources:

Thumbs up: short, flat and shady nature walking trails for toddlers, photo ops near gazebo

Thumbs down: poor signage about trail location

Haywood Hall

IMG_5289In early May I took some time by myself to visit Haywood Hall, a recommendation from friends who were married there over 10 years ago and a lesser known public garden in the Triangle according to TriangleGardener.com’s list. Having spent a lot of time in Downtown Raleigh, I had never heard of Haywood Hall and was excited to explore it for myself!

Haywood Hall is located in downtown Raleigh at 211 New Bern Pl, two blocks east of the state capitol building.  Completed in the early 1800’s, Haywood Hall was built by John Haywood (Raleigh’s first Treasurer and Intendant of Police/Mayor) as a home for his family.  This Federal-style house was occupied by descendants until 1977 when the property and furnishings were given to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina.  Despite a presumably busy May wedding season at Haywood Hall, I happened to visit on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  Even though the house was closed (see their hours), I wondered around the public gardens and gazebo for a closer view.

IMG_5254The house faces south and on an early May afternoon the front lawn was mostly shaded.  Both sides of the gorgeous brick herringbone path were outlined with yellow and orange flowers and remnants of previously bloomed daffodils and azaleas.  A white picket fence outlines the perimeter of the property with large oak and magnolia trees, small patches of grass and shady spots for benches and walks on the front lawn.

IMG_5284I followed the brick path towards the side property where a white tent for special events was erected over a large brick patio with nearby pergolas.  Another brick path leads to the back of the house and the outside restroom facilities, where a kitty was sunning.  Roses and irises were in bloom and hostas were beginning to pop out.  I followed another brick path to the gazebo shaded by nearby trees where I noticed several bricks surrounding the gazebo and pathways contained personalized messages.  In visiting Haywood Hall’s website, I learned more about purchasing commemorative bricks, which would be a nice way to remember a special memory or person at Haywood Hall.

Whether here for a special event or taking a stroll through the extensive gardens, Haywood Hall is a thrilling place to be.  I look forward to coming back again soon to stroll through the main house.

Thumbs up: gardens, special event venue, quiet spot in Downtown Raleigh location

Thumbs down: limited open hours in main house

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Top 5 (off the beaten path) Triangle Parks for Fall Foliage

IMG_0220
Edna Metz Wells Park

With the peak of Fall foliage on our heels in the Triangle, I wanted to recount some of my favorite local parks for capturing beautiful autumn pictures.  There are a lot of obvious places to visit such as Umstead Park, Historic Yates Mill Park and Pullen Park, so here’s my Top 5 (off the beaten path) Triangle Parks for Fall Foliage:

  1. Edna Metz Wells Park (intersection of Smallwood Dr & Clark Ave in Raleigh) – gorgeous yellow and orange colors
  2. Brookhaven Nature Park (5125 Berekeley St in Raleigh) – a little bit of every color, but check out the reflection of the trees on the small pond

    IMG_2219
    Brookhaven Nature Park
  3. Fearrington Village (Pittsboro, NC) – even though it’s not technically a park, there’s still lots of open space for wandering and gorgeous trees bursting with color
  4. Crowder District Park (4709 Ten Ten Rd in Apex) – hiking trails, a pond, playground and more among a spectrum of trees
  5. Eliza Pool Park (1600 Fayetteville St in Raleigh) – open spaces and playgrounds surrounded by colorful trees

 

 

Falls Lake Hike Day Hike A: Raven Ridge Rd towards Dam

img_4946Every New Year’s Day, NC hosts First Day Hikes all over their state parks to promote a healthy start to the year. Even though the organized First Day Hikes didn’t exactly work with our kiddo schedules we drove up for a short hike of our own near Falls Lake.

Falls Lake is a state recreation area just 10 miles north of Raleigh with 7 individual parks, a 12,000-acre lake and 26,000 acres of woodlands.  For our hike, we chose one of the southeastern fingers to explore.  The portion of the trail we hiked is from Day Hike A (from Shinleaf Rec Area to Falls Lake Dam) of the Mountains to Sea Trail.  Mark Edelstein provides a very detailed description of the hiking trails through Falls Lake, which I used to help navigate the area.  We hiked a portion of this trail heading west to east.

img_4947To find the gravel pull-off parking area (noted at the 3.5mi mark in Section 1) we drove north on Falls of Neuse Rd and turned left on Raven Ridge Rd and parked along the side of the road shortly after passing Annie Wilkerson Nature Park.  After getting everyone strapped in their gear, we set off by following the small sign pointing east towards Falls Lake Dam, which is 3.5 miles away.

This is a very moderate hike with small hills and a fairly wide trail throughout.  It is a heavily wooded area, giving a lot of shade to the trail.  Most of this section also closely follows much of the lake, so there are several lake inhabitants and small waterfalls to discover along the way (great for puddle stomping during summer time).  We also passed a trail entrance into Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Park, which happened to be closed for the New Year holiday, but would be fun to incorporate into a short hike.

We only hiked about 2.4 total miles that day and didn’t make it to Falls Lake Dam, but I’m looking forward to starting at the dam and heading west on our next hike through Falls Lake.

Resources:

  • list of day hikes through Falls Lake as compiled by the Mountains to Sea Trail campaign
  • Detailed hiking descriptions from Falls Lake Dam to Raven Ridge Rd
  • Falls Lake map (although not detailed enough for hiking trails)

Thumbs up: views along stream, clear hiking signage along trail, great shade

Thumbs down: planning a hike in Falls Lake using NC Parks online resources (use the Mountains to Sea Trail site instead)

Umstead Park: Pott’s Branch Trail

img_4165At the end of last summer we ventured out for some hiking at Umstead Park.  Since Claire was only about a month old at the time, we wanted to keep it pretty easy so we explored Pott’s Branch Trail, which is only 1.6 miles and easy on the difficulty scale.  To get to Pott’s Branch Trail, use the park entrance at 8801 Glenwood Ave and continue straight to the back of the park where you’ll come to a large parking lot.  We parked in the larger, two-level parking lot and after a lot of configuring backpacks and bjorns we set off to find the trail head.

img_4155For some reason, even for two directionally-sound people we had a hard time finding the trail head for Pott’s Branch Trail.  From what I remember the signage was horrible and after a lot of stumbling around, we eventually found it.  Lucky for us, this is small looped trail so regardless of where we got on, we’d eventually get back to the parking lot.

Raleigh had a very wet summer last year and the trail was evidence of such.  Portions of the trail parallel a small stream, which had debris filled branches indicative of higher water levels.  There were also some large downed trees and muddy areas, which made us think the stream must have risen over the bank in areas.

The trail itself was very easy; other than a few downed trees that we walked around and large tree roots along the way, the trail is very flat and comfortable for most any fitness level.  Along the way, you’ll pass a large wooden deck, picnic table and small grill, and roads in the very far distance.  Since this trail is on the opposite side of the road from Big Lake, you won’t see any large bodies of water, but the flowing stream offers some interesting views and holds the attention of toddlers!

Thumbs up: quick and easy hike, nearby stream, wide and shady trail

Thumbs down: poor signage from the parking lot to trail head

Sal’s Branch Trail Photo Update

Labor Day weekend my sister and brother-in-law visited so we headed back to Umstead Park where we hiked Sal’s Branch Trail again.  Be sure to read my first review of that trail, but again, I love that it’s a good distance (2.75 miles) and has nice views of Big Lake.  We got such an early start on the hike that we were able to grab lunch to go from Moe’s and visit the nearby Gizmo Brew Works for some much needed beers and a picnic lunch! Gizmo Brew Works is nestled in an industrial park off Glenwood Ave and has an array of inside seating (couches, tables) and some picnic tables outside. Albeit, probably not designed to bring kids, but we made it work! They don’t serve food, but we’re fine with us bringing outside food so plan accordingly.

Helpful Links: