Did you know that the Raleigh area has over 100 miles of Greenway?That’s right, the same city that contains over ten different colleges and universities as well as housing the headquarters for companies such as Bank of America, SAS Institute and Red Hat, has a ton of available hiking and walking trails. Lucky for those of us living in and around Raleigh, the majority of these locations are free to visit and use as well as being a great way to escape the claustrophobic city life many students experience 24/7 while living on campus. That’s my plan for this summer! I used to spend a lot of time in the outdoors as a child but that stopped as school got in the way. I want to get back to nature and spend some time in the beauty around me before I go back to classes in the fall.
Why the sudden interest? Last year, my father found a stray dog, only about three months old, and brought her home. My brother took her in and they’ve been inseparable ever since. I’ve included a few pictures of her to showcase just how adorable she is. However, as many know, puppies are a handful and she is no exception. My brother has been taking her daily to beautiful spots of greenery all over Raleigh and I’ve found myself very interested in doing the same. So here are some of the locations I have looked into and a couple I have already been to.
While technically located in Cary, this reserve is considered part of the greater Raleigh area and contains more than 140 acres of mildly hilly woods. Its trails include the Chestnut Oak Loop Trail (1.2 miles) and Swift Creek Loop Trail (0.8 miles). This location also contains the Stephens Nature Center with interactive nature and historical exhibits. Famous for the nearly 200 Hemlock trees on the property, Hemlock Bluffs provides plenty of shade in the summer if sun isn’t really your thing and is also a great place to walk dogs (on leash). My brother took his dog here a few times and greatly enjoyed the atmosphere.
Lake Johnson Park
This is a favorite of mine and I used to go to Lake Johnson all of the time. The boardwalk/bridge provides a beautiful view across the lake and going through the woods feels like escaping into a fantasy world. The park hosts a three mile greenway loop as well as unpaved trails. The paved greenway is more popular as it has a few hills (I do NOT suggest roller skating; there was an incident when I was a child where I smashed my head, even with a helmet, so 10/10 do not recommend, those hills really can be steep). Bikes are allowed as are dogs, but it is not possible for the bikes to finish the unpaved portion so the paved loop is recommended instead. Seasonally, pedal boat and kayak rentals are available and many people fish off of the boardwalk/bridge that is part of the paved loop. I used to fish there as a child on occasion and had lots of fun.
Here’s the best part about this location: it connects to Walnut Creek Greenway which can take you to NC State’s Centennial Campus as well as Dorothea Dix Park and downtown Raleigh. This of course takes a few miles to get to each location so if you go, wear the proper shoes and bring lots of water!
William B Umstead State Park
I haven’t been here in years (literally a decade) but it is on the top of my summer to-do list! 13 miles of trails that are available for walking, hiking, cycling and even horse riding as well as the 22 miles of dedicated hiking trails make this an extremely popular destination. There aren’t any paved trails, but several are gravel lined and the rest are packed dirt. Many different types of bikes can be used, but it is recommended that the tire is 28mm in width at a minimum to handle the rockier gravel trails. If you’re searching for a more natural trail with several different route options, look no further. Some trails are easier and made for those who aren’t constantly hiking or biking, like Sycamore Trail, moderate trails like Reedy Creek Trail, and the steeper, harder South and North Turkey Creek Trails.
This is the location for longer and more involved workouts, but there is still plenty of shade and dogs are allowed. The best location to park (in my experience) Is Old Reedy Creek Trailhead which has bathrooms, lots of parking and water fountains.
Neuse River Greenway Trail
This encompasses 27.5 miles of paved greenway and is open to joggers, cyclists, walkers and even rollerbladers. There is a bike rental shop by the Falls Lake trailhead if you do not have a bike of your own, and if you prefer a more secluded hike, the southern portion including Anderson Point Park is known for being less populated. This area goes over wetlands and gives you a chance to experience more of the beauty of nature as well as sunflowering fields in the right season. There are many starting and stopping points around the trail but everything included, it is over 55 miles. I plan to utilize a good portion of that for cycling a few days this summer when I really need to get away.
There are varied opinions of taking dogs here so I would just use your best judgment.
I could have gone on for ages about all of the other parks and greenways, but these are the ones I am planning for this summer and I encourage you to look into any others as well!