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Monday, March 5, 2018

Peddling the Neuse River Trail

The Neuse River Trail is a 33-mile paved greenway located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, running along the banks of the Neuse River from Falls Lake Dam, north of Raleigh, to the town of Clayton, south of Raleigh.

The Neuse River Greenway trail is part of the Capital Area Greenway trail system as well as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that crosses North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Open to both cyclists and pedestrians, the Neuse River Trail is the longest greenway trail in North Carolina and the longest paved trail between northern Virginia and western Georgia. 

The Neuse River Trail is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000 mile long biking and walking route linking the major cities of the Atlantic coast from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. The spine route and branching complementary routes are for non-motorized human transportation.  The nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance was created in 1991. The entire route has been selected. As of July 2017, 900 miles, or 32% of the route, is off-road on traffic-protected greenways. The vision is for the entire trail to be off-road.

The weather today was bright and cold, and it was perfect for biking as long as we dressed warmly.  We drove the 12 miles from Four Oaks to Clayton to hop on our bikes:

While the main part of the trail follows the Neuse River over what appears to be an old railroad right-of-way, there are a number of side trails that extend from the main trail into nearby neighborhoods.  We parked at the Sam's Branch Greenway parking area, up the Sam's Branch Creek from the main flow of the Neuse River.

About a mile on, we joined the main trail, but on the way we passed a new housing development:

Areas along the trail appear to have been improved by local communities or nonprofit groups.  We passed a Butterfly Garden:

We also pedaled along a fence decorated by school kids in colorful, artful fish:

The trail also boasts a number of explanatory signs that discuss the forests and wetlands through which the trail runs:

The trail also boasts several bridges for pedestrians and bikes.  The bridges are well-built and attractive:

The Neuse River itself is not particularly dramatic or attractive.  It runs slow and brown.  We could imagine, however, that, once Spring has come, the banks would be green and splashed with the color of blossoms.  But not now:

The construction work on the trail is impressive, and more sophisticated than many of the trails we have ridden:

We ran into one detour, where construction workers were rebuilding a bridge that had been damaged by a storm in 2017:

We thought most of the trail would slog through suburbia and commercialburbia, but we were wrong.  Most of the trail winds through forest and wetland, with no sound or sight of houses, buildings or traffic.  Some sections, such as the stretch toward the end of our ride, wind through beautiful farmland:

The Capital Area Greenway Trails are far more extensive than we've had time to explore on this stay.  But the availability of all this bicycling, together with the other hiking and paddling opportunities in the Raleigh area, may lure us back for a longer stay the next time we pass through North Carolina.

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