What better way to take in the sights and sounds of a landscape than by pedaling your way through it on a bicycle? The Tar Heel State offers a scenic riverside trail that’s great for seasoned riders and beginners alike. It’s fun for the whole family! Let’s take a look at the longest biking trail in North Carolina, including how to prepare for the ride and navigate successfully.
Neuse River Greenway Trail
The longest biking trail in North Carolina is the Neuse River Greenway Trail. This paved trail runs roughly 27 miles from Falls Lake in North Raleigh to southeast Raleigh along the Wake County line. Riders typically complete this ride as an out-and-back trail, doubling the mileage to 54 miles.
There are many options for extensive biking routes throughout the state, such as the 400 mile long North Line Trace or the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs nearly 500 miles from Virginia through North Carolina. However, these routes utilize existing roads and were not designed as biking trails. In contrast, the Neuse River Greenway Trail is a fully paved dedicated trail designed for bicyclists. It’s also open to walkers, runners, and roller-bladers to appreciate.
The Neuse River Greenway Trail is notable for the views it offers of the Neuse River, local historic sites, charming winding boardwalk areas, as well as breathtaking suspension bridges that traverse wetlands. It’s a section of the Mountains-to-Sea hiking trail, which is a route that traverses the entire state. It’s also a section of the 3000-mile East Coast Greenway, which connects Maine to Florida.
Navigating the Longest Biking Trail in North Carolina
The Neuse River Greenway Trail is part of the larger Capital Area Greenway System. You can envision the trail as three sections and choose your own adventure to find a mileage that’s perfect for your needs. Make sure to download directions and print a paper copy of the map and cue notes to take along for the ride. You can view another visual of the map here.
Falls Lake Trailhead to Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve: 8 Miles
While parking is available at several points along the trail, the Falls Lake Trailhead is the beginning of the path and the best option for parking if you plan to ride the trail from start to finish. About halfway to Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve there is the option to ride the connecting five-mile out–and-back Abbotts Creek Trail. This section of the trail is beautiful and flat, easy riding.
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve to Anderson Point Park: 10 Miles
When you reach Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, you’ll have the option to take a turn off the main greenway and cross a pedestrian bridge to enter the farm. Here you’ll find 146-acres of open space surrounded on three sides by the Neuse River, an area that consists mostly of undeveloped pastures and woodland areas. While not technically part of the trail, this area is definitely worth exploring! There is parking available here as well if you decide that this is the best start to your adventure. There are also bathrooms available and water fountains if you need to fill up.
The route continues to wind along the Neuse River as you make your way to Anderson Point Park. About eight miles from Horseshoe is the Milburnie Dam Bridge overlook, worth a stop for a nice view. Also along this section are wonderful waterways, scenic wooded areas, and several bridges and marshes to cross.
Anderson Point Park to Mial Plantation Road Trailhead: 9 Miles
For the remaining miles of the trail, you’ll pass through some tree lined areas and open land blocked in by white picket fence. There are a couple of short rolling hills to traverse during this section of the ride. If you are planning to ride the trail out-and-back, the Mial Plantation Road Trailhead is a great turnaround point. If you’ve planned out a two-car system, then you can celebrate reaching the trail’s endpoint here!
What to Know Before You Go
Be sure to check for closures along the trail before planning your bicycling adventure. Route closures and other timely information can be found on the Greenway Alerts page. Navigating the route is simple with GPS. There is a full-service bike shop right at the Falls Lake Trailhead that even has bikes available to rent if you or someone in your crew needs one.
Make sure to bring water bottles and snacks for the ride. You’ll have the option to refill your water at the fountains at Horseshoe Farm. Be aware that the trail is only open from dawn to dusk and plan accordingly.
The Neuse River Greenway Trail Difficulty
The Neuse River Greenway Trail is generally considered a moderate trail. This is mostly because it is a flat and easy-to-navigate route. It has some rolling hills with a total elevation gain of only 1,715 feet. If you’re looking for a relatively easy, laid-back adventure, this trail is right for you. However, the route is long enough for seasoned cyclists to appreciate, especially with all of the incredible sights along the way. With no automobile traffic to contend with and a lack of elevation challenges, it’s also a great adventure for the entire family.
Which Type of Bike is Best?
You can complete the Neuse River Trail on almost any type of bike. As a moderate and relatively flat trail, a beach cruiser would be fine. Road bikes are an excellent choice and may be beneficial for speed and to tackle the small hills when they come up. Mountain bikes and ebikes work too. Any type of bicycle you already have will probably work well and no specific tire size is recommended. Be sure to carry a patch kit and tire pump just in case!
Wildlife on the Longest Biking Trail in North Carolina
The state mammal of North Carolina is the gray squirrel, and the state bird is the northern cardinal. It’s not unlikely that you’ll run across these as well as other small mammals or songbirds along the way. If you’re a birdwatcher, you may enjoy the chance to spot the white-breasted nuthatch, northern flicker, pine warbler, American goldfinch, eastern bluebird, and red-head, pileated, or hairy woodpeckers. You’ll be riding along a waterway where catfish, bass, flounder, and freshwater mussels dwell. The river is also home to an amphibian called the Neuse River waterdog, a salamander found only in North Carolina!
Bicycling can bring you into a state of harmony with the natural world as you cruise by your surroundings. Have fun exploring and be sure to respect the territories you traverse along your way.
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