Running Around Raleigh

Many prospective students spend time touring potential schools and surveying the surrounding area, but I first came to Raleigh in June – only a few weeks before the beginning of the MSA program. Part of me worried about the risks of moving to a new city without ever visiting, but to my relief, I have found many reasons to love living in Raleigh –  like the extensive network of running trails. I want to share my three favorite trails here, and I hope you will consider exploring them if you get the chance. 

1. The American Tobacco Trail

I decided to try the American Tobacco Trail recently after a recommendation from a friend living in Durham. The trail stretches for more than 22 miles, and like most of the longer trail systems, there are many points of access. I suggest starting at Herdon Park because there is ample parking and a public facility with bathrooms and water fountains. From Herdon Park, I like to run north, where the trail is mostly shaded and eventually passes along the outskirts of Southpoint Mall and across a bridge over I-40. Even though it is nearly 30 minutes from my house, I keep going back to the American Tobacco Trail because of the wide pavement, scenic tree lines, and occasional urban landscape. 

2. Umstead State Park

On my first Saturday morning in Umstead, I was surprised by the number of other people. During an 11-mile run on the wide multi-use trails, I saw groups of middle-aged moms, intense mountain bikers, and cross-country teams. I appreciated the people-watching as a distraction from the endless rolling hills throughout the park. Though I have not yet ventured beyond the 13 miles of multi-use trails to the narrower, more technical dirt trails, I imagine they are also well-traveled. I recommend parking at the North Carolina Museum of Art and following Reedy Creek Road. The trail begins in the sculpture garden outside the museum and passes alongside the NCSU Equine Educational Unit before entering Umstead. I love running this route because it combines the open countryside of Reedy Creek with the dense forest of the popular state park. 

3. Lake Johnson to Walnut Creek Trail 

The combination of Lake Johnson and Walnut Creek Trail is where I run the most, primarily because I am able to access the trails from my house without the hassle of driving. Lake Johnson consists of two smaller loops with hilly and flat sections; the east side is 2.8 miles of pavement, while the west side is 1.5 miles of dirt. Walnut Creek Trail connects to the east side loop and stretches 15 miles from Lake Johnson to the Neuse River Trail. I like combining the Lake Johnson and Walnut Creek Trails because the route includes lots of lake views and passes by NC State’s Centennial Campus.

After four months of running around Raleigh, I could fill a series of blog posts with trail recommendations, but I hope I have motivated you with my three favorites. Whether you like walking, running, or biking, I encourage you to experience them for yourself. They have allowed me to explore my new city, and I hope that you will also take advantage of the incredible trail system in the Raleigh area.

Columnist: Salem Wear