Best urban retreats
Posted April 28, 2014
The City of Oaks (and surrounding communities) offer big-city delights like touring musicals and interstate traffic, but we've also got better access to green space within city limits than most other cities this size. It's almost a guarantee that you can get away from it all without going too far.
As a biker and hiker, here are some of my favorites.
Starting from the west, Umstead Park offers well-marked dirt trails at varying lengths for mountain bikes, horseback riding and those who trek on foot. You will quickly find yourself enveloped in silence, and you can walk for miles without encountering another person.
For a quick hit of culture with your noontime walk, try the NC Museum of Art Park just outside the museum on Blue Ridge Road. A quick 1-mile loop takes you past nine works of art, or expand your mind and your exercise with an additional mile, all without leaving the museum property.
The Walnut Creek Wetland Center in south Raleigh offers wildlife watching and educational programs for all ages Tuesdays through Sundays. From there, step out onto the recently completed Walnut Creek Trail. This 15.6-mile system of boardwalks and paved surface connects NC State's Centennial Campus east through Worthdale Park to the Neuse River. Those who choose to go the distance will travel beneath busy Interstate 40 and through protected tunnels past the softball complex and amphitheater. The city fades away as you spot owls and great herons soaring over the marshy ground.
An even longer adventure awaits on the 28-mile north-to-south Neuse River Trail which hugs Raleigh's eastern edge. From the Wake-Johnston County line north past Interstate 540, this paved trail has access points at Poole Road, Anderson Point Park, and Buffaloe and Durant roads. Many use portions of this trail for their daily workout. On a nice day, you'll see cyclists, runners, families, dog walkers and even riders on horseback enjoying the shade offered along the trail.
On hot summer days, the Neuse itself is a refuge for those who canoe and kayak along its meandering length. There are five official canoe launch points, two of them – at Anderson Point and Poole Road – right off the greenway with available parking.
Currents can be high after a rainfall, so use common sense if you are inexperienced. Under normal conditions, it's enough to point your boat downstream and let the river do the work while you take in the sights.