Falls Lake Trail: 60 miles (with 24 shorter options)

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Written by

Joe Miller

Destination Distance From Downtown

12.1 miles


3 of 5 diamonds


Time To Complete

1 hour to 1 week


Here's something you don't find in a lot of metropolitan areas: a continuous 60-mile hiking trail - a 60-mile hiking trail that will soon swell to more than 100. For the here-and-now, we'll focus on the currently existing 60 miles, from Penny's Bend in Durham County downstream to the Falls Dam in Raleigh. This stretch includes 24 sections, ranging in length from less than a mile to 5.4 miles. For much of its length, the trail hugs the southern shore of Falls Lake. That means you'll have some good water views, you'll duck in and out of numerous coves (many of which are rife with mature beech trees), you'll spend some time on State Recreation Area Land, some on land managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission. Because of the latter, plan to incorporate orange into your hiking wardrobe, especially in the fall. The beauty of those 24 sections is that each one begins and ends at a roadway, most of which have at least some parking and can serve as a trailhead. Thus, your 60-mile trail becomes a series of much shorter hikes, most of which are in the 3- to 4-mile category. We'll give you a taste of the trail with a quick trip on one of our favorite stretches, the 3.4-mile Section 8, which runs from NC 98 northwest to the Shinleaf Recreation Area. From Shinleaf, the trail drops into a bottomland dominated by ferns. Cross a creek and the ups and downs begin, up-and-down, in-and-out of coves. You see the lake, you don't see the lake as you head upland into a maturing forest. You lose track of time and space until you enter a cross cut, which signals you are nearing NC 98 and the end of the section. Spare yourself the brush with civilization by turning here to make your return trip. This section, like many along Falls Lake, encounters a backyard or two, but for the most part escapes the sight and sound of man that is often just over the ridgeline.   More info: Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail   Maps: You can find a map showing a breakdown of the Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, by section, here. Getting to the Shinleaf trailhead from downtown Raleigh

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Falls Lake Trail: 60 miles (with 24 shorter options)

13304 Creedmoor Rd.
Wake Forest, NC, 27587
36.001672, -78.685621

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