A Cyclists Guide To Raleigh Biking

The City of Raleigh started taking bicycling seriously in 2009 and has been growing in this area ever since with no signs of slowing down.

The city was recently named a bronze-level bicycle-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Raleigh has developed a lot of biking areas, and many more are in the planning stages.

The city is still implementing a strategic plan that was adopted in 2009 to increase connectivity throughout Raleigh and provide an alternative to driving.

Raleigh has maps of the many bike lanes it has set aside to make life easier for cyclists, and they are color-coded depending on the type of lane it is.

A system of Greenways connects many paths, making commuting easier the closer you get to downtown.

The greenways allow you to ride long distances without having to negotiate vehicular traffic.

The greenways are a great place for a relaxing ride, and they connect to each other and to other paths as well.

Between the greenways and bike lanes, you can go almost anywhere using the greenways as main highways to connect to other areas.

There are 180 miles of greenways in the Raleigh area for multi-use recreation with roughly 30 trails inside the city limits.

The Rails to Trails program has also created a lot of trails out of abandoned railroads around Raleigh.

Several trails make a loop around the area, and there are links to trails that go hundreds of miles on old train tracks. These trails are generally flat, paved, and great for riding.

There are several hundred miles of mountain bike trails in the area as well, and many of them are connected to other trails.

All of these bike lanes and greenways, and we haven’t even made it to the designated bike trails yet.

Raleigh Bike Trails 

Neuse River Greenway Trail

Neuse River Greenway Trail is 27 miles of uninterrupted paved trail for biking, hiking, running, and other uses.

The Greenway starts at Falls Lake in North Raleigh and goes to the Wake County line in the south.

There are winding boardwalks, historic sights, and suspension bridges over waterfalls.

Several parks along the way also have trails.

Bike rentals are available at the north trailhead.

Art to Heart Trail

This trail starts at the North Carolina Museum of Art and winds through the museum’s park before going through the North Carolina State campus on its way downtown.

There is a one-mile loop trail inside the museum’s park.

The main trail is six miles one way.

Lake Crabtree County Park

Crabtree County Park has 14 miles of trails, including five easy ones and three intermediate trails, on the northwest side of Raleigh.

This loop trail system goes around the lake. Some of it is paved, and some is fitting for mountain bikes.

The area is good for both road and off-road biking.

Dorothea Dix Park

A different kind of bike ride can be had at Dorothea Dix Park, the newest and now largest park in the city of Raleigh.

Dix was an activist for mental health, and the park holds the state’s first psychiatric hospital, appropriately named the Dorothea Dix Hospital.

There are some offices still open in the area, but the streets have very little traffic.

A loop around the edge of the park runs three miles, but you may crisscross the park anyway you like.

There are a few small areas where you can mountain bike as well.

American Tobacco Trail

The American Tobacco Trail is an abandoned railway line from the town of Apex to Downtown Durham.

It runs 23 miles long and is paved for the most part.

The trail is mostly in wooded areas and largely flat.

There are some stops where it crosses roadways, but there are limited obstructions to distract from a beautiful ride through nature.

White Oak Creek and Black Creek Greenways

White Oak Creek and Black Creek Greenways combine to create 15 miles of continuous paved trail.

The riding is easy and these trails connect to many other trails in the Raleigh area.

The White Oak Creek and Black Creek Greenways are part of a program to create 3000 miles of trails along the United States’ East Coast.

Walnut Creek Trail

The Walnut Creek Trail is an 18-mile trail over an old rail bed that passes through Raleigh.

The riding is flat and easy with lots of surrounding nature.

At the west end is a loop around Lake Johnson, and there are several access points and links to other trails in the greater Raleigh trail system.

Mountain Biking Raleigh

Opportunities abound for road biking inside the city of  Raleigh, but the city has even more to offer mountain bikers both inside and outside the city limits.

There are seven nature preserves in the immediate area, each one offering a few miles of trails for mountain bikers.

Some trails in the reserves are limited to foot traffic only, so it’s important to make sure you stick to the right trail.

The greenways around and about Raleigh also provide riding areas for mountain bikers.

But that’s not all. While there are a lot of formal trails for mountain biking in the city, there are also many parks and preserves in Raleigh where mountain biking is permitted and you can blaze your own trail through the heart of nature. 

Raleigh Mountain Bike Trails

Umstead Bridle Path

The Umstead Bridle Path Loop is a fairly easy 16-mile loop trail that primarily consists of a dirt road. 

While some of the areas’ singletrack trails get flooded in the wet season, this one stays ridable all year long.

There are restrooms at each trailhead with running water, and a handful of water fountains along the path for filling up waterbottles.

Fairly easy though it may be, the trail is a steady incline for the first half and steady descent for the second, so you’ll get a good workout and some variety.

Umstead Bridle Path provides easy access to the rest of Umstead State Park, as well as easy connections to Cary’s Black Creek Greenway and Wake County Crabtree Park, each of which has further trails to explore.

All in, it’s a solid mountain bike trail even most newbies can manage.

Durant Nature Preserve

In North Raleigh is the Durant Nature Preserve, a 237-acre wooded area around two lakes.

There are five miles of dirt surface trails primarily used by hikers, but mountain bikes are permitted on 1.5 miles of them.

The 1.5 miles of bike-permissible trails is mostly simple doubletrack, but there are spots of singletrack with some climbs and tough terrain.

While it’s a difficult place to make an intensive ride, it can be done by retracing the same path and you’ll get lots of gorgeous water and woodland scenery for your efforts.

Plus, the tracks are sparsely-populated, which keeps wildlife close and makes sightings a regular occurrence.

Lake Crabtree County Park

The first park created in Crabtree County, Lake Crabtree County Park lies northwest of Raleigh in Morrisville, North Carolina.

The parks features a singletrack mountain bike trail system through thick woodland perfect for beginner riders.

Along with the 8 miles of MTB trail, the Lake Crabtree trails connects to Umstead State Park and Black Creek Greenway, making it easy to extend your route for an intensive, full-day ride.

While you’re there, you can check out the pump track, a practice trail for learning how to pump your bike over MTB trail obstacles.

New Light Loop

Twenty-five miles north of Raleigh, in Creedmoor, NC, the New Light Loop is a 7.4-mile singletrack with enough challenge to make even expert mountain bikers salivate.

Technically, New Light Loop isn’t a single trail, but a number of interlinked trails with different, unique terrains.

You’ve got gravel and mud, jumps and switchbacks, rocks and soft forest floor.

With each section feeding out onto the fire road, you can ride one trail or all of them in conjunction.

Of all the mountain biking on offer in the Raleigh area, New Light Loop is the one you want to go out of your way for if you have the time.

Find the time. It’s worth it.

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