Depending upon how adventurous you are, the first 8-mile installment of the Neuse River Greenway is open.
Based on a scouting expedition yesterday, roughly 7.9 miles of the Raleigh greenway, which eventually will run the length of the Neuse in Wake County, are finished. That tenth of a mile that’s not technically opened is over two short stretches. The first comes 2.6 miles from the northern trailhead at Falls of Neuse Road just below Falls Dam. There, a boardwalk is under construction: the footings and supports are in, the decking being screwed down. Although the area beneath appeared wet, tracks to the side of the structure suggested it had been bypassed by cyclists and travelers afoot.
An eighth of a mile farther south, a stretch under Capital Boulevard was also under construction. Heavy equipment, which was busy at work, made passage impossible.
A 50-yard stretch of the greenway under the new Falls of Neuse Road bridge is yet to be finished as well, pending completion of the above bridge, but is passible.
Thus, if you want a sneak peek of the new greenway this weekend without having to dodge construction, your best bets are the 2.6-mile stretch from the northern trailhead south and the 3.1-mile stretch north from the southern trailhead at the WRAL/CASL soccer complex off Perry Creek Road between Capital Boulevard and U.S. 401.
The southern end of the trail is especially unique for Triangle greenway, with isolated stretches through mature bottomland hardwoods. A nice treat comes midway on that stretch at an area marked as “River Access.” A short spur leads to a bench overlooking a bend in the river; below is a small, partially shaded sand beach dissolving into an especially clear stretch of the Neuse.
Overall, this down payment on the Neuse River Greenway promises the best long-distance romp on paved greenway in the Triangle. The trail is well marked: at the various neighborhood spurs, as well as the intersection with Abbotts Creek Trail, “street” signs make it clear which way to go. It’s got nice flow: It avoids the constant and often gratuitous swerves that are a trademark of older greenways in favor of trail that better works with the landscape. And it goes on and on and on: you’ll never have to deal with traffic.
Eventually, the Neuse River Greenway will go 28 miles, from Falls Dam to the Johnston County line. (And when it reaches Johnston County, it will meet five more miles of downstream greenway now under construction.) The entire trail is expected to be finished in 2013.
Easiest access at this point: The expanded and paved canoe access below Falls dam off Falls of Neuse Road (beware: the turn-in, just downstream of the old Falls of Neuse bridge, isn’t marked yet and traffic can be heavy), and at the WRAL/CASL soccer complex off Perry Creek Road between Capital Boulevard and U.S. 401 (trailhead is off the gravel lot near the fields closest to the river). Use the accompanying map for reference.
Come back to GetGoingNC.com Monday when we’ll take you on a 90 Second Escape video tour down the southern section of the new greenway.
View Upper Neuse River Greenway (Phase I) in a larger map