Breaking in a new stretch of the Falls Lake Trail

“Usually,” Alan observed, “we wait until we’ve been hiking a while before we get lost.”

Indeed, getting lost before we could even find the trailhead was a record. It was also a tribute to the trail, five newly opened sections of the Falls Lake portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which is expanding at breakneck pace through the Triangle. Likely by year’s end, and possibly at a Nov. 21 Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail workday, 60 miles of continuous trail will exist from the Falls Lake dam in Wake County to Pennys Bend on the Eno River in Durham County.  That about 37 of those miles — from NC 50 northwest — have been blazed and cleared since 2007 is thanks entirely to FMST volunteers who show up once a month to rake, dig, hack and otherwise clear trail. That we were slightly challenged finding the trailhead for Section 20 wasn’t surprising considering how quickly this transportation project is evolving.

I hadn’t hiked any of the new trail north of Jimmy Rogers Road and despite being advised by FSMST President Jeff Brewer that Sections 16, 17 and 18 “have some trail maintenance issues … that will be addressed this month,” Alan and I decided to hike those sections along with 15, 19 and 20, a 9.6-mile stretch in all, from Jimmy Rogers Road northwest to a trail access a little more than a mile west of I-85. Those “issues,” it turned out, proved minor as long as we paid close attention with our feet: Solid footing meant we were likely still on the trail, squishiness suggested we had gone astray.

Some quick observations: Sections 16-20 were considerably flatter than stretches on down Falls Lake, where the trail consistently drops into and climbs out of coves; Sections 19 and 20 are accompanied by a soundtrack of I-85; a nice man appeared on Section 19 to let us know we had strayed from the trail onto private property (his); Section 17 involved bushwhacking; the 4.5-mile Section 15 was by far the most scenic.

I have more words, but I also have pictures. Check out the slideshow of our trip.

3 thoughts on “Breaking in a new stretch of the Falls Lake Trail”

  1. Did an out and back on Section 15 this afternoon. Some great views lakeside midway thru the section. Very little debris on the trail. You all must have kicked it aside.

    Did the section that goes under I-85 back in September. Bottom of the culvert was dry, but I’ve been thru there in the spring when the water was ankle deep.

    The section from Redwood/Tom Clark to Redmill is on the rough side. No white blazes yet, just flags. The trail from Redmill to Penny’s Bend is also flagged and actually very runnable/hikable. I reckon when the white blazes show up that that is when the trail is considered official.

    No sign of any bridge construction between sections 14 and 15. Definitely looking forward to the linking up of those two fine trail sections.

    1. Good news this morning on the bridge linking Sections 14 and 15. Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Executive Director Kate Dixon reports: “Work is underway on the bridge — the engineering design work is done and we’ve heard from the Corps [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the land] that it can built without new permits (it’s the site of an old bridge – so it’s considered a replacement not new construction). But Durham is now saying it may need to permit it themselves, and the Corps is talking to them about that. After we hear back on that, we’ll start asking for bids from construction companies. I’d guess we’re 9 months to a year away.

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