What’s Your Favorite Bike Path in Raleigh?

Down the Rabbit Hole

November, 21, 2008, by Acree

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This week’s Q&A pays homage to Raleigh’s ever growing use and enjoyment of bicycles for alternative transportation, exercise, or a personal hiatus from the pressures of the modern world. When you’re perched above two wheels and coasting through the crisp fall air, what path, official or unofficial, do you find yourself drawn to? Some of our writers answer below. Tell us yours in the comments.


I bike to work many, if not most, days. I ride a fixed-gear bike (no off-roading for me) and most of my rides are within downtown. Therefore, my favorite bike path isn’t one particular line, but rather the trips to and from work and wherever I may stray along that.

In particular, I find a couple of streets and areas within downtown to be particularly enjoyable to ride. The Warehouse District is always a fun place to bike around because of its large parking lots, usually empty streets, and many alleyways and nooks where cars won’t fit but bikes will. Since Fayetteville Street has reopened to traffic it is a very nice night ride, although the plaza construction currently hinders the full experience.

I have biked around much of the inner beltway, but with a single-speed or fixed-gear bike downtown is definitely the most fun… and safe. Adios, los coches!

Ladye Jane

I usually ride my bike to work everyday, so when I ride around for fun, it’s pretty low key. My favorite path is something I call the “Oakwood Weave” because I wind through Oakwood admiring the fall foliage, houses, and emerging Christmas decorations.  I start by going south down Bloodworth from where it begins on Sasser, and ride that till it hits Edenton, turn around and head north on East Street, and then meander the east to west side streets like Lane, Oakwood and Polk. Eventually, I cut down Boundary/Brookside, which loops me back around to Glascock and takes me home.  It’s a very pleasant ride with not too many hills (but just enough to make you feel like you’re getting some exercise), little car traffic, and plenty of scenery.


One of the most varied and interesting greenway routes begins at the corner of Hillsborough and Gorman at Meredith College and takes you through the North Carolina Art Museum Campus (the largest art museum campus in the entire country), then over to William B. Umstead State Park.

The paved path first curves along the fringe of the Meredith Campus and down through a tunnel under Wade Avenue. Upon emerging from the tunnel, you’ll climb a hill up onto the Reedy Creek Greenway Pedestrian Bridge spanning over the Beltline. The other side winds and descends into the museum trail system, where you’ll find indigenous plants labeled and explained nature-walk style. Take another sharp incline, then steer back down to emerge at the art-park area of the museum grounds, where you can catch a glimpse of the Art as Shelter Pavilion before following a path down to the Cloud Chamber. Pass Thomas Sayre’s earth-cast rings, look down onto Barbara Kruger’s PICTURE THIS, and circle around the amphitheatre to get a look at the construction site for the museum’s expansion. From there, cross Blue Ridge Road and connect to Umstead’s countless miles of bicycle and hiking trails.


To get to the Caraleigh Mills neighborhood on the south side I go “Down the Rabbit Hole.” Starting at Morgan and Mayo, I bike around the backside of Burger Hut, turn onto Hargett and kick it up the hill past the ever-in-process Bloomsbury. Next I turn down Boylan and shimmer over the bridge and cruise downhill to Dix campus. Here I get on the scenic stretch of greenway that runs through Dix campus, and head east. It’s a nice stretch to ride along in the summer. After crossing over South Saunders I’m back on the greenway, riding through the woods towards the ominous tunnel that goes under Dawson. You won’t see any joggers on this stretch. The caged lights in the tunnel are usually off at night, so I always just hope there isn’t a sleeping body I could run over. One time I heard a nighttime human grunting within the woods. From the end of the tunnel it’s through more woods and I’m on my way to chickens, vegetables and merrymaking.

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  • Tim
    11/21 04:26 PM

    “From the end of the tunnel it’s through more woods and I’m on my way to chickens, vegetables and merrymaking.”

    Happy to be the light at the end of the tunnel Chad. Seriously though, the city would do well to improve this stretch. If nothing else they could leave the lights on.

  • stefanie
    11/21 05:42 PM

    For some reason, I love riding to Cup a Joe via the backroads: Hillsborough St to Woodburn Rd to Clark Ave to Gardner St to Kilgore Ave to Dixie Trail to Clark Ave (split from other section=typical wierd Raleigh Rd connectivity) to Daisy St @ Hillsborough.  Also from here, it’s a cinch to jump onto the Reedy Creek Greenway and travel to Umstead and back, freshly fed and caffeinated.  Cabarrus St between Boylan Heights and the new Convention Center is nice, too, b/c it has fresh asphalt and looks/feels like a dream…

  • James
    11/21 05:48 PM

    I don’t do much biking anymore but there was a time when I did it more or less “professionally”.  Without going into what the means exactly, during my day I enjoyed doing a route I called “the four corners”. 

    Go from wherever you are to the closest of the following four intersections:

    1. East & South
    2. East & Oakwood
    3. West & North
    4. West & South

    Then work your way through each intersection in any order you like.  You can make a box, an X, etc. 

    These intersections make up the traditional boundaries of the city of Raleigh.  Keep in mind, however, that the boundary streets don’t go all the way through anymore (note that North no longer intersects with East) so you can’t just stay on the boundary streets.  It’s fun to try, though and you’ll learn a lot about the city—especially if you do it several times changing the order.

  • Betsy
    11/21 06:12 PM

    Any city street in the few minutes after a big holiday parade is over ... the space is all carfree for once.

  • Rob E.
    11/22 02:14 AM

    I love the idea of the greenways, but in practice, they don’t generally take me where I want to go, although I do sometimes travel along Crabtree from Crabtree Valley Mall to Raleigh Rd. just to come into downtown via less congested roads. For a leisurely ride with no destination in mind, I like going up to Shelley Lake and taking an off-shoot that goes farther north, through a fun, narrow tunnel (that I think I’m supposed to dismount for) and on along a creek where the trails seem a little quieter.  Sometimes I’ll even hang my hammock up on the side of that trail and relax for a spell.

  • Devin
    11/22 02:41 PM

    the best route in raleigh? bike first friday, of course!

  • r
    11/22 03:48 PM

    Just as it’s fun to walk places you’re not really supposed to—roofs, construction sites, abandoned buildings, etc.—it can be fun to ride bikes where you’re not really supposed to, but you’re not hurting anything either—the plaza surrounding the legislature, graveyards, wheelchair ramps, courtyards, and tunnels.  All at night, of course.

  • Matt Huffman
    11/22 05:36 PM

    I definitely have to agree with Chad on the rabbit hole ride.  I love to start out at the corner of Boylan and Morgan and ride down Boylan to the Dix campus and get on the greenway.

    From there, the winding terrain and ominous tunnels are indeed a spectacular place to ride.  Then, I like to backtrack a little bit and ride north on Wilmington up the huge hill, heading into downtown with the skyline spread out before you. 

    From Wilmington, I ride past the Capitol, take a left on Edenton and go past the museums and into Halifax Square.  Getting back on Hillsborough Street heading west, I then take that back to State and Meredith’s campus where you can connect it with Mark’s museum ride.

    Scenic greenways, dark tunnels, Raleigh’s civic heart, North Carolina’s governmental centers, the museums and our universities, this is truly a great way to ride.

    Neat topic!

  • rv
    11/22 07:02 PM

    The Fallon Trail. Ride for a few hours and then stop for a big cheeseburger and glass of beer at that terrible Ale House there just off the trail. It’s sort of an amazing collision of fitness and anti-fitness. I highly recommend it as an occasional indulgence!

  • TheCatalyst
    11/22 08:12 PM

    There is one near Trinity Farms and Reedy creek that goes into the woods and along a creek for a little while. It’s also a dog park but I can’t for the life of me remember exactly where… it was years ago.

    I wish I could ride my bike to work….

  • Kate Maddalena
    11/23 01:58 AM

    From the NCSU side of town to downtown: Benehan Street (in Cameron Park).  It’s trafficless, and hits Park St., and takes you straight to Boylan to Jones…I stand in the stirrups the whole way down.

  • Aaron
    11/24 12:57 AM

    I have to say, the daily ride from Boylan Heights down Morgan St. to the Obama Headquarters was enjoyable. The Boylan Ave. bridge is the sweetest spot in Raleigh and crossing it every day made my miserable existence bearable in the dog days of the campaign. Having a beer at the new bar they’re opening up there will be glorious.
    My other ride from the Heights down St. Mary’s St. was awesome except I wasn’t able to really bomb the hill on my fixed gear. The ride back up in the evenings was a workout. Raleigh is really hilly come to think of it.

  • squaretiles
    11/24 10:21 AM

    anywhere to sadlacks.

  • sarah emily
    11/24 12:15 PM

    The City of Raleigh has some great Urban Bike Routes highlighted around town with small green bike signs and they’re numbered for ease.  These routes can be found on the Greenway Trails map available online (I picked mine up for free at REI).  There’s a route (#12 I think) that starts around Raleigh Blvd and runs parallel to Capital Blvd through small neighborhoods and back roads. The end result is Durant Lake.  Round trip this ride is rather long (30 miles) but if you don’t have a fixie and have 3 hours to spare - it’s well worth it.


  • sarah emily
    11/24 12:17 PM

    Oh and one more enjoyable ride - empty parking decks downtown during the week.  Ride up watch the sunset - ride down - wheeeeeeeee!

  • George
    11/24 01:16 PM

    My favorite route takes me from Mordecai through Belvedere Park and by Lions Park to catch the greenway at Raleigh Blvd. I love the boardwalk. It’s amazing to see the wetlands early in the morning. Occasionally I’ll spot a great blue heron.

    From there, I usually ride to Lassiter Mill on the greenway. Sometimes that’s a turning around point, or else I’ll keep going to Crabtree Valley. And sometimes, when I am feeling energetic, I’ll ride from Lassiter Mill up St. Mary’s Street. My first time doing that this year reminded me that I’m not 24 anymore. I used to ride up that hill every day when I was that age. It’s not as easy now.

  • Fred
    11/24 01:23 PM

    Work and back (well, the back part is really my favorite):

  • Fred
    11/24 01:27 PM

    Oh, and as for the city’s routes, I sure wish they’d put them up on Google earth or something. They could get a lot of interaction and feedback from the commnunity if they did that. That huge pdf map doesn’t lend itself to actual route planning and integration with other maps.

  • Dirty D
    11/24 04:02 PM

    Starting from Boylan Heights, north across the Boylan Bridge.  Right on Morgan and cruise across another bridge to possibly miss the train.  Coast down to Fayetteville.  South to the end of Fayetteville, and on to the BTI center.  Then cruise all the way back north on Wilmington, to the Capital. Continue north to the NC Museum of Natural Science with the cool/creepy statues where you think there are people there.  Then keep going north around the legislative building to the greenspace where Obama spoke.  Across the pedestrian bridge at the North end to the NC State Government parking deck and then back around to cruise home. Only at night, especially with a little chill.

  • hank
    11/24 04:19 PM

    I like my biking a bit more off road.  New Light MTB trails get my vote.

  • stefanie
    11/24 05:57 PM

    Fred:  I work for Parks and Rec as a Greenway Planner and this issue has been discussed at the CAMPO Bicycle and Pedestrian Stakeholders Group meetings within the past year.  I’m not sure where this discussion landed but I am sure that it could be revisited.  There is a meeting tomorrow at 4:00 pm in the Raleigh Municipal Building (222 W. Hargett Street) in conference room 303.

    SW—anything to add here since you had brought this up at the BPSG??

  • Rob E.
    11/24 07:41 PM

    Don’t know if this link will work: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=116766785498932965404.00045487d4411f7634cd5&t=h&z=12

    I borrowed a GPS unit for a week and mapped out some Raleigh Greenways on Google Maps.  Greenways are green, bike lanes are blue, and the red sections are roads without bike lanes that can be used to connect sections of the greenway.  It’s far from complete, and it doesn’t show the suggested city routes, but it’s a start.  I was also wishing that map was available that had better info about where Greenways linked to streets and where you had to go when you hit the end of a greenway stretch (since the signs aren’t always there).  I believe anyone (or maybe anyone with a Google account?) can edit it, so feel free to add on.

  • sasquatch
    11/24 09:58 PM

    sasquatch like all paths,leave big foot print every chance get.see hairless ape riding machine with chain and thingys to put feet on.sasquatch wish he could ride machine,but me just just happy crossing path in front of riders and make them fall and run while eyeballs pop out head.someday sasquatch learn to ride machine,get tired of walking in forest all time.

  • Fred
    11/25 01:45 PM

    stefanie - it would be great if the city could set up something more interactive and with actual georeferencing. One problem with the current routes is that they try to address all needs (grocery shopping, getting to school, idle recreation, and serious cycling) in one map. How about an online tool that lets residents map their favorite routes along with data on their age and skill level, then crunch those numbers down to a set of user-recommended paths preferred by different experience or age levels. I’m envision on the other end there would be a tool that allows me to plug in my starting address and riding preferences and would show me routes that appeal to others like me (kind of like Amazon saying, “85% of customers ultimately bought product ABC after looking at product XYZ”). This would all be in the context of the city merely acting as a conduit for sharing rider experiences, not endorsing the given routes, etc.

  • Fred
    11/25 01:50 PM

    Rob -
    I like your map. Thanks for sharing that with us!

  • stefanie
    11/26 05:29 PM

    Rob:  thanks for sharing this map.  very cool. 

    All:  google maps really seems to be the appropriate technology for layering various data sets for trip planning, wayfinding, etc. although I can’t use ‘company time’ to add all the greenways to this, we encourage others to use our greenway map to fill in the blanks.  Our greenway maps also have the on-road bike routes.  a new greenway map will be coming out within the next week, actually.  it will be available online, at the Municipal Building at 222. W. Hargett Street on the 6th floor, Suite 300 of the Capital Bank Building located at 333 Fayetteville Street and Community Centers throughout Raleigh. 

    If anyone is looking for a big project, in addition to adding bike routes/greenways, they could request bus route/stop data from the City to show how one can travel by bus with their bike to pick up various greenways in tandem with on-road bike routes.  i wish that i had the time to do this myself…

  • Adrian Hands
    11/28 12:47 AM

    NewRaleigh.com asks, “When you’re perched above two wheels and coasting through the crisp fall air, what path, official or unofficial, do you find yourself drawn to?”

    When I lived in Raleigh, like many cyclists, i reveled in the night ride home from downtown, which was a bit off-route, as i worked in an office over by Cary.  On a good winter night, I’d warm up climbing Glenwood fixed, turn R on Hillsborough, L on Boylan.  Enjoying the view from the railroad bridge—even more with the extra lights leading toward Christmas—while a freight banged and groaned through the “wye”, below.  Then on into Boylan Heights where odd stickers and obscure stencilings festoon the back sides of the stop signs.  After a tip of the hat at the Mayor’s home, turn R onto Cabarrus and down past the yard with the perennials, then the one with the urban chickens—if i’d had enough beer, i might crow like a rooster—past the glasswerks studio and through the narrow under the high trestle where the Amtrak from Richmond crosses in the early evening, and a few yards on the foot path.


    If the state was killing a man that midnight, then one needed be ready to brake for a small handful of solemn vigil-ers huddled around candles against the chill, on the path just outside prison grounds, closely watched and kept at a safe distance, lest their prayers comfort the condemned.  Nowadays, they do executions at 4am, because midnight wasn’t cold enough to discourage prayers, i guess.  Flash them a peace sign and cross Western Blvd.  Only on execution nights will there be a chain stretched across the dark entrance—in case the post-middle-aged pray-ers charge the empty soccer field at midnight?


    The quiet, straight run through darkness between the cold steel RR tracks and empty soccer fields was a great place to sprint, or enjoy the cool widespread glow of a full moon on the empty landscape at the edge of the old, but not yet entirely abandoned, Dorthea Dix mental hospital.  L on campus, crossing high over the vines and RR tracks, then R, and along the edge of grassy “nut hill” while down below giant boilers howl up their stacks and huge white steam clouds erupted into the dry black winter sky, carrying the starchy aroma of sanitized linens.  R under the thick boughs of the hospital’s old oaks, and L before the hill bottom to exit campus past the unmanned fuel depot and the closed for the night drug rehab facility where, at noontime, students stretch their legs and reflected on program material over a smoke on their daily lunch walk to and from burger king.  This cross-campus cut avoids traffic and also avoids the hill near the north end of Lake Wheeler Rd where one of the businesses (laundry?) seems to often vent enough ammonia to make one’s eyes almost cry.


    R, back into traffic on Lake Wheeler Rd, crossing and finally saying good-night to the RR tracks—them pointing to Rocky Mount and Richmond, and me headed home—past the fenced yard were a thousand gray cement lawn statues stand inside a fenced yard, their fantastic array of forms—angels, deer, women and dragons—made all but invisible by the camouflage of a uniform dull gray color, past the bright digital marquee of the now silent farmer’s market the road dips slightly crossing the damp, ill-defined flood plain of tiny Walnut Creek, where they air is always ten degrees cooler—a welcome treat in the summer, and a grit your teeth and pedal plunge in the winter, then the steep climb up over I-40, with its own red and white light show.  Lake Wheeler Rd narrows after the interstate and the NASCAR-mad “American Owned” convenience store where the clerk with the .38 on his hip sells Hugo Chavez’s gasoline.


    R on Sierra, into residential, past the 1960s-era single-family homes—each of unique architecture, unlike the new cookie cutters just ahead in my neighborhood—a cyclist through here earlier in the evening would smell a variety of suppers cooking in family-sized batches.  Some nights now the windows and storm doors of these homes rattle violently with the joyous thunder of Salvation Music booming from the new Pentecostal mega-Church someone built just outside of this usually quiet neighborhood, or at least they often did in the first months after church construction—I imagine the parties involved must’ve discussed noise ordinances by now.  R on Lineberry, spin downhill past the scads of new apartments where the woods used to be—dwellings attracting convenient city transit buses now, instead of wild deer.  Up the last and biggest climb to turn left at the HOA-maintained sign on Isabella and carry me home on a trusty pair of stainless-steel spoked twenty-seven inch wheels.

  • rkOliver
    12/04 12:22 PM

    I’m with Sarah and Emily.  I love riding up and down parking garages at night and when it is raining out.  Put some droning music on the iPod and just spiral up, up, up.  Then catch a view of whatever there is to see from the top.

  • Matt W
    12/04 04:43 PM

    Chad: I as well have heard the night time grunt… Instead, it was more like HEY!! in a not-so friendly voice. My friend and I like to call it the Gauntlet. Dodgeing the little yellow “stumps” before the brigdes with a dim light, and the feeling of strange people in the shadows make for and exciting ride. Also, we like to start from the top of Dix, bomb down and slice onto the greenway. It’s the perfect start.

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