Day Hike A: Falls Lake Tailrace at Falls of Neuse Road to Raven Ridge Road

Falls Lake Dam

Distance: 3.5 miles

  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Camping: No.
  • Land managers: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Note: Some or all of this trail is on game lands and hunting is allowed. Learn about local hunting seasons here.
  • Volunteer Task Force Leader: Jeff Brewer,
  • Piggyback trail: Falls Lake Trail, a/k/a South Shore Trail.
  • Connecting trails: Neuse River Trail.
  • Falls Lake MST Section No.: 1.
  • Trailhead/Access: Falls Lake tailrace at Falls of Neuse Road and Raven Ridge Road. Click on map below for specifics.

Eastern end of the MST along Falls Lake, at the dam.

Section 1 of the Falls Lake portion of the MST is at the epicenter of an emerging playground. From the southeastern trailhead parking lot at Falls Lake dam’s Tailrace Fishing Area, you’ll have access to the Neuse River Trail, a 28-mile greenway that will extends to the Johnston County line (where another 5 miles of existing greenway takes you into Clayton). Meanwhile, at Raven Ridge Road a city of Raleigh trail connects with Shelley Lake and the Crabtree Creek Trail via Raleigh’s greenway system.

As for Section 1 itself, the southeast end has a surprising, for the Piedmont, amount of elevation, with a third-of-a-mile climb gaining more than 100 feet from near the trailhead. Past the Falls Lake Visitor Center, the trail is more characteristic of the rest of the MST along Falls Lake, dipping in and out of coves and spending quality time along the lake. An option gives hikers the opportunity to take in the Falls Lake visitor center (and restrooms) or take a more sylvan, and slightly shorter, bypass.

Geology Highlights: This trail section includes large rock exposures of Falls leucogneiss, an unusual rock unit that has geological and historical significance for this part of North Carolina.  There is also abundant geological evidence of an ancient fault zone (along the “rock slab creek“).

Day Hike A Map

Click on the link below the Google map to open it up in a larger version which includes definition of the map symbols, hiking notes, and an interactive option for driving to the trailheads.

View MST / Falls Lake / Day Hike A in a larger map


Finding Your Way

Thanks to Mark Edelstein for these detailed hiking directions.

Finding Your Way (east » west) Mileage
Trailhead: From Tailrace Fishing Area parking lot, just below Falls Lake dam, hike starts across from the restrooms, by a gated access next to a signboard. Following white blazes, start on a gravel access road. Turn left at a signpost, onto a footpath. 0.0
Stay right, as an alternate blue-blazed trail goes off to the left (this trail goes 0.6 mile, bypassing the Visitor Assistance Center, before rejoining the MST). 0.2
Cross a dam access road and turn right to walk on a wide, gravel path. Pay attention to trail signage through this section. 0.3
Turn left off the gravel path at a wildlife viewing blind, then enter the woods and cross a short boardwalk. 0.4
Cross another section of the access road and enter an area of young-growth pine. Cross the paved road again and turn right onto a paved path. In about 100 yards, turn left off this path and down a set of stairs. Note: At the first road crossing, restrooms and water are within view to your right. 0.5
Cross a paved service road by the lake. Reach a trail junction, left, with the blue-blazed trail mentioned at Mile 0.2. The MST stays right. 1.0
Cross a small plank bridge over a feeder creek and turn left on the other side, then quickly right. Soon head right on a more open footpath, and then a quick left onto a narrower trail. 1.2
Walk across a wide utility easement. 1.6
Cross a small creek on a footbridge. 2.1
Cross another small creek on another footbridge, and a third at a low point passing around a cove. 2.4
Cross another small creek on stepping stones. 2.5
A trail to Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve Park goes left at a signboard. Stay straight for the MST. Note: It is 0.4 mile to restrooms, water, and parking during posted park hours. 2.7
After a gentle descent, cross a creek on a footbridge as the MST turns right to walk beside the creek, returning to the lake. 2.8
Cross a faint path leading to a house on the left. 2.9
Trailhead: Reach a gravel pull-off by a signboard at Raven Ridge Rd. 3.5

Day Hike A Video