Capitol Area Greenway – Trail 06 Report 1: Crabtree Oak Park Trail 1.6 miles
For those visiting Raleigh and new residents of Raleigh should be aware of the wonderful park system and the “Capitol Area Greenway.”
The “Capitol Area Greenway” is a project in process. Started in March 1974 by the city council of Raleigh it has a master plan to make sure that there is open space for residents throughout the city. It is being built one trail, one park and one community area at a time.
Today the city boasts more than 50 miles of trails connecting many of the more than 3000 acres of city park land.
In 1996 Hurricane Fran badly damaged the parks and trails throughout the city. A clearing and rebuilding was required the years immediately following the storm. Today the city is well underway on its project to create links between the greenways and realize the original plan. Many of the trails are still to be connected, while those that are create wonderful off road access to many parts of the city for bikers, hikers and runners.
Crabtree Oak Park Trail 06 – Report 1
Wow, what a nifty trail this is! It is a wonderland of deciduous trees lining a smooth flowing Crabtree Creek.
To get here there are three places you can start.
First, you can go to the back parking lot of Crabtree Valley Mall. From here you walk down the side walk to the corner of Crabtree Valley Ave and Creedmoor Rd. There you will find a ramp that leads under the roadway with signs showing this is a greenway trail. The advantage of starting here is the Mall has rest facilities and dozens of places to eat. (either before or after your traipsing the trail.
The mall is also incredibly easy to get to. Creedmoor Rd., Leadmine Rd., North Hills Blvd., Blue Ridge Rd. and Edwards Mill Rd. all intersect with Glenwood Avenue at or near the mall. In addition I440 has a major Exit to the mall, making this accessible from nearly anywhere in the city.
The second parking area is in Laurel Hills in the area of Laurel Ridge Dr. It is limited parking and is a rather remote location. To get to Laurel Ridge Dr. take Laurel Hills Rd off Edward Mills Rd. (Edward Mills is the name for the southern portion of Creedmoor Rd. just after passing Crabtree Mall.)
The Third parking area is at the corner of Oak Park Rd. and Lindsay Dr. in the Laurel Hills neighborhood. To get here you have to come from Duraleigh Rd. to Weaver Dr. turn right onto Oak Park Rd. At Lindsay Dr. turn right, the parking is at the end of the road. Like most neighborhoods in Raleigh this is a attractive neighborhood with nicely kept yards.
I started my journey on this trail by parking in the back of Crabtree Mall on the Creedmoor Rd. side. I left my car and proceed down the sidewalk on Creedmoor Rd. toward the south and Crabtree Valley Ave. At the corner I took a left down Crabtree Valley Ave. to the entrance ramp perhaps fifty feet down the avenue. Then I turned back in the direction of the street and proceeded down under Creedmoor Rd. and onto another trail.
The ramp down is a long concrete affair with aluminum hand rails. It goes down very gently and would not provide much of a problem for a wheelchair or stroller. The trail is wide enough that the city can easy move maintenance equipment along the path should they need to. This building of wider paved paths seems to make recovery from heavy storms faster and more efficient for the city.
On my right the beautiful Crabtree Creek was babbling along its way. It is amazing how fast this creek moves from an angry rushing torrent to a gentle singing pussy cat of a stream over the course of a few days.
Along with the sound of the water there was a cascade of musical notes from a plethora of birds competing to keep their new broods safe from danger. Every so often, throughout my trip some colorful bird would flit out of the dense foliage trying to attract my attention. Not being particularly hungry, I would stop and listen, and just as I suspected I could in several cases hear the noisy little brood clamoring for food.
In all cases I moved on quickly as to no delay a needed meal. It will be great to see some of these new birds flitting about the paths.
Almost immediately I am hailed by someone coming up on me. A young couple pass me on the left as they bike on down the trail. I notice that the trail has a 10 mile speed limit. These folks seem to be going along a nice clip probably about that pace.
Going under the bridge and down the trail I am amazed at how quickly the road sounds disappear into the distance and the dominant sounds are of the water and birds. The thick foliage around these trails, though not necessarily deep is quite dense this time of year. That is my best guess as to why the sounds of the woods dominate so easily.
In addition the dense trees that border the greenway, the next big item I come across is a large empty parking lot. To the right I can see a busy Glenwood Ave. through a break where a closed bridge and road lead to the parking lot. On the left is this very large and empty lot.
Almost immediately after the parking lot is a wooden bridge. This is one of many, many bridges along this trail. I honestly think they should have called the trail Oak Bridges Trail, though I guess they would have had to build the bridges using oak in that case. The bridges a very nice and well built.
The bridge does not cross the main creek; it instead crosses a small feeder stream that flows into Crabtree Creek. The feeder stream was at this time blocked by a small beaver dam. The water building up behind the little dam could be seen filling the nearby woods. Because of its heavily wooded nature, Raleigh has an abundance of wildlife. The wildlife is great to see; but often create small problems as they try to lead their lives in natural ways.
I also notice the Poison Ivy that wraps many old tree trunks with its shining leaves. In my family the allergic reaction is quite strong so I notice it a bit. This natural occurrence along the trails with the birds replanting any that is removed. Paved trails make this a non-problem. The plants are quite beautiful as they often make old dead stumps look lush and full of life.
About a quarter of a mile in I see my first park bench. The bench is wooden on aluminum post. It is located so that during part of the day it will be in shade. Though I think this trail could use a few more benches, (for older and younger walkers) there is a bench approximately every quarter mile through most of the trail. This is another thing that the Parks Department has done a great job of.
Another one of those nice wooden bridges shows up immediately after passing the first park bench. Just beyond this bridge is a side trail to someone’s house or apartment building. The cement trail is still in the making.
Just past this side trail, of which I will see quite a few, I run across a small blackberry patch. It is nothing to write home about. So I figured I would mention it here. I may be the beginning of things to come. On the trails around Lake Johnson the Blackberry patches are something much larger. I frequently see folks there taking there licks from the thorny brambles to get a quart of berries. Along this trail the bushes are few and far between.
I see a huge deciduous tree that has fallen on its side; did it die? No way! It just turned each of its many branches into a new tree; now a row sixteen trees shoot out of the side of the trunk, clawing for space to reach the sky.
I pass some folks walking their dog. It gingerly pads its way along the hot tar of the paved trail. It looks to be a brown and white mixed breed; but with my superb knowledge of dogs, it is probably a breed champion of some sort. Doesn’t matter much to me, I like all friendly dogs, cats and other creatures. Though I do draw the line at alligators; I suspect when they show their teeth they have other intensions.
Not to worry, I didn’t see anyone walking their alligator on this trip.
There I was worrying about alligators and here I am at yet another bridge. This is another of those nice little bridges that crosses a small stream on its way to the creek. The distance between these is relatively short.
Just after the bridge I notice a small blue wildflower with just two petals. I don’t yet know what the flowers name is; but it is so distinct that I should be able to locate it. One thing I notice along this trail; is that, beside many of the informal trails that enter from apartments and homes, flowers and plantings from gardens have invaded the edges of the trail. In most cases this is innocent and creates no particular problem. But the newly cleared paths, now open to the sun, have little time to fill with native wild flowers with so many nearby plant beds.
I enjoy the strange flowers I see, but wonder what the birds and animals think of plants that they don’t know how to eat or use.
Another park bench pops up out of the shade. The trail is very hot and sunny this time of year. I can see this bench as a welcome sight to a struggling hiker. It is nicely positioned close to the trees which keeps it shady.
The trail quietly flows with the stream. Where there is no bridge, they kindly put a wooden railing so that you will have a sense of passing a bridge before you reach the next park bench. And yes I pass another park bench here.
Just beyond the bench a dog walks toward me with no visible owner or least with it. It ignores me as it walks by; just then its owner rounds the turn in the trail. That is one really nice feature of the trail; it wanders back and fro, so that at no point can you see more than a few hundred feet in front or in back of you.
This wandering pattern does make the trail a little longer that an “as the crow flies” approach, but it also makes it a more interesting journey.
The trail splits just beyond here. The trail to the left (west) leads to a small parking area at what I believe is Laurel Ridge Dr. The trail to the right continues along the way across a really good sized metal frame bridge. The bridge has wooden planks of some size to allow walkers and others to cross over Crabtree Creek. The creek below is wide and moving quietly under the bridge as it flows toward the mall.
Immediately across this bridge is an entry to the greenway. It is located at the back of a parking lot connected to a commercial building. I don’t give this as a parking location as I don’t know what the building owners think of that.
I continue down the trail where I find yet another park bench. It is located along a shady length of the trail. Most of the trees here are deciduous and the air is full of the sound of birds.
Along the side of the path I have notice many white wild flowers with yellow centers that dot the edges of the woods. It is very pretty along this trail.
Now, yet another bridge pops up to shepherd us across a feeder stream. I wonder if some engineering school was involved in the planning of this trail given all the bridges. I discard this thought as I realize that all the bridges are alike and therefore was the handicraft of one person or team of people.
I am passed by more bikers as they amble along the trail. Most are really friendly and warn you of their presence with a quick “on your left”. One twosome, a boy and his father were the exception; a dog walker, a hiking couple; two polite bikers and I all converged in opposite directions with normal greetings and then these two rushed through the passing folks with no greeting or warning. People rushed out of the way to prevent themselves or the riders from colliding.
Clearly they were racing as they sped through the gathering. That was the only act of impoliteness that I experienced on the trail. I’m not sure what that dad thought he was teaching his son, but it certainly wasn’t manners or courtesy.
The Creek here was clear; I could easily see the rocks at the bottom of the stream. The brown coloration was a reflection of the stream bottom, rather than the water.
Several more bridges had to be crossed to the end of the trail while I passed only one remaining park bench.
Then the end of the trail is marked by a sign that say “The End of Greenway Trail”. No kidding that’s what the sign says. The sign is correct in the sense that if you leave from the other end this is where you turn around and go back. It is also right if you start from this end and return here.
However it does point out the one problem this trail has; lack of appropriate signage and distance markers. Unlike Shelley Lake and Lake Lynn, the gold standard for signage; this trail leaves the true length, adjoining streets and connectivity to other trails up to the hiker or biker.
There are no start/end posts; no quarter mile posts; no signs with maps; basically no fundamental signage. I do not know if it ever existed. It is possible that the most recent flood left its mark by removing all signs from the trail.
For those who travel the trail for purposes other than just exercise this trail is a marvelous treat. Many of the cities numerous tree species are available along it green forest lining. Now that the rains have relented, flowers of several colors and hues can be found in the meadow like spaces from the forest edge to the pathway. Birds of many sizes and colors dart in an out of the dense greenery along the trail. Sounds of nature in the form of water and birds fill in a brilliant cacophony stirring the air along the trail. Pleasant, interesting people greet you with smiles and pleasantries as you pass along your way.
Save for the signage issue this trail is a best of breed greenway trail for the wide range of people who inhabit this pleasant city of the south.
Bikers: Excellent ride which can be extended by several miles by following the connecting trails along Crabtree Creek north toward Allegany Trail or Shelley Lake.
Hikers: Excellent. Nice open trail hike on paved surface. Round trip is 3.2 miles through mostly deciduous forest along.
Older Walkers: Excellent trail with park benches about every quarter mile or so. If you start at the Crabtree Mall there are rest facilities there and it makes a great place for a bit of sustenance after a vigorous walk.
Very Young Walkers: Very Good. Trail is long and flat. Suggest starting on the Crabtree Mall end of the trail which has both food and bathroom facilities should these be needed.
Baby Strollers: Excellent flat trail. Trail is very open to the sun. Early morning or late afternoon would be comfortable. Midday can get a bit hot on this trail.
Roller Skaters: Excellent.
Picnickers: No picnic facilities on this trail. There are park benches.
Runners: Excellent for a flat run. One trip from Crabtree Valley Ave. and back provides three miles for a short run or jog. This can be extended by following connecting trails going east and north.
Birders: Many open spots on the trail for viewing with benches about every quarter mile. Numerous birds are visible on this open sunny trail with dense places for nesting close to the trail.