Umstead State Park is my absolute favorite place to run in the Raleigh area. Over the years, I have covered the park thoroughly – having run on nearly every inch of available trail and at all hours of the day and night. Umstead offers something for everyone. If you’re intimidated by running there, that’s all the more reason to do it.
The bridle trails are wide multi-use trails that are always full of runners, cyclists, and sometimes horseback riders and uni cyclists. And the bridle trails are quite hilly. You will become a much stronger runner when you regularly incorporate some Umstead bridle trail runs into your training plan. My favorite route is the “Erica Special” as Karen calls it. It’s more or less the Umstead 100 loop, starting from the Old Reedy Creek Road entrance near Lake Crabtree Park. Take the Reedy Creek trail for about 5 miles, then turn left onto Turkey Creek. This is where things get interesting – the saw tooth hills will chew you up and spit you out every single time, but you will be a better runner for it. I promise! Persist through these hills, then turn left onto Graylyn for a nice downhill before an equally nice uphill. This T’s into Reedy Creek trail where you turn right and head the few miles back to your car. It’s about 14 miles total. Start your venture into Umstead running easy though – you can always go out and back to work up to this mileage.
There are lots of options for single track trail running too. This is perhaps the best spot in town for trail running! I recommend that you park at the Harrison Avenue entrance where you’ll easily find the Loblolly and Company Mill trailheads. The trails are well-marked, but checkout a park map and have a plan before you go!
While you’ll likely run some stretches of trail alone, you’ll also encounter enough people throughout your run to generally feel safe. Pay attention though! You never know what you’ll run into – wild turkeys, deer, snakes, and yes, the occasional creep.
Need someone to show you the Umstead ropes? Hit me up!