Forest Ridge Park is Wake County’s newest!
Located in the extreme Northern Corner of Raleigh, near the Wake County Line, is the new Forest Ridge Park. We think it may become on of the best places to hike in the Triangle area. Though it is a multi-use park, most of this new recreational area is preserved in its natural wooded state.
One of the challenges of being a hiker living in a ‘vertically challenged’ area – and really, most any urban area – is trying to find places where you can develop and maintain your ‘trail legs’ before and between expeditions. Sylvia and I generally travel a good distance to reach any of our hiking destinations, but we obviously cannot practice on trails that are 4-5 hours away. We need someplace closer to home.
Fortunately, the Raleigh-Durham area agrees! The Triangle has a fine network of hiking trails. They’re not super challenging nor are they wilderness, but they are still surprisingly fine trails for an area not exactly known for the ruggedness of its hiking. And they more than enough to keep the avid hiker in top shape.
Some of our favorite local hikes are located in the impressive, 5000+ acre William B. Umstead State Park. Also among our favorites are The Falls Lake Trail and (for jogging and biking) The Neuse River Greenway. The latter of these two trails pass right near our house and are extensions of the ubiquitous Mountains to Sea Trail.
There is also evidence that both the City of Raleigh and Wake County are committed to providing and maintaining more such spaces for active people who live in the areas. A couple years back the Wilkerson Nature Preserve opened not far from our house. And late last year, they opened an even larger brand-new recreation are even closer to us – the 587 acre Forest Ridge Park.
Sylvia and I had not yet visited the new park, though we’d been watching its construction with more than passing interest. Last weekend we decided it was time to go to take a look.
At The Edge of a Young Lake
Forest Ridge Park sits on the high ground overlooking the northeast shore of the winding 28-mile long, 12,000 acre Falls Lake. The Lake itself is man-made, created in the early 1980’s by the US Army Corp of engineers. Without the Falls Lake Dam, not only would there be no Falls Lake, but we probably would not be able to live where we currently do, because the floods of the Neuse River used to be notoriously destructive.
You reach the Park by driving along Old Route 98. Old 98 used to go right across land that is now entirely flooded; several sections of it lie entirely under the Lake, while others are simply disused and covered over by forest near the margins of the re-routed Route 98. We have encountered several sections of this ghostly, abandoned road in our travels over the Falls Lake Trail.
At Forest Ridge Park, you can walk right down the roadbed of Old 98 to where the remains of the pavement vanish right into the water.
The park boasts several miles of hiking trail, including a short but very nice nature loop that takes you right down to a fine viewpoint on the lakeshore. The views are are nice, and unlike some sections of the Falls Lake Trail, there is no encroaching development at all. This side of the lake (for now) is entirely wooded and free of development.
Brand new snazzy trail signs mark the route, which would at any rate be easy to follow even without them.
There is also three miles of mountain biking trails here. We didn’t bring our bikes today but we certainly will in the future, the trails look great! It’s our hope that someday these will be connected into the excellent Neuse River Greenway, just a few miles away, but I couldn’t find anything on the park website about plans of this sort We’ll keep looking into it. 😊
While we like the nearby Falls Lake Trail very much, one of the very depressing things about it is how much development has encroached almost up to the water line in places on the south shore. The original idea of the impoundment is to secure the watershed as a drinking water source, well as creating recreation opportunities for hunters, anglers, boaters and hikers. It’s quite annoying to be walking through the woods past million-dollar homes and their landscaped backyards…not to mention noisy and disruptive dogs, parties, and construction sites.
The North Shore of the Lake is almost undeveloped by contrast…we wonder how long it will stay that way. Money talks, and too often, the money of developers speaks much louder than the voices of the other interests who would prefer the land be kept in its natural state.
Bald Eagles, by the way, nest on this lake. As do Ospreys. We have seen both in our walks and bike rides.
We will certainly be back to visit Forest Ridge Park throughout the year and hope the city and county continue to make serious investments like this in public land.