IntroductionThe Falls Lake Trail along the south side of Falls Lake comprises part of the extensive NC Mountains to Sea Trail (NCMST). It's easily accessed from several parking areas, some of which are open throughout the day.
Reviews of the Falls Lake Trail will reference the 17 trail sections depicted on the excellent GPS map posted here. I will not be posting these section reviews in numerical order. So, if you're wondering whether I've already reviewed another Falls Lake Trail section, check this page for a list of what's been covered.
This review of Section 5 is my first installment in the Falls Lake Trail review series.
Running the TrailHeading West from the Bayleaf Church Rd. trail head, which is a little hard to find from the parking area, Section Five takes you downward over pine-needle-covered rocks and roots. The elevation increases gradually, as you find the substantial tree cover and shade a refreshing change from your sunny drive to Falls Lake.
Section Five continues up and down a couple more modest hills and eventually leads you to a bridge over a small inlet. Take in a marvelous view of the lake from this low perspective and continue running around the slightly rock-laden bend in the trail to proceed.
With the exception of a few rocky sections on the path, the terrain is fairly consistent. The soft dirt is covered by a thin layer of ground foliage from past seasons. There will be an occasional area with a thicker layer of freshly fallen leaves, thereby increasing the chance of slipping. But, overall, footing is good on Section Five.
With little more than a quarter mile to go before reaching the turnaround point, you'll find yourself on a more expansive path with gently rolling hills ahead of you. The trail is somewhat difficult to see here, because it blends easily with the rest of the non-technical terrain. But, you'll find your way. Don't worry.
You'll see a private residence to your left as you cross into denser forest again and head downward to a stream bed. Hopping over the tiny water crossing and climbing up another hill, the sound of cars will mingle with the chirping birds and insects. And, you'll know to look up from the trail as the bright sun reflects off the guardrails along Six Forks Rd., blinding your shade accustomed eyes.
If you turn right at the and of the guard rail, you'll be continuing on to Section Six of the Falls Lake Trail. But, this is a review of Section Five. So, turn around to get that full 2.6 miles covered while enjoying the hills and views you just experienced from the other direction.
My Favorite Features of Section 5 on the Falls Lake Trail:
- The feeling of immediate seclusion as you head down the hill from the trail head on Bayleaf Church Rd.
- Ideal for easy trail workouts due to relatively low-level technical terrain
- One or two nice hill climbs to keep things interesting
- Potential to add on as many miles as you like thanks to the length of Falls Lake's Trail
Features I Dislike:
- Parking can be iffy. Even though signs state that the gate will be open on Bayleaf Church Rd. at certain times, it's not necessarily open. Parking outside the gate is easily done, though.
- Effing deer flies!
- Running beside a private residence makes me worry that someone is going to shoot at me. (I know. That's silly)
Getting ThereThe best option for parking is at the Bayleaf Church Rd. boat ramp access area. Sometimes the gate is closed, in which case you'll just park on the side of the road outside the gate. Being that this isn't a particularly busy section of road, you're relatively safe parking here. From the gate, you'll head a couple hundred feet towards the water and look to your left when you see a paved entrance to the parking lot. The trail head is sort of hidden among the trees at the corner here.
Don't be confused by the trail head entrance on your right. That one's for Section Four, which is also a nice trail. But, if you've read this review and expect to run on Section Five, you'll be confused if you run on Section Four instead, which is about twice as long and a little more technically challenging. You'd be all, "WTF was that guy writing about? There's no fancy inlet or dearth of rocks on this trail!"
Anyway, the trail head will be on the left if you're looking at the water. There's a little wooden sign.
Alternatively, you could park along the roadside on Six Forks Rd. But, this particular roadside isn't as conducive to parking as other areas along the Falls Lake Trail. So, I'd advise against that.
SummarySection Five of Falls Lake's trail is nice. It's not as Challenging as Umstead's Sycamore or Company Mill trails. But, it's still a decent trail to run.
It's even better to run when you add another section to it. I mean, who wants to drive out to Falls Lake and fend off vicious deer flies just to run 2.6 miles? So, definitely make a point of adding Section Six or Section Four to your Section Five run.