Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trail Review: Falls Lake - Section 4

Falls Lake Trail: Section 4 (Possum Track Rd. to Bayleaf Church Rd.)

Trail Location:Falls Lake Section 4 Map
Falls Lake State Recreation Area | Wake Forest, NC

Trail Distance:
5.6 miles (out & back)

Trail Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate

Awesome interactive map >>
See the Falls Lake Recreation Area map page >>


This review of Falls Lake Trail Section 4 is my second installment in the Falls Lake Mountains to Sea Trail review series. Have a look at this page to see other trail reviews on this site.

At the time of this post, Section Four currently serves as the starting point for the marvelous Mountains to Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge, which you should run if you haven't done so already.

Running the Trail

As you cross over the threshold from pavement to trail at the Bayleaf Church Rd. trail head, Section Four starts you off with a moderate incline, the kind with erosion barriers. So, the trail is a tad on the wide side here, as far as single-track trails go. But, don't worry, it gets narrow fairly quickly.

Over the hill and leveling out, you'll navigate a slightly (slightly) root-ridden portion of the trail through the typical tall trees surrounding Falls Lake. It's nice here and suitable for warming up.

Falls Lake Trail Section 4 starts here

As you descend a bit and run along a small stream, you'll notice that it's time to cross that stream and follow the trail up a rather steep hill with some conspicuous technical features challenging your footing. The trail becomes more technical for a little while after this.

A decent ascent on Falls Lake Trail Section 4You'll eventually cross a clearing that looks like it once served as a service road. (Maybe it still does). And, before you know it, you're running under some very light tree cover. The trail is very easy at this point.

The sparse tree cover and low-level vegetation gradually becomes overtaken by some uniformly sized and aligned young pine trees. It'll be sort of like running through a tunnel of small pines, which is pleasant if you're not the first person out there cutting through the spiderwebs with your face. (Not an issue in the winter)

Falls Lake Trail Section 4
Falls Lake Trail

More technical trail running awaits as the young pines seem to evolve into old pines with every step you take. Pay attention, because a particularly low level area of the trail becomes somewhat difficult to find as it weaves through what's probably a mini overflow area for another one of the creeks. (Sorry. I should have provided a picture of this critical juncture in the Section Four trail).

Section 4 of the Falls Lake Trail
Falls Lake Trail
Falls Lake Section 4 Ferns

The dense forest will give way to another strangely clear, albeit heavily overgrown area of easy footing. And, you'll suddenly arrive at the Possum Track Rd. guard rail. Go left along the rail if you intend to continue along the Falls Lake MST to Section 3.

My Favorite Features of Falls Lake Trail Section 4:

  • Ferns. There are lots of them along the Section 4 trail. And, I love ferns, especially in the early summer after a rain. They're so vibrant and friendly looking.
  • Fun contrast between challenging technical stuff and super easy, flat stuff.
  • Some moderate hillage to work those hill-running leg muscles.
  • Shade is nice in the summer.

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.
  • Spider webs and deer flies are plentiful in the warmer months.

Getting There

As is the case with Section Five, the best option for parking to access Section Four is at the Bayleaf Church Rd. boat ramp access area. Some sort of administrative office is located adjacent to the Section Five trail head, which is across the street from the Section Four trail head. The building has a parking lot. But, if the gate is closed, you won't be able to access it. Besides, you might not be allowed to park there, anyway.

But, you can just park on the side of the road outside the gate. It's a quiet street with little traffic into the lake. Walk, or run, toward the water from the gate and look to your right when you see a paved entrance to the administrative building's parking lot. The Section Four trail head is pretty easy to see.

Falls Lake Trail


Like all the other sections of Falls Lake I've traversed, Section Four is a great one. And, one of the really beautiful things about the Falls Lake Trail sections is that you have a lot of miles to add onto your run whenever you feel so inclined.

The Falls Lake Trail Section Four Elevation Profile.

I've borrowed the elevation profile below from the MST 12-Mile Challenge race website. This image depicts elevation for sections 4 through 1. So, only the first 2.3 miles of this chart pertain to Section 4.
Mountains to Sea Elevation Chart from Bull City Running

More Triangle-Area Trail Reviews >>


  1. Thanks for doing this. Back in 2000 I used to drive down from Youngsville and run section 8. It was the only place I would run for like a year. I hope to do some long runs up at falls lake soon, and getting from one section to another is not well marked. It looks like all 17 sections add up to like 50 miles! That is simply awe-some.
    A point to point run would really cool. I found this track from the 50K:

  2. Anthony: And, thank you for reading this! I sometimes feel like these trail reports are boring to everyone but myself.

    A comment on another post indicated that, with the addition of a new bridge on the north west side, the Falls Lake trail is just shy of 60 miles. And, that's not including the additional length of paved greenway you could tack on if you were so inclined. So awesome!

    Thanks for the garmin link!

  3. I am enjoying reading your posts! They are helping me to decide if I want to run the 12 or 50k for Mountains to Sea!!! Decisions. Great post.



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