When I run Loblolly, I typically do so during my lunch hour. So, I lack the extra time to explore beyond the gate just past the Umstead border. I know there's more trail there. I've read about it's extension through Schenck Forest and all the way to the RBC center.
But, there seems to be dearth of info about Schenck Forest's trails on the Web. Click that Schenck Forest link to the left. And, you'll see what I mean. So, I've been hesitant to devote the time to see where else I could go from the edge of Loblolly.
Then, I noticed that the handy-dandy course plotting map on RunningAhead had the Richland Creek Trail mapped as if it were a regular old city greenway. So, I could finally see where it ended and how to get there without having to first run the entire length of Loblolly inside Umstead.
So, the other day, I drove the four minutes from my office to the RBC Center trail head and went for a run.
Running the Trail
Yes, you should cross these rocks and the water trickling between them.
If you start from the parking area outside the RBC Center, the southeast end of the trail, your first few steps will be on a paved section of greenway. This paved path will abruptly end in front of a chain link fence. And, as you approach, you might be wondering what the hell is going on.
Don't worry. You'll see that a subtle path through the grass to the left continues the trail. Follow this path along the fence and cross any rocky ditches or bodies of water you happen to find. (This is the general rule of thumb for this trail, by the way: When in doubt, cross it)
Do not follow the sidewalk or cross the bridge. Keep going into the grass.
You'll come upon another piece of paved greenway and follow it under Edwards Mill Road. As you emerge from the tunnel, you'll want to ignore the fancy little footbridge at the end of the sidewalk. That takes you nowhere you want to go. Cross into the grass again and scramble over another rocky ditch.
This next section of wide, grassy trail is definitely prone to flooding. Large puddles will wait for you if there's been rain within the past 48 hours. Consider your footwear carefully before embarking on this run.
A reassuring trail marker directs you through another tunnel. This one might be a little forboding, though, because it's at the same level as another tunnel right beside it, a tunnel full of water. Just look before you start running through, okay. You'll be fine. There are lots of lights.
View of the Wade Ave. Tunnel from the northeast side. Careful on that ledge.
Once you complete the scary tunnel run, you'll want to be careful as you traverse the ledge that leads you over to the rest of the trail. There's another little creek to cross here, too. (See the lower left of the photo)
The Richland Creek trail continues as a wide, puddle prone path along the creek with westbound Wade Ave. a few meters away. This portion is flat and easy to navigate. And, you'll feel pretty comfortable if not a little unsure about where you're headed.
Fortunately, the path veers to the right a bit. And, you'll see a tree with white paint on the trunk. And, that's gotta be some sort of trail marker, right? So, you continue your run onto a narrower, more single-track-like section of the trail.
Flatness punctuated with puddles.
Richland Creek Trail becomes narrower here.
Richland Creek Trail's single-track portion skirts along the western edge of Schenck Forest, leading you over subtly technical terrain with a mild hill here and there. Most of your footing will be rather steady with relatively few rocks and roots to dodge.
Actually, I found the spots of mud to be the most challenging aspects of this trail, since my rather smooth-soled road shoes were especially prone to slipping in the squishy, wet dirt during this run. I'm not used to slipping.
At one point in the trail, there's a somewhat confusing array of trees and matted leaves on the ground, making the trail a tad tough to discern. So, you might find yourself turning around in circles and wondering which way to proceed. Look for the city greenway trail marker.
Also, a bridged intersection with a sign pointing two directions for "Loblolly" might inspire a degree of doubt in your navigation abilities. Ignore the sign and just concentrate on where the creek is pointing. So, if you're heading northwest, continue northwest, not northeast. Reverse those instructions if your heading southeast.
My Favorite Features of the Richland Creek Trail:
- That tunnel under Wade Avenue is cool, albeit a bit dangerous at night, I suppose.
- Water crossings and mud are always nice features of a trail.
- The proximity of the RBC Center trail head to my office is definitely nice.
- A good distance for an easy lunchtime run.
Features I Dislike:
- The lack of trail maps within Schenck forest is disappointing. (Maybe there's one at the main parking lot. But, that doesn't help me here)
- Hearing the cars on Wade Ave. while trail running isn't very appealing. But, that's the price you pay for urban convenience, I guess.
About as technical as it gets on Richland Creek Trail
Easy! Take your favorite route to Edwards Mill Road and turn onto RBC Center Road. Watch for the parking lot on the left just before RBC Center Road intersects with itself. There's a greenway trail head sign on the little hill at the corner of this parking lot. Access to this lot may be challenging when the RBC Center is hosting some sort of event.
Alternatively, you could park (at your own risk) in one of the office building lots near the area I just described. The paved greenway along Edwards Mill Rd. is easy to spot. And, you should be able to find the tunnel under Edwards Mill pretty easily.
If you want to tackle the trail from the northwest end, I can't recommend a parking spot on Reedy Creek Rd. Maybe some of you know about such a spot. But, I don't.
Or, if you have oodles of time, why not tack the Richland Creek Trail onto your next Loblolly run through Umstead? Sure, I couldn't really tell you at this time what's between Umstead's boundary and Reedy Creek Rd. I haven't traveled that part of the trail yet. But, lots of people do, right? And, it's not that much further.
Richland Creek Trail from the Reedy Creek Rd. Trail Head
So, with the exception of a couple of questionable direction markers on the trail, the Richland Creek Trail takes you on a pleasant trek from the RBC Center to Reedy Creek Road (and back if that's your plan). There are few technical trail challenges and only two or three hills to climb. Plus, the view of the creek for much of the journey is rather nice.
The Richland Creek Trail Map and Elevation Profile.
This is the map I created with RunningAhead's map tool, which already had the trail plotted as a greenway. So, it should be fairly accurate. As you can see, there's not a lot of climbing on this trail:
Plenty of creek views