If you’re looking for a relatively simple trail to run, walk, or hike at in Raleigh, the Lake Johnson trail should be an obvious choice.
The Lake Johnson trail is a 5.4-mile loop of both paved and unpaved greenway. However, the majority of it is paved with only two miles of unpaved trail that’s solely for there-and-backs to lake overlooks and “Scenic Loops” as labeled by the park.
Perfect for a run, the 3.5-mile paved greenway circles around Lake Johnson, and includes a section of the Walnut Creek Greenway Trail. Whether you’re running or walking, you’ll enjoy views of the lake, woods, and dams. My favorite part of this trail is the varied terrain. With flat sections, hilly sections, off-the-path sections, and even a boardwalk section, you won’t get bored at Lake Johnson.
The parking for Lake Johnson gets crowded fast. On any given afternoon, you might have a hard time finding a spot. That’s due to the fact that the facilities also offer a lot of recreational opportunities for families. Paddleboats and kayak rentals are offered, as well as stand-up paddleboard lessons and classes.
At the entrance, there are also restrooms and even a concessions stand. Picnic tables with nearby vending machines can be located here as well.
As far as the actual trail is concerned, Lake Johnson isn’t particularly a hard one. As previously mentioned, there are a few hills but nothing too intense.For what it’s worth, I walked it with a friend and we both stopped talking while hiking up them. If you were running, it would most definitely be more of a challenge.
You’ll find that the trails themselves don’t propose any obstacles. The issue comes on a weekend day when the weather is mild and warm. Lake Johnson gets crowded at times, but thankfully has enough trail for everyone.
Bikers would probably be disappointed in Lake Johnson, simply due to the fact that they would be able to finish it in a short amount of time. In 45 minutes of walking, I completed the entire 3.5-mile loop with an extra scenic loop added in.
You won’t have to worry about getting lost at this trail, with signs clearly marked. Any time there’s a scenic loop, you’ll be able to get right back on track by looking at the signs. “Shelters” are placed throughout the trail as well, providing the perfect spot for picnics or get-togethers.
Plenty of shade is spread throughout the Lake Johnson trail, thanks in part to the diversity of nature throughout the park. Tall trees provide a break from the sunshine, which is mostly uniform throughout. Fish can be found in the lake, with many people standing on the boardwalk attempting to catch something.
The only drawback to how “secluded” this trail is that it’s right off of Avent Ferry Rd., which is frequently traveled. You can hear the cars flying by in several sections of the trail.
If you’re a dog person, take a trip to Lake Johnson. Almost everyone brings their dogs to walk the loop here, with the benefit of bag dispensers and garbage cans being a standard. The dog owners seem to mind their own business, and everyone ends up happy. On hot days, you’ll see owners letting their dogs take a splash down the embankment on one side of the lake.
At the end of the trail, the payoff is the view. You’ll cross a bridge that goes directly over Lake Johnson itself, with a gorgeous landscape view.
Next time you’re needing a quick workout with a scenic route, head to Lake Johnson.