Biking the Art to Heart Trail (NC Museum of Art – Downtown Raleigh)

If you love exploring different areas of Raleigh on bike rides and greenway trails, we thoroughly enjoyed biking the 6-mile Art to Heart Trail on Saturday as a family with pit stops for coffee and then lunch and drinks in Downtown Raleigh.

Art to Heart Trail, Raleigh
Start of the Art to Heart Trail at North Carolina Museum of Art.

We love how bike friendly and walkable Raleigh is, and one of the cool things about living in Raleigh is the Capital Area Greenway Trail System which is one of the most extensive greenway systems in the USA with 104 miles of trails and 28 individual routes

What is the Art to Heart Trail?

Art to Heart Trail, Raleigh
6 mile paved trail

The Art to Heart Trail is a point-to-point trail that connects the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) to the heart of Downtown Raleigh. This trail begins at the NCMA which is the state’s premiere collection of art, situated within a 164-acre sculpture park.

This 6-mile trail is a short segment of the larger East Coast Greenway, a developing trail system linking major cities of the eastern Seaboard between Canada and Key West – totaling 2,900 miles! 

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Bridge along the Art to Heart Trail

The North Carolina Museum of Art is one of the most popular Raleigh museums and admission to the Museum’s permanent collection and outdoor Museum Park is FREE – parking is also free!

Before starting the bike ride to downtown, consider taking a stroll through the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park. There’s a paved trail lined with outdoor art featuring more than a dozen commissioned works of art.

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3 miles of art trail
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NCMA trail map

This trail then connects to the greenway system that takes you to downtown!

Biking the Art to Heart Trail

Keep in mind that the Art to Heart Trail is NOT a loop. You can of course bike one way in to downtown and then back again, but we decided to stay downtown for drinks and lunch so I (Craig) caught an Uber back from downtown to pick up our car from the museum car park then drive back into the city to meet up with the others.

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The 6 mile paved trail starts by winding its way through the museum’s 164-acre park, passes behind Meredith College, cuts through the main campus at North Carolina State University, passes by Pullen Park, through Boylan Heights, then finishes in the heart of the city just outside of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts – or wherever your heart desires (pardon the pun).

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This trail proved to be a great way for us as a family to get outside and explore unique areas and neighborhoods of Raleigh whilst passing through parks, campuses, and downtown neighborhoods. 

Along the trail there’s a good mixture of flat trail and some small inclines, bridges to cross, tunnels to go through, and lovely tree lined streets and nature areas.

Reedy Creek Trail at NCMA.

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Reedy Creek Trail

Once you leave the grounds of the NCMA you’ll pick up the Reedy Creek Trail. Even though we did this on a Saturday, and it was a lovely 77 degrees out in November, it was not too crowded and the trail is easy to navigate past other bikers or joggers. 

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Reedy Creek Trail (part of the Art to Heart Trail)

You take the bridge over US-440 and then through a tunnel under Wade Avenue and keep following the trail that wraps around the outside of Meredith College.

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Crossing I-440
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Under Wade Ave
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Around Meredith College

Coffee Break

At the entrance gates to Meredith College on Hillsborough Street, across the road is Lucky Tree, one of our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh.  

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Entrance gates to Meredith College

Although this stop fairly early on in the bike ride, we were on a leisurely pace and wanted to stop in for a coffee, a bite to eat and a bathroom break.

Lucky Tree is a bit of a hidden gem in Raleigh being slightly out of the heart of downtown, but it’s next to the popular Brickhouse Sports Bar and Raleigh Brewing, so if you want a beer instead, you have options!

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Lucky Tree

This coffee shop offers a wide selection of coffee options, and great vegan and gluten free bakery goods. The other cool thing is it doubles as a local art and gift shop. We grabbed a latte and chocolate chip and banana nut muffins.

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Coffee + muffins at Lucky Tree

After our 30-minute break, we jumped back on our bikes and back on the Reedy Creek Trail and past the Athletic Field at Meredith College. 

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Meredith College
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Trail past Meredith College

Intersection of Hillsborough & Gorman Streets

We then came to the intersection of Hillsborough and Gorman. Once here, you go over the crosswalk and then take a RIGHT on Gorman St and head towards Sullivan Drive. 

When going down Gorman St you’ll bike over another bridge over some train tracks and then to Sullivan Drive. 

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Gorman Street

Take a LEFT on Sullivan Drive and pick up the Rocky Branch Greenway.

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Left onto Sullivan Drive

Sullivan Drive and Rocky Branch Greenway takes you through NC State University’s North Campus passing Miller Fields and behind Carmichael Gymnasium. Follow the signs for Pullen Park and you’ll pass under a tunnel (under Pullen Rd), and then past Pullen Park on your left that runs parallel to Western Blvd until you come to Ashe Ave.

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NC State & Rocky Branch Trail
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Going past Pullen Park

When you get to Ashe Ave, take a LEFT and bike for a short distance until you get to the entrance gates to Pullen Park. Cross the road here and continue along Rocky Branch Trail (parallel to Western Blvd). 

Art to Heart Trail, Raleigh, NC
Rocky Branch Trail alongside Western Blvd
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Rocky Branch Trail alongside Western Blvd

Stay on the greenway trail until you get to W. Cabarrus St and follow this street into the Historic Boylan Heights neighborhood, one of the best neighborhoods in Raleigh

Rocky Branch Trail alongside Western Blvd
Entering Boylan Heights
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Boylan Heights

Then take a RIGHT on W. Lenior St which takes down into the heart of the city and to the “unofficial” end at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

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Boylan Heights
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Looking down W. Lenior St towards downtown Raleigh

As mentioned, we decided to go for drinks at one of our favorite breweries and eateries in Raleigh, Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing, which is in the Boylan Heights neighborhood, so instead of taking a right on W. Lenior we continued through and took a LEFT on S. Boylan Ave, across Boylan Bridge to Wye Hill. 

Crossing Boylan Bridge you get an amazing view of Downtown Raleigh
Crossing Boylan Bridge you get an amazing view of Downtown Raleigh

We also continued on to the Glenwood South District as they were hosting “Dine Out Downtown” where they close off the street to cars and have outdoor dining in the street and had burgers and wings at the Hibernian Irish Pub.

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Amazing views of Raleigh from Wye Hill
Delicious craft beer at Wye Hill
Delicious craft beer at Wye Hill
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Lunch at Hibernian Pub
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Burger + wings at Hibernian Pub on Glenwood South.

When you visit Raleigh or if you live here like us, I highly recommend you grab your bikes (or walking shoes) and do this trail as it’s one of the best bike trails in Raleigh. 

And whether you bike it or even walk it, there’s plenty of nearby food and drink options along Hillsborough Street and all the best places to eat in downtown Raleigh at the finish.

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