You know how sometimes you just scratch your head and wonder how on earth you missed the memo? We’re clocking up 10 years in total living in Raleigh, and only now have we experienced the Loblolly Trail in Umstead State Park.
How had we never heard of this little gem of a hiking trail in Raleigh? Apart from our beloved Lake Johnson nature trail, Loblolly now has to be another favorite – especially if you want to go deep into a forest!
This out and back trail is 2.7 miles in total, but we turned it into a loop trail by combining it with the Reedy Creek Multi-use trail to make it even that more interesting and beautiful.
If you have to return to the trail head anyway, why not skip walking the same path twice and forge along another trail?
On this combined trail you’ll pass Reedy Creek Lake, cross over Reedy Creek, enjoy the wide open spaces of the forest along the graveled multi-use path, and then hike back into the forestry depths out to the park’s boundary and back.
But first, coffee (or after!)
The Loblolly Trail is located in the Southern section of Umstead State Park, close to the I-40 and Cary/Morrisville area. For that reason, if you’re looking for a before or after coffee spot, we highly recommend nearby(ish) Fount Coffee & Kitchen in Morrisville.
Fount is only about a 10-minute drive from the Umstead Park entrance, but completely worth it. Your detour time will depend on what direction you’re coming from.
Fount is a gluten free cafe with delicious food and coffee. It’s one of our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh. A latte paired with their coffee cake is one of my favorite mouth-watering pairings in Raleigh.
For something a little less sweet and more substantial, smashed avo on toast will satisfy. (We may have shamelessly begged the owner to open up a Cary location so we could become loyal patrons.)
With tummies full, it’s time to arrive at the Reedy Creek entrance of William B Umstead State Park to hike the Loblolly trail.
How to get to the Loblolly Trail
Enter Umstead State Park at the Reedy Creek entrance via Harrison Ave and I-40. Head to the northeast corner of the parking lot to get to the Loblolly trail head. Blue squares nailed to trees lead you along.
About the Loblolly Trail
- Length: 2.7 miles one way (we made it into about a 5 mile loop hike)
- Trail type: Out & Back (but we turned it into a loop)
- Elevation gain: 420 ft
- Trail difficulty: moderate hike
- Trail surface: natural surface
- Trail Blaze: Blue triangle
- Umstead Park Hours: currently 8am-8pm
This trail is open year-round and dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash!
If this is your first time to Umstead and you are looking for another easy and shorter hike, consider doing the Sal’s Branch Trail.
Hiking the Loblolly Trail Loop (including the Reedy Creek M.U.T)
Generally rated as a moderate hike, this trail took us around two hours, but we stopped to take a lot of photos and videos!
We did this hike on a Saturday afternoon in the first week of May and only saw four other people. While Umstead can get busy, and I have heard the Loblolly trail can get crowded, we certainly didn’t experience that for this Umstead hike!
As experienced hikers, we found this an easy trail, but if you’re not used to hiking, be prepared for inclines, and natural paths that include plenty of tree roots, and stone crossings over creeks.
If you follow our path and go counterclockwise, I think you will have fewer inclines than the other way around.
The trail starts at the northeast corner of the parking lot past the picnic area.
It starts out rather flat and you’ll pass the interesting Young Cemetery, one of several old cemeteries in the park. The deteriorated graves of the Young family are enclosed in a rusty fence and have considerably deteriorated. It’s one of the hidden signs of the families that once called Umstead home in the early 1800s to early 1900s.
To follow this loop trail, once you hit the paved Reedy Creek Parkway turn left and keep walking until the end. On the right, you’ll see the Reedy Creek Lake Multi-use Trail. Follow this dirt road through the wooded area until you reach Reedy Creek Lake.
We have ridden bikes along this path before, and you will probably pass cyclists on your hike.
Soon the trail opens up and unveils the beautiful man-made Reedy Creek Lake. It was so picturesque with a moody sky threatening storms and the vibrant green of the forest foliage surrounding it. Fall foliage is meant to be beautiful here. You can fish in this lake – but no swimming allowed.
Take the next road to the right and continue along for some way on the Reedy Creek MUT. The road has a slight incline in parts along here. As it’s a multi use trail, it’s a wide and open wooded trail and still picturesque. I like the different perspective it gave to this Umstead looped trail.
You’ll soon come to the hiking-only Loblolly Trail. Turn left to take it to the end. This is where the trail became more interesting and beautiful for us!
The natural trail took you into more of a shaded, immersive forest. There were several short hill climbs, switchbacks, small stream crossings, and plenty of tree roots to navigate around.
It was so quiet and shaded. I can imagine it being a cool(ish) respite in the summer. If that is even a thing in the thick humid heat of a Raleigh summer.
Don’t miss Davies Pond
Our favorite part was coming across a sign that said Davies Pond and following a very short overgrown path to this beautiful pond. I felt like I was in a lush jungle in Asia, not North Carolina.
I read a review saying it wasn’t that scenic. You decide for yourself. Perception is always personal.
The Loblolly trail keeps continuing from here a bit further with plenty of up and down hills. We passed a trail runner who looked like he was having a blast!
Eventually it comes to a sudden end with a sign telling you so at the park’s boundary where it meets Schenck Forest and the Richland Creek Trail which is part of Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway. If you did keep going, it will lead you to the RBC Center and Carter-Finley Stadium.
Return back the way you came – this is the only time on the looped walk you’ll retrace your steps. Keep following it over the Ready Creek MUT that you originally came down.
The rest of the trail back to the parking lot continues with more wooden footbridges, switchbacks, drainage crossings – all under the lush canopy of the forest.
We found a short side trail that led down to Reedy Creek – follow it. It’s a nice spot to dip your toes in if you need a break. Plus it adds a different perspective layer to the hike.
There will be a few more switchbacks on the last section of the trail, which is just as beautiful as the other parts.
You’ll soon come to the main creek crossing, which is a picturesque, tranquil spot that invites you to sit and rest for a while. This would be a good spot for a lunch or drink/snack break.
There are large stepping stones across the creek. Do not be like me. My daughter phoned as I was crossing them while filming myself. I was so distracted that I fell down!
I didn’t hurt myself and it was quite funny, but be warned, the rocks are slippery, so phones down and pay attention.
At the last section of the trail before hitting the paved road again, we quickly learned how uphill the trail relay is. We had spent so much time taking photos, we were late picking up our daughter from her friend’s party so we had to run the last half mile out of the trail.
Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed it!
All up, the LoblollyTrail combined with the Reedy Creek M.U.T is not very technical for experienced hikers, but bring your hiking poles if you need them. We loved the diversity, tranquility, and beauty of the trail and will walk (maybe run) it again.
How lucky are we to have such great hiking trails right near Raleigh downtown!
As always, whether you’re hiking in Raleigh or anywhere, bring enough water to stay hydrated – we hike with our 40 oz Hydro Flasks. And you might also want to bring some insect repellent in the summer months!
Video: Hiking the Loblolly Trail
More Trails in Umstead Park
Check out these other hiking trails in Umstead:
- The Sycamore Trail (longest trail in Umstead)
- Sal’s Branch Trail (family friendly)
- Pott’s Branch Trail (shortest trail)