Hiking the EASY Pott’s Branch Trail, Umstead State Park

Now the weather is warmer and the trees are in full lush, we’re on a mission to complete all the hiking trails in Umstead State Park, Raleigh, and write a full guide to the park!

A person standing in a wooded area, with Pott\'s Branch Trail
Pott’s Branch Trail

Y’all, we’ve said it before and will say it again, we’re so lucky to have this North Carolina state park on our doorstep! Lace up those hiking shoes and hit the trails. 

In this post, we’ll share one of the easiest trails in Umstead Park, especially if you are hiking with kids. 

This short 1.3 mile hike follows three pretty small streams that flow into Crabtree Creek. 

If you have more time, this is a great opportunity to combine this trail with the shorter Oak Rock Trail, or the longer, Sal’s Branch Trail

A close up of a lush green forest
Pott’s Creek Trail alongside a stream

We decided to do just the Pott’s Branch Trail as the girls were with us and we wanted to minimize complaining. There’s only so much of that you can take on a Sunday!

We hiked this trail on a Sunday morning in May with the most beautiful spring weather. It was the busiest of the trails we’ve done so far, but still we only passed a few people on the trail. Most were grilling and hanging out in the picnic area.

A woman standing in a forest, with Pott\'s Branch Trail
Getting our Sunday steps in!
An empty park bench sitting in the middle of a forest
Picnic area at start of trail

It’s a beautiful picnic area, so perhaps plan to bring a packed picnic lunch, or supplies to cook out. 

Getting to the Pott’s Branch Trail

Pott's Branch Trail
Pott’s Branch Trail

The Pott’s Branch trail is located in the northeastern part of Umstead State Park right near the Glenwood Avenue Entrance. 

Stop in at the visitor center for a map or information if you need it, then continue driving down to the Crabtree Creek Picnic area. 

There are two parking lots here. We started on the trail at the furthest parking lot and turned right to go in an anti-clockwise direction.

About the Pott’s Branch Trail

  • Length: 1.3 miles
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Elevation gain: 610 ft
  • Trail difficulty: easy hike
  • Trail surface: natural surface
  • Trail Blaze: Orange Diamonds
  • Umstead Park Hours: currently 8am-8pm

This trail is open year-round and dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash! 

Hiking the Pott’s Branch Trail

A sign in the middle of a forest with family walking

Pott’s Branch trail is the perfect Sunday stroll and should only take about 30-40 minutes, depending upon how many stops you take for photos or to rest.

It’s a great Raleigh trail to do if you have other things on during the day, but you really want to stretch your legs and get your steps in while hugging a few trees. 

You may hear a few cars going by – so don’t expect the tranquility of normal North Carolina State Parks. This state park is in Raleigh, so urban noise will be around. But for the most part, it felt quite tranquil and restorative. 

A person standing in a wooded area, with Pott\'s Branch Trail
Plenty of serenity on the Pott’s Branch Trail

Right near the beginning of the trail is the Big Lake (opposite the second parking lot). After looking at the map, I can’t understand how we missed it this time. The lady at the Visitor Center told Craig there was no trail that loops around Big Lake, but there is a very short path going to it. 

Big Lake is one of three small lakes in Umstead, along with Sycamore Lake and Reedy Creek Lake, which we saw on our Loblolly trail, along with the hidden beauty, Davies Pond. 

All is not lost as we have actually seen Big Lake from the Sal’s Branch Trail. See photo below.

A gi4rl standing next to a lake Pott\'s Branch Trail
Big Lake views from Sal’s Branch Trail

We’ll be back to experience Big Lake from this area, and take our paddle boards out on it. In the meantime, share a picture with us on Instagram so we can get jealous over what we missed. 

Back to walking the Pott’s Branch trail.

If you start at the first parking lot, turn right along the paved path at the picnic and restrooms. This is where the trail intersects with the Sycamore Trail.

If you go to the second parking lot (like we did), turn right and go past the picnic area and look for the trail sign. It’s quite inconspicuous and kind of looks like it’s been planted in the forest, but there is a dirt trail behind it.

two children standing next to a tree, with Pott\'s Branch Trail
Follow the orange markers

The trail turns pretty much straight away to the left. Pay attention to the orange diamond/square blazes as it’s easy to miss the turn as there are a few little trails in this area. 

So far, this trail in Umstead has been the least well-marked trail. It’s still not bad, but it can get confusing with all the small trails running off it. Just keep looking for the orange squares and you’ll be fine. 

As I said to my girls, “You can’t get lost in Umstead!” so don’t worry. 

A little girl and mother standing next to a tree
Pretty overlook

The trail then heads down towards Sycamore Creek below the spillway from Big Lake. You’ll then follow the creek upstream through the wooded forest for most of the hike. It’s quite pretty and we found spots along the way where you can dip your feet in. 

A woman in a wooded area
Creek views

Kids, especially, will love playing in these areas. You’ll cross over some footbridges, large rocks, and pretty viewpoints. We loved the view of the trees framing the footbridge.

A person walking across a bridge in a lush green forest
Loved this rock footbridge

About halfway through the trail you’ll come to the turn for the Sycamore trail on the right over the creek via a footbridge.

The trail will soon turn left to loop back to the beginning and away from the creek past an old dam and the trailhead for the Oak Rock Trail. 

When we visited part of the trail here was closed, there’s another small cutaway trail that will take you back to the loop of the Pott’s Branch.

hikers in a forest
The trail is mostly flat

It’s a little confusing at first as there are no markers, but there is only a left turn and once you’re on it it makes sense. It’s very short. Don’t worry you can ‘t really get lost. Hopefully, they mark it better, or fix the trail quickly.

The trail heads through the picnic area hidden in the trees back to the trailhead. 

A woman and two girl standing next to a forest
Some tree roots and a small incline

The trail itself was fairly flat and easy and will be comfortable for almost any age and fitness level. There are a few large tree roots along the way so watch your step! 

Want lunch or a drink after? 

VIDEO: Pott’s Branch Trail, Umstead (with kids)

Check out how easy and pretty this hiking trail in Umstead is.

Stop at the Lynnwood Grill and Brewing Co

Lynwood Grille, Glenwood Ave
Lynwood Grille

Only a few minutes drive south from Umstead off of Glenwood Ave is  the Lynnwood Grill and Brewing Concern, where we stopped for lunch and a drink.

Even though we’ve lived here for nearly 10 years total, and write this blog on things to do in Raleigh, we’re still discovering new places to visit!

That’s why you should join our email community and follow us on Instagram and Tik Tok, so you don’t miss our new finds. (we send out a Friday newsletter with fresh finds and happenings). Sign up below:

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We hadn’t heard of Lynnwood Grill and Brewing in North Raleigh before, but it’s been here for 10 years serving the Northwest Raleigh communities of Lunn Road and Grove Barton. 

We do know the Lynnwood Brewing Co label very well though, as we often visit their popular taproom in the Five Points area, so we immediately saw the connection with this top brewery in Raleigh

It was a beautiful day to sit on the rooftop that had quite a leafy view, despite being in a parking lot of a shopping center.

Meals are huge at Lynwood so come hungry or share plates. My Greek salad was fresh and flavorful, and the girls’ pizzas were excellent (they have gluten free pizzas).

Also near here is the House of Hops, a bottle shop with a beer garden. We have not yet been, but have heard good things. 

More Trails in Umstead State Park

For longer hiking trail in Umstead Park, check these out:

Uniquely Raleigh Checklist
FREE Printable CHECKLIST for all the best things to do in Raleigh  + updates + insider tips. 
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2 thoughts on “Hiking the EASY Pott’s Branch Trail, Umstead State Park”

  1. NO THANKS TO YOU for creating an article that was some THIRTY-FOUR pages when printed out. Could you pay some attention to this and ensure that your we get more than a headline and 2 lines of copy and blank space per page, that your photos don’t print out at a full page for each. And thanks but, while I’m more than happy to learn something about you and give you “credit” for your work, I don’t need a full printed page devoted to “About the Author”

    1. I don’t think you had permission to print off our post so you’re in violation of copyright. Where would you like my lawyer to send the notice? We don’t publish articles for you to print off. And we’re not going to format it for you. This is a website not a book, so firstly the content is written in larger font to make it easier to read, the photos are large for web version and blank spaces appear because it’s NOT WRITTEN TO BE PRINTED OUT. It’s not rocket science.

      How rude and entitled are you to leave a comment like thinking we have to write a website with only you in mind to make it printable – which you don’t have permission to do. We don’t’ need your credit nor your eyeballs. Here’s a list of things to do this weekend – https://thisisraleigh.com/things-to-do-in-raleigh-this-weekend/ as it seems like you have too much time on your hands. But don’t print it off or I’ll send you a double copyright viloation notice. See ya!

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