Lake Raleigh Recreation Area

On the southern side of Centennial Campus, the Lake Raleigh Recreation Area — which includes 96 acres of protected forest — offers a picturesque retreat for members of the Pack and the wider community.

A view of Lake Raleigh on a sunny, clear day.

Centennial's Hidden Gem

Created as a reservoir for the city in the early 1900s, Lake Raleigh is a sprawling oasis less than three miles from Downtown Raleigh. The 75-acre lake and its trails are open from dawn until dusk, and there are three areas of public access.

Lake Raleigh’s recreation area sits in the heart of NC State’s Centennial Campus and offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration, including hiking, biking, picnics, disc golf, fishing, non-motorized boating and watersports.
Download Lake Raleigh Woods map

Help Us Shape Lake Raleigh’s Future

NC State’s Real Estate and Development Office is developing a community-led plan to activate and enhance Lake Raleigh and surrounding university property. Together, we can make Lake Raleigh a natural destination that supports university programming, research and educational interests, and activities that promote health, well-being and relaxation.

Below, you can take a survey to share your thoughts about — and hopes for — Lake Raleigh. Just like the lake itself, the survey is open to all.
Take the survey

Access Areas

There are three access points for the Lake Raleigh Recreation Area:

  • Main Campus Drive — From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday, paid parking is available at the nearby Poulton lot on Partners Way. At any other time, free parking on campus is open to the public. After 5 p.m. and all day on weekends, public parking can also be found at the waterfront.
  • Park Alumni Center — Free parking is available all day.
  • Centennial Campus Middle School — Free parking is available all day.

Park Guidelines

Before visiting, be sure to review Lake Raleigh Recreation Area’s rules and guidelines:

  • Lake Raleigh and its trails are open to the public from dawn until dusk.
  • Swimming and wading are not allowed.
  • Dogs must be kept on a six-foot leash at all times.
  • Pet owners must clean up after their pets.
  • Alcohol is not permitted.
  • Smoking is only permitted in the parking lot.
  • Drones are not allowed.
  • Overnight camping is not allowed.

Lake Raleigh Woods is one of 10 Hallowed Places — irreplaceable spots that have accrued special meaning over time — designated throughout NC State's campus.

A dirt trail for mountain biking in Lake Raleigh Woods.

Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails

Beyond the central recreation area, you’ll find a vast network of hiking and biking trails embedded in the forests of Lake Raleigh Woods.

The mountain biking trails and skills courses include jumps, tabletops, drops and more. Two options are available for riders: a beginner course and an intermediate course. The hiking trail sits near the mountain biking trails, so please be aware of hikers in the area when riding.

All trails are marked by trailheads and open to the public from dawn until dusk. Parking is available at Centennial Campus Middle School.

Signs pointing to various hiking and biking trails in Lake Raleigh Woods.

Trail Guidelines

Lake Raleigh Woods’ three designated trails are Fern Trail, a 1.1-mile-long beginner mountain biking trail; Tulip Poplar Trail, a 1.1-mile-long intermediate mountain biking trail; and Valley Trail, a 0.27-mile-long beginner hiking trail.

  • Hikers and bike users are welcome
  • Stay on the trail
  • Keep right, pass on left
  • Use trails at your own risk
  • Respect trail signs and closures
  • Helmets and appropriate safety gear are required
  • Keep pets on a leash and clean up after pets
  • Plan ahead: cell service can be unreliable

Follow along on Instagram (@LakeRaleighWoods) to engage with the Lake Raleigh Woods mountain biking community and find up-to-date information about the trail system.