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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Only non-motorized watercraft are allowed. All boats must be launched from the designated boat launch area. Cars parked in front of the boat launch will be towed. Please be respectful when launching watercraft as space is limited.
Miles of recreational walking trails surrounded by natural landscape can be accessed via the Centennial Campus Middle School parking lot or the Park Alumni Center parking lot.
Riders can explore Lake Raleigh Woods' mountain biking trails — or travel the paved greenway in the recreation area, which connects to destinations across southeast Raleigh.