Monday, January 8, 2018

En route to the Outer Banks: Lake Benson

It seems like last year (wait, it was last year) that we headed northeast to the Outer Banks; we had a four day weekend, and have learned that off-season on the Atlantic coast can make for some great memories. The drive to the North Carolina barrier islands is deceptively long, as despite being only one state over, the drive is at best 7 hours – and that’s only to get across the causeway… If you’re headed to (for example) Ocracoke you still have another hour or two (without traffic) and a ferry ride ahead.

To break up the trip you can opt to stop halfway in Raleigh, NC, which offers plenty of sightseeing options in the area including attractions in the neighboring Durham and Chapel Hill. We’ve had our share of adventures in the Research Triangle, including exploring University of North Carolina, the Museum of Life and Science, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden. On this trip we opted for a stop at Lake Benson Park near Garner, NC.

The 64-acres include large grassy areas perfect for picnics and ball games, 1.8 miles of paved and unpaved trails, two playgrounds and four picnic shelters. Lake Benson Park is part of a chain of greenways that connect White Deer Park Nature Center and Thompson Road Park with Lake Benson. The Lake Benson Boathouse (975 Buffaloe Rd.) is open seasonally for boating and fishing from mid-March through October, and after passing that you’ll come to the park entrance and the Garner Veterans Memorial.

Following the park road all the way to the end will bring you to a parking area, the playgrounds, picnic shelters, trailheads and restroom facilities. We opted to stretch our legs on the Lake Benson Park TRACK Trail, which follows the Lake Benson Woodland Trail and a portion of the Loop Trail for a total of about 1 mile. (Note: the Lake Benson Woodland Trail is marked by orange markers and the Lake Benson Loop Trail is marked by blue markers, but I found this map to be most helpful.)

Kids in Parks TRACK Trail

Although a sunny day, it was chilly; a brisk walk on the boardwalks and along the shore of Lake Benson was just the thing to warm us up. The Lake wasn’t very appealing however; it is my understanding that a variety of issues, including the pumping of water, the development of the land surrounding the lake (and subsequent silt runoff) and introduction of multiple invasive and exotic species including hydrilla & grass carp have resulted in a diminished version of its former self. Swimming is not allowed in the lake, but I can’t imagine who would want to.

The trails and playgrounds made up for the disappointment of the lakeshore, and we spent the remainder of our time there before packing up and heading on. While Lake Benson Park may not be our first choice of places to stop on route to the shore next time, it offered a nice respite from the drive, needed amenities, and easy trails through a woodland park setting. Next stop, Outer Banks.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year..... You always find the neatest hiking areas for your family... Not sure I've ever been to Garner... We have been to Raleigh and to Durham --but that was years ago.

    Have a great trip to the Outer Banks... I'm looking foward to seeing your photos from your adventures.



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