Clayton's greenways connect us to destinations, nature, and each other. Many locals and visitors enjoy these trails while running, biking, or leisurely strolling. For those who desire fresh air and green scenery, Clayton's greenways are the place to be. However, Clayton's greenways expand far beyond our small town's limits.
A portion of Clayton's greenways belongs to the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail, which travels from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Each year, long-distance hikers from across the state and nation set out to complete the 1,175 mile-long Mountains to Sea Trail.
Earlier this month, the Town of Clayton welcomed Luke Bennett, 22, who is on a mission to complete the Mountains to Sea trail and raise awareness for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation along the way.
Bright and early at 8:00 am on April 12, Bennett stopped in Clayton Community Park to refuel and connect with Monty Moree and Chad Chandler with NCWF’s South Wake Conservationists chapter, and Julie Brown from NCWF’s Raleigh office.
“It was super fun to chat with everyone and once again remind myself of why I decided to set out on this hike. Heart and belly are full. I took a short walk along a busy road before reaching downtown Clayton where I loaded up on snacks and water. The MST led me along the Neuse River on a greenway trail. I hiked slow and steady, sparking up conversations and soaking in the scenery,” said Bennett on his blog, which is available on the North Carolina Wildlife Federation website.
Bennett, a recent App State Graduate, embarked on this journey as an ode to North Carolina. He started his hike in the Outer Banks, and over 400 miles later, he reached Clayton. As a Durham native, Bennett felt inspired to experience all that North Carolina has to offer, and he knew that the Mountains to Sea Trail would allow him to see everything.
He didn't want to accomplish this daunting feat just for himself, so Bennett partnered with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and launched Hiking for Habitat. With this initiative, Bennett has already raised over $5,000 to help fund natural habitat cleanups and preservation efforts.
After passing through Clayton, Bennett had roughly 27 days and 700 miles left of hiking. Visit the North Carolina Wildlife Federation website to keep up with Bennett's adventure and support Hiking for Habitat. On their website you will be able to find blog posts, photos, and a donation portal.
Although a section of Sam’s Branch Greenway is currently closed due to construction, there are alternative routes and trails still available for use!
Greenway frequenters can park at the Riverwalk lot and head west into Wake County. Traveling west on the greenway will allow you to access the Triangle Land Conservancy Trails and the Mail Plantation Trail Head.
People can also Park at the Sam’s Branch lot and travel into downtown Clayton. This path allows greenway users to pass by Municipal Park and check out the park renovations or head into the heart of downtown. While downtown, visitors can follow in Luke’s footsteps and take a break to check out local businesses or explore the 2022 Downtown Sculpture Trail.