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Guilt-Free Zone: Walk it off at The NC State Fair

By Joe Miller | October 18, 2019 | Explore NC

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Fall is here and that means it’s time for the North Carolina State Fair!

If you’re tempted by The Chickenator (a cinnamon bun stuffed with fried chicken, pepper jack cheese, bacon and honey sauce) or the Crack-n-Cheese® Stuffed Turkey Leg (a drumstick stuffed with mac and cheese, among other things) at this year’s North Carolina State Fair, then you might consider taking an alternate form of transportation to get there.

Your feet. 

Most of us do a fair amount of walking at the fair

To get from the Grist Mill to the State Fair SkyGazer, then over to the Midway, to the Village of Yesteryear, then back to the Education Building, you could easily rack up 5,000 steps, what with all the crowd-avoiding zigzagging required. That’s maybe 250 calories for the typical person — not much of a dent in that Sloppy Pig (Texas toast covered in sloppy joe mix, melted cheese, and bacon) you’re hankerin’ for.

What you need is a longer walk. A much longer walk.

Fortunately, we have just such a trek that avoids a hassle of the Fair and provides a bit of entertainment in its own right.

Try These Tips

First, start at the State Fair authorized satellite parking area at 4500 Reedy Creek Road in Raleigh (the corner of Reedy Creek and Edwards Mill; hours: 8 a.m. until an hour after the fair closes.)

There is a free shuttle from this lot that drops you at Gate 8, on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds.

Just a short distance north on Reedy Creek Road (heading away from Edwards Mill) is the gravel State Forest Road, which, in a quarter-mile, brings you to Shenck Forest. Within theN.C. State University teaching forest is the start of a 2.7-mile trail that will take you through the woods, over the river (a creek, actually, Richland), under Wade Avenue (in a lit concrete culvert), on a greenway that leads to PNC Arena, and, shortly, to Gate 8.

Directions to help you get there 

Starting from the Schenck Forest gate:

0.0 miles — Head down the gravel road beyond the gate.

0.7 miles — Dirt road ends in a turnaround loop at about mile 0.7; continue downhill on the narrow trail at the near side of the loop, then veer left when you reach the creek.

1.3 mi. — Take a right turn, cross a small creek on seven stones, proceed through the left side of the pedestrian tunnel/culvert under Wade Avenue. (The tunnel is lit, but can be a little wet; watch your step.)

1.7 mi. — You’ll see a cool bridge that you don’t get to go over on your right. Instead, walk another 30 yards and go left into the tunnel under Edwards Mill Road (this one’s dry).

1.8 mi. — The trail, which becomes paved on the other side of the tunnel, turns into PNC Center Road. You can take the sidewalk right or go right on the footpath just before the roadway. For our purposes, we’re sticking with the natural path.

2.0 mi. — Trailhead parking for the Loblolly Trail (the trail you’ve been on). Go left on the sidewalk along a four-lane street, then go right at the first right. This will deposit you onto Trinity Road.

2.2 mi. — Go left on the sidewalk along Trinity Road up to Youth Center Drive.

2.6 mi. — Cross Trinity on Youth Center Drive.

2.7 mi. — Arrive at State Fair ticket booth, Gate 8.

Before you’ve even whiffed your first Deep Fried Garlic Cheese Curd, you’ve built a calorie deficit of about 250 calories, give or take.

Tunnels and Greenway are Lit, The Natural Surface Trail Is Not

Sunset during the run of the fair ranges from 6:36 p.m. on opening day to 6:24 p.m. on closing day, Oct. 27. Plus, the trail has hours and closes at dusk.

So if you’ve made it a point to walk the entire fairgrounds, if you’ve stayed for the fireworks, and if you’ve limited yourself to just one Red Velvet Cheese Enchilada Funnel Cake, cut yourself some slack.

Take the shuttle back to your car.

Note: All food mentioned above can be found on the midway. More NC STATE FAIR here, enjoy!