Even fancied tilting at a windmill like Don Quixote or wanted to be Lord of Some Giant Earthen Rings? Let your imagination run wild by exploring North Carolina’s Art Museum and adjacent cultural properties! Built on land that first held a juvenile detention center and then became a cow pasture for the nearby vet school, the Art Museum has grown over the years to include not just the main buildings, but also numerous outdoor art works worth visiting that you don’t need to fall down a rabbit hole or speak to a drug addled caterpillar to enjoy.
Beyond the Art Museum is Meredith College, which includes student art works near the greenway trail, but also hosts a unique tunnel which is repainted to a new theme each year by the current graduating class. This year’s theme was the unusually nerdy choice of blending Alice in Wonderland, the circus, Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, and what I’m pretty sure was Disney’s Maleficent all onto two white walls and half a dozen poles. It is pretty surreal.
Location: Raleigh greenway trail system, including Reedy Creek Trail and House Creek Trail, starting at the North Carolina Art Museum
Is it goat approved? Only if the goat is on leash, you can pick up after it, and the goat is great with people, strollers, and bikes. I find this trip to be great for bomb proofing kid goats and a unique change from hiking in the woods, but it is not a low stress easy walk. Though those used to the overly inquisitive nature of people living in the Northeast will enjoy the significantly lower attention the goat attracts in North Carolina, where people are more into horses. As a plus, museum guards and docents seem to be cool with even visiting the sculptures near the main buildings with a goat in tow.
How you get there: Google.Then park in the large parking lot off Blue Ridge Road where the ugly grey building with the “we hoped it would make it less ugly but actually just draws attention to it” trellis in front of it is.
Time for hike: 4.8 miles out and back, but add another mile on for wandering around the ex-pasture that they have set up as a sculpture garden. This is an out and back hike.
Best season to do this hike: WINTER. Gets hot in the summer and full of people when the weather is nice.
Trails to Take
*There are no pictures with goats in them for this hike because it is extremely difficult to stand still long enough to get a picture with a goat in it without being talked to death by other visitors or mobbed by kids.*
From the parking lot you want to go down hill on the paved trail between the windmill and the art museum’s pond. The trail comes up to the big earthen rings and splits. Go right, down the hill, until a small trail comes off to your left near a pillar made of rocks, (there is no understanding art, just accept that it is a weird pillar). Off this trail is another small trail to your right into the woods.
This trail goes into the woods, across a creek, then up to a small building that is actually a cool pinhole camera. The camera effect only works when the sun is very bright, and you have to close the door the whole way so it is really dark, then count to 20 for your eyes to adjust so you can see the effect. This building is small, so if you are hiking by yourself you won’t be able to fit 1 human and a goat inside of it comfortably…especially if other people want to go in at the same time!
Past this is another bridge over a dry wash, and then the trail winds up and dead ends into the greenway. You want to go left away from the parking area. Trail winds down into a bottom land area with the notorious biker destroying bridges, (see “Be Warned” section), then up a hill. At the end of the climb is the bridge across the highway.
Once across the bridge bear right and you’ll pass under Wade Avenue through a tunnel. This tunnel is closed at dark! On the opposite side is Meredith College. The side of this tunnel that vehicle traffic uses is painted each year by the graduating class at Meredith. They choose a different theme every year and it’s interesting to drop by and see what the new theme is.
Beyond the tunnel the trail skirts the edge of Meredith’s campus, which has some interesting architecture reminiscent of a late 1800’s manufacturing building style in the center of campus. As you near the dorms there are also sometimes small art projects in the woods done by the students. Eventually the trail crosses the entrance to Meredith college, past the track, and dead ends at the stoplight. I usually turn around here, but if you really want to go crazy about it, cross the stoplight and go up hill past the gas station. This will take you across a bridge over a rail line, then take your next left at the stoplight just beyond the bridge and you’re on NC State’s campus, which also has trails/buildings/swarms of students to explore.
- Be careful of any biker approaching you in spandex with a serious look on his face. While there are defined lanes for traffic in parts of the greenway, the predominate way that cyclists navigate the hordes of pedestrians is by zigging and zagging at the fastest speed possible through them. Which looks like a lot of fun to me, but maybe not to the goat you’re with.
- The bridges at the bottom of the first hill as you leave out of the art museum area are slick, and it is very likely that the aforementioned high speed cyclist, if unfamiliar with these bridges, will wreck. So estimate where the carnage is going to happen, and how far the bike and rider will slide, then pick a spot out of the way to watch the ensuing mess. I’ve seen about half a dozen people wreck, (which adds up to at least 1 person every time I walk the trail).
- No water sources for goats. There is a dog watering station, but the goats are curiously uninclined to drink at it. Perhaps they don’t want dog cooties.
- You are committing to collect goat poop when hiking in town, so bring several grocery bags and some hand sanitizer.
- The tunnel under Wade Avenue closes at dusk to all traffic. Don’t get stuck on the wrong side!
In Sum: Dealing with hordes of curious humans all the time by visiting this location often may lead to enlightenment and greater understanding of the human condition. Or it may just cause you to go insane and start headbutting everyone who speaks to you.