Johnston County residents might have noticed the growing number of cyclists, both individuals and groups, enjoying a morning or weekend ride.
Because of this increase in popularity, bike routes were among the first projects tackled by the Johnston County Sports Council.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has endorsed the bike routes, and the Johnston County Visitors Bureau is designing a brochure to promote them.
“The Selma Cyclepaths have a loyal team of riders in the county,” said Donna Bailey-Taylor, executive director of the Visitors Bureau. “However, bikers from Wake County are now making trips over to enjoy the wide-open spaces of Johnston County.”
The bike routes make Johnston a destination for a whole new group of visitors, Bailey-Taylor said. “With the bike routes, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau has established routes to market via brochures, online biking sites and our county websites,” she said.
Here’s a guide to the routes:
Smithfield, Bentonville, Four Oaks route: Begin your trek on the Smithfield Town Commons along the Neuse River in downtown. Take Third Street to Brogden Road, the birthplace of Ava Gardner, and continue to the Richardson Bridge Road boat ramp. Cross over the Neuse River into the Bentonville community, site of the last major Confederate offensive of the Civil War. Bike along the Carolinas Campaign Civil War Driving Trail, which takes you by Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. Leave this area’s rich history and travel by Howell Woods, a recreation destination that offers hiking, biking, bird-watching and more. Travel on to Four Oaks before heading back to Smithfield along U.S. 301.
Clayton, Archer Lodge, Wilson’s Mills route: Horne Square and Deep River Brewing make good jumping-off spots for this bike trail, which takes you along Sam’s Branch Greenway and Clayton’s River Walk on the Neuse, part of the N.C. Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Travel north through rolling terrain and farmland to the growing community of Archer Lodge. Once considered for the State Capital, Stallings Station was located in this area. Head southeast toward Wilson’s Mills, crossing over the Neuse River, then turn back toward the Town of Clayton. Enjoy the public art installations and maybe a show at The Clayton Center.
Pine Level, Micro, Kenly route: Great parking is available at Sam Godwin Park in Pine Level, just minutes away from your first stop at Hinnant Family Vineyards. From there, travel through rich farmlands to Kenly, home to the Tobacco Farm Life Museum, where Saturdays offer free events showcasing farm heritage, crafts and farm life. From Kenly, return back to Pine Level along Lowell Mill Road, which will take you back by the winery. The Selma-Pine Level loop is perfect for shopping for antiques, home and garden decor at DeWayne’s and bargains at JR Outlet.
Benson, McGee’s Crossroads route: A great place to start this bike trail is the Benson Singing Grove on Main Street in downtown Benson. Travel north out of town on Main Street-N.C. 50 to Benson-Hardee Road. This farming community has been producing tobacco and sweet potatoes for more than 250 years. Travel to Gregory Vineyards to enjoy the scenery. Continue to the Elevation community, heart of sweet potato country, before looping back south toward Benson. This route will take you near Tucker Lake and Enoch Winery, which are two great stops when you’re back in town for another visit. Back in Benson, rest at the Singing Grove and take a stroll along Main Street for shopping and a meal at Miss Maude’s Cafe.