Triangle Off-Road Cyclists 2015 Festival at Lake Crabtree Park
In Wake County, where every other car has a mountain bike attached to the trunk or a kayak strapped to the roof, the temptation to ditch work for the outdoors pulls as hard as a hooked fish.
In all, the county offers 252 parks stretching between Morrisville and Wendell — a collection that includes six disc golf courses, six horseshoe pits, three bocce courts and two carousels.
Navigating the fun can be tricky. Where to drop a canoe? How to get on a greenway? Where to lock up a bike? Luckily, this string of online aids help handle the particulars.
We give them all a test-drive.
Wake County Park Locator
Wake County's new park locator made an immediate splash on Reddit last month, where one user marveled, "There's a BMX track in Raleigh?" (Yes, it's in Lions Park.)
Find it: wakegov.com/parklocator
Best Bits: This web-based map lets you search by activity. Plug in boat rentals, dog parks or handball courts and up pops a green tree-shaped icon. Click on the icon and it shows the distance, the directions and the website.
Also, it's interactive. So pull up the map on a phone, and it shows the nearest park of every variety, including museums and historic sites. Inside the Interstate 540 loop, there's almost always one in walking distance. It even sorts them by proximity.
Shortcomings: It's not an app. So it needs bookmarking.
This app shows everything a cyclist might need short of a Lycra shorts salesman.
Find it: It's available on both iPhone and Android devices. You can also find it at maps.raleighnc.gov/bikemap.
Best Bits: Using color-coded streets, the map shows a rider where to find bike lanes and "sharrows," those funny bicycle-shaped asphalt markings that suggest the best spots to ride. Difficult intersections are shown in orange, and preferred routes are marked blue. Paved trails are green and dirt trails are brown.
Other highlights include the green dots showing greenway access, and red wrenches pointing out repair shops. Mixed in are dozens of black icons that indicate bike lock locations.
Shortcomings: The app is two years old, so don't be surprised if some of the bike-friendly store discounts no longer apply.
Bike & Hike Cary app
Cary's parks sometimes get forgotten with the sprawling Umstead State Park as a neighbor, but Hemlock Bluffs offer some the Triangle's best quick hikes and the kids will find climbing boulders that Raleigh parks wish they had.
Find it: Bike & Hike Cary Mobile App is available for both iPhone and Android devices.
Best Bits:The app's sightings feature lets people upload pictures from their adventures, letting others know about the creatures and flowers they're most likely to encounter. These entries show greenway trail conditions after a big storm, monarch butterflies on new blossoms and who's playing at Koka Booth Amphitheatre.
Shortcomings: Details about the parks are spotty. Often, there's no more information on Cary's map but a pin making the park's location and a link showing directions. More pictures and descriptions would be helpful.
Raleigh's greenways twist through the city like a kudzu vine, taking its users on a tour through the quietest swamps of Walnut Creek to the car-honking edge of Crabtree Valley Mall. Sometimes, the trail briefly disappears only to start up again a block later. A map is essential, and this one fits neatly in a pocket.
Find it: The app, not officially from the City of Raleigh, is available for both iPhone and Android devices.
Best Bits: The greenway route can be confusing, even for veteran users, especially around Rose Lane and Lassiter Mill Road, where there are gaps, stops and starts. This map takes a pretty good stab at getting it all down.
Shortcomings: Some of the more perplexing spots remain unmarked, particularly through Centennial. Also, this map offers no details about terrain, which makes a big difference on a bike.
This app gives a bigger picture of the Triangle's cycling scene, showing it's possible, with frequent map checks and detours, to bike nearly all the distance between Raleigh and Durham on a trail.
Find it: Details of the app are at bikebeltline.com. Download it for both iPhone and Android devices.
Best Bits: This app is very selective, showing only the big picture routes that go long distance from city to city. Color coded trails shift from Raleigh to Cary to the American Tobacco Trail heading into downtown Durham. Mileage for each is supplied.
Shortcomings: The app has a very limited selection of trails and essentially shows the path between Raleigh and Durham with some side trails here and there. Also frustrating are the near-constant offers for more information at a price. Overall, this app seems unfinished and marginally helpful.