Running Raleigh: Ironwood Trail - Trail Review 2

      The Ironwood trail is another one of my top three Favorite trails to run-- although I like to call it the Shelley to Crabber Run. I usually Start off by parking at Shelley Lake. You can use either to main parking lot or the lower parking lot. Then instead of getting on the overcrowded Shelley Lake Trail, you go under a bridge/tunnel that takes you to the other side of Millbook Avenue and drops you onto an awesome portion of Raleigh's Greenway Trail. From here, it's a 2.5 mile run/walk/bike to the Crabtree Valley Mall. That's right. I can get to the Mall in 16 minutes or less if I'm pushing myself hard.
   So you get the scenic payoff on both ends of this run. 
  So, let's see how it does.
Hill Ranking:
(Are we going down hill, both ways?)
    This section of the trail below the Shelley Lake dam is pretty flat. Again, you are running next to a river. So, you get your ups and downs, bridges and bumps that you'd expect to find next to a river, but nothing serious. There are at least two hills that are pretty steep. But you can at least see the tops of these hills and they aren't long hard hills. If I want to get a hills workout in. I'll run to the mall and back.. then I'll run to the top of the Shelley Lake dam. That is one demoralizing, painful and slow hill if you are not mentally prepared for it. 
Access to water:
(Water break at the mall)
    There are two water refill areas on this run. One is on the Shelley Lake Trail by the boat house and in the upper parking lot. The other would have to be at McDonalds or in the mall.  This trial drops you off at the McDonald's behind the mall. Also near Best Buy and the Mall. I haven't had to get water from here yet because it's only 5 miles down and back and because this trail is mostly shaded. That's why this one gets high marks for this category. 

(...but watch out for hobos & commuters)
     True, I run this trail to get away from the crowds on Shelley Lake. It is rarely busy unless I go during peak time which is around 9 o'clock on Saturday or Sunday. You can really tell the difference if you run both Shelley Lake and this trail all in one day. Once you get on the Ironwood Trail you can stop worrying about dodging strollers and walkers and focus on pace. One thing I've noticed is that you'll find a different crowd when you get closer to the mall. Some are on their way to or from work at the mall. Or maybe they just got off the bus and are headed home. I don't know what's going on, but there are always a few people out there using the trail.. but not for exercise. Then right near the underpass for Glenwood Avenue you'll find an area where the homeless gather. I'm serious. Ladies - be careful, keep it moving and you should be fine. 
(I'm not distracted by the beauty)
     The first section of the Ironwood trail is so and twisty and turny  that I fell like I'm going on a journey with Froto Baggins. Second Breakfast anyone? The trail crosses the creek flowing from Shelley Lake several times in the first half mile before it straightens out. I think this adds to the character of the trail. There are a few places along the way that I've thought about turning into a photo shoot location. 
Ease of Use: 8
   (You won't need Siri's guidance for this)
   It's pretty easy to figure out.  There is one Y in the trail that could take you off in a different direction. But, if you keep following the sings for the Ironwood trail or go towards Crabtree Creek,... you're good. The trail lost a few points for it's Crossing on North Hills Drive. I've lost a few fellow runners here who didn't know which way to go. My son even get a little confused. It's not obvious unless you see another runner on the path up ahead. if you don't know-- It's a left turn, then a quick right to cross the street and stay on the path.
   Then when you get to Crabtree Creek, you can either turn left or turn right. Turn right to go to the mall.


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