The French Broad River Greenway links three city parks with a bicycle and walking path. The trail runs over two miles between the French Broad River Park, Carrier Park and Hominy Creek park. The trail starts at the dog park at the French Broad River park and runs along the river all the way to Hominy Creek park. The wide and paved main trail goes the entire distance with many dirt offshoots. If you explore around Carrier Park, the dirt offshoots take the trail down to the river. The city is currently expanding the greenway system through downtown. Recently a bill passed approval for an extension up to Woodfin.
Parents mentioned the river is great for strollers and young cyclists. We decided to head over on Christmas day as our outside adventure for the family. The weather was grey and dreary, but we were determined to head out. With both of us able to go, our dog Pirate was able to join us and jumped up in the car. We started our walk at Carrier Park and headed southwest the 1.3 miles down to Hominy Creek Park. Heading this way, we were hoping the trail would have less people and dogs at noon. Many reviews complain of the crowds at the park and we expected the many exercisers on the trail. Carrier Park has three parking lots with the closest lot between the baseball field and the mellowdrome. The parking lot is small and will fill up during peak hours. Two large parking lots are 200 yards to the east with the main sign for Carrier Park.
We unloaded the car not sure what to expect. The only information we had on the route was a parent telling us it was pretty, paved and followed the river to the next park. The first hundred yards skirts along the side of the road and an access road. The sidewalk hugs the space between the roadside and an RV park, and then passes through the middle of the RVs. The RV park was close to full with RV’s from all over the country. The short stretch of the trail at the start is the worst part of the trip, it was hard to make room for passing groups with a stroller and a dog. Luckily the narrow part is short and then the trail moves to the wooded part along the river.
Once we moved past the RV part, the trail passes into a green space that wanders along the rivers edge. This part of the trail is what we were expecting, a nice flat trail with bushes and trees for the kid and dog to enjoy. We enjoyed the walk and encountered a few other families out enjoying the day. One thing to remember is minding the different exercise groups. Dogs are supposed to stay on a six foot leash to help with fast moving bicyclist. We kept our eyes out the entire time for bicycles coming in fast. The trail is open enough to walk the dog on a long leash as long as you are proactive about holstering around other groups. We did pass two groups that had dogs off the leash, but they quickly called the dogs in and leashed before passing us. Keep this in mind if you have kids walking with you.
The path has park benches and sunken seating areas facing the river. The benches are spaced out and we passed a dozen on the trail. Across the river is the Biltmore Estate. The section of the Biltmore seems to have some fallow farming fields and a field of cows. Of course the little one pointed out the Moos and was excited to watch. I’m sure the farming fields are neat to look at during the right seasons. The overpass with its rumbling of passing cars adds a bit of excitement for the kids. The water splashes around the pylons and the big trucks rumble overhead. The part of the trail near I40 is loud enough to break up the natural sounds and diminishes as you continue on.
About 30 minutes into our walk we made it to the Hominy Creek Park. The parking lot has room for a dozen cars and has an extra gravel parking spot. A business called French Broad Outfitters owns the tip of land between the creek and the river, and the equipment is safely fenced off. The Hominy Park is a great place for boat access. I plan on using the park in the future for kayak or tubing access point on the French Broad. Further research on canoe runs in the area shows Bent Creek Park to Hominy Creek Park is a 7 mile downstream trip with minor class 1 and class 2 sections. It will be a great summer family run.
We played with the rocks and the picnic tables in the park before heading back, and one thing we noticed was the lack of bathroom facilities. The park is small and may not get much regular traffic by itself, but the lack of porta potty is surprising. For the amount of joggers and family on the trail, I hope a bathroom facility is planned during the expansion of the greenway system. Carrier park which is the mid point of the current trail has a bathroom facility.
On the walk back to the starting point at Carrier park, we spent some time looking at the different openings on the trail. A few areas had opening for meadows and what appeared to be butterfly gardens from the spring and summer. Another opening was piled thick with leaves and a will provide a great photo opportunity for the fall colors. We look forward to visiting many times to catch the changing nature along the trail.
As we walked, we both came to the conclusion that our route will be improved if we flip the directions. Next time we will park at Hominy Creek Park with no crowd, then walk down to Carrier. At Carrier Park, Riley can play on the playground and everyone can have a pit stop, then return back on the trip. Carrier Park has more picnic tables and fields to play in. We also took note of how often the trail is in the direct sun. We visited on a day where the high was 55 and we got warm enough to take off layers. Bring plenty of water for the little ones as they run around in excitement.
I hope everyone gets the chance to enjoy the French Broad Greenway system. The playground at Carrier Park is worth the trip by itself. We plan on visiting throughout the year and exploring as the new portions open up to the public.