There's plenty to see and experience in Johnston County, NC. But for the more outdoor minded individual or family, our rural landscapes offers an escape into nature. This isn't rock climbing, waterfalls, or extreme sports, this is soft-adventure... so that everyone can enjoy the great outdoors together. Bike, hike, and paddle your way through JoCo and stay the night your way - roughing it or in style.

The below itinerary gives you a snap shot of places in the Clayton area to explore, eat, drink, and stay. Less than 30 minutes from Raleigh and just a few minutes from I-40, Clayton has miles of greenways and trails (some that connect you to trails and parks in the Triangle area), local restaurants, bars, and breweries, and a state educational forest. Enjoy a day, stay for the weekend, make your visit your own using our below outline.

Day One

Morning - Clemmons State Forest

The first of North Carolina's Educational State Forests, Clemmons opened in 1976 in Johnston County. Featuring self-guided trails and exhibits, as well as Ranger-conducted classes, the forest offers a wealth of experiences for the senses and the mind. Clemmons is pet-friendly, but please note that while in the forest dogs must be on a leash and under direct control of an owner at all times. They must bear a collar displaying a valid rabies tag and owners must carry materials to remove waste. Bicycles and other vehicles are not permitted on the forest's trails.

Lunch - Nancy Jo's

Nancy Jo’s takes great pride in making everything from scratch using North Carolina ingredients when possible. With fresh sandwich, soup, and salad options daily, it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch. There’s also plenty of homemade pies, cookies, cakes, and more to try for dessert. 

Afternoon - Clayton River Walk

Clayton River Walk on the Neuse is a beautiful 4-mile, 10-foot wide paved trail that begins at the Wake County/Johnston County line and parallels the Neuse River under Covered Bridge Road. It is part of the 1,000-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which will connect Clingman's Dome in North Carolina's Great Smokey Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park all the way at the coast. Clayton's section has also been designated as part of the 2,500-mile East Coast Greenway that will extend from Maine to Florida, linking cities in every state on the eastern seaboard.

Maleah Christie, a co-owner, making a drink at the speakeasy-style bar using a blowtorch, Revival 1869, in Clayton, NC.

Grab a Drink - Revival 1869

Revival 1869 - A Drinkery is a new craft-cocktail and whiskey experience in the heart of downtown Clayton, NC that offers a large variety of whiskies from around the world. They also feature exquisitely handcrafted cocktails, using ingredients that are organic and locally-sourced as well as a unique menu of seasonal artisan creations utilizing herbs, bitters, fruits and vegetables. Enjoy an after dinner drink mixed by owner Mike Brown and relax in this vintage speak-easy setting.

Dinner - Deep River

Deep River is Johnston County's first legal brewery and many of their beers include locally sourced vegetables, fruits, hops, and grain. Meet owners and brewers Paul and Lynn Auclair, engineers turned entrepreneurs who work to brew a wide range of beer styles so that every visitor to the tap room can find something they like. The historic space Deep River occupies in downtown Clayton was a cotton spinning mill and has been brought back to life by utilizing old barn wood on the walls. Deep River has a rotating schedule of amazing food trucks and is a stop along the Johnston County Beer, Wine, Shine Trail.

Stay the Night

After a long day of play in the great outdoors, settle in for a well deserved stay in an area hotel.

Or, to continue with the outdoor fun, find our campground options in the area here.

A kayaker paddles a river in the sun captured by a drone.

Day Two

Morning - Neuse Adventures Canoe & Kayak Rentals

Enjoy the special pleasure of spending a few hours drifting down one of North Carolina's most historic and scenic byways. With self-guided trips ranging from two to five hours, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy plenty of quiet, peaceful time with family or friends. You'll also encounter an abundance of Mother Nature's finest sights along the way . . . beavers, cranes, fish, and perhaps even a few friendly fisherman.

Lunch - Vinson's Pub + Eatery

Vinson's specializes in good brews, good burgers and good times. With an amazing outdoor seating area and bar made from reclaimed wood from our 100 year old building, the atmosphere is perfect for your next event or dinner out with the family. Come enjoy a taste of historic Clayton today!

Afternoon - Clayton Sculpture Trail

Sculptures are showcased annually in this free, self-guided trail, aimed not only at fostering an appreciation of the arts, but enhancing the downtown experience and enriching Clayton's unique sense of community.

Insider tips!

If you're looking for a way to explore the entire county with purpose, check out our Geocaching trail! Enjoy the outdoors and find all 50 caches to receive a commemorative coin.

Check the county-wide event calendar managed by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau before you visit:

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