Clayton is home to miles of greenway, which make up portions of much larger trail systems. These trails connect us to the outdoors, from east to west, north to south, and with each other.

Sam’s Branch Greenway in Clayton has been extended and now provides hikers, bikers, runners, and walkers with a path into Downtown Clayton. This extension creates new opportunities for exploration. 

If you are new to the area or unfamiliar with Clayton’s greenway systems, Clayton’s trails are part of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail and the East Coast Greenway.

The Mountains to Sea Trail stretches 1,175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, stopping at many of our state’s most beautiful destinations along the way. Segment 11 of the Mountains to Sea Trail runs through Clayton, Raleigh, and Smithfield. These trails mainly follow the Neuse River and make up 65.7 miles (39.3 miles of greenway or similar paved multi-use paths, and 26.4 miles of roads).

Biking on the Mountains to the Sea Trail

The East Coast Greenway is a network of trails that connects people to places, from Maine to Florida. This trail stretches across the entire East Coast and has 97 Miles of Protected Greenway in North Carolina. Our State’s Greenways are approximately 30% complete. The 75-mile stretch from North Durham through Cary, Raleigh, and Clayton forms the most complete metro area trail along the entire 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. 

"We are so happy to see Clayton become a "trail town" for residents and visitors alike. Here at the East Coast Greenway Alliance, we've really enjoyed working with our partners in the Town of Clayton and in Johnston County," said Andrew Meeker, the North Carolina Coordinator for East Coast Greenway Alliance.

The Sam's Branch Extension brings the Mountains to Sea Trail and the East Coast Greenway into Downtown Clayton. Downtown restaurants and businesses can look forward to significant benefits, thanks to the trail's traffic.

In 2017 the East Coast Greenway Alliance commissioned a study to collect data and statistics supporting and validating the trail's economic benefits. Prepared by Alta Planning + Design and sponsored by GSK, the report finds that the East Coast Greenway generates $90 million in annual total benefits from the Triangle region. These benefits range from improved health, environmental rectification, increased transportation, economic growth, and increased property values.

“We are so excited that the downtown greenway connector has opened. It has become the official route on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and we know that thru-hikers and day-hikers will love this lovely, safe way to get to the fun shops and restaurants in downtown Clayton," said Kate Dixon, a representative from the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

On February 17th, 2022, hikers, bikers, and anyone interested in Clayton’s expanding Greenway systems are invited to two hours of informational fun on the trails and an after-party at Deep River Brewery.

Bikers will meet at the trailhead on Covered Bridge Road and ride 4 miles up Sam’s Branch Greenway and into the new Clayton Downtown Connector to Deep River. A representative from the East Coast Greenway Alliance will lead this group. They will share insights regarding the ECG’s mission to build a trail from Maine to Key West through Johnston County.  

Walkers will meet at the Sam’s Branch Greenway Trailhead and walk 2 miles up the new Clayton Downtown Connector to Deep River Brewery. Johnny Massey, who has hiked the entire 1,175-mile Mountains to Sea Trail, will lead this group.

All participants will reconvene at Deep River Brewery for beverages, snacks, and discussion. Experts from Clayton, surrounding towns, and nonprofit organizations will be present to share their knowledge on what trails are open now, planned trails, and how citizens can get involved.

The event is sponsored by the East Coast Greenway Alliance, Friends of Johnston County Parks, and Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail.

If you are interested in participating in the event, follow the link below to learn more and register. 

Walk and Talk about Trails in Johnston County (