If you go left at the visitor center, the path is flat with views of the lake. Once you pass the dam with its great view (about a mile in), it gets hilly and you quickly move away from the lake. After 2 miles you start to hit very steep hills and no benches. Parking lot was very tight and crowded. Due to the steep hills, I would go right at the beginning if i ever make it back so you get that section done while you're still fresh.
Used to hike this trail almost every week in college in the late eighties and early nineties. We would start at our apartment near Avent Ferry and Gorman, walk to the trail, do the trail and head home about 5 miles in all. After my dog died I didn't have the heart to ever hike it again. Her favorite phrase was "want go to the lake?"
Steve H. on Lake Johnson East Loop Trail
Trail is paved the whole way. Little long to go without a bathroom if you have kids. Wear good shoes, the trail has some hills.
Refreshing getaway from cabin fever after the recent snow and ice events .... we decided to ice-trek around Lake Johnson on a cool day of 37 degrees. The paths were mostly full of patchy ice and snow, but there were many clear areas as well. This hike exceeded my expectations as from the map it appeared to be just a walk around the lake; the terrain is actually hilly in spots and trekking through the snowy woods turned out to be a great time. This trail is perfect for trail running, jogging, bicycling on the paved portion and just a great place to enjoy. Highly recommend this trail as a must do if you are local to Raleigh.
Great for walking with your kids, dogs, riding bikes or running. Can get overcrowded during the weekend & holidays, but that's mostly an issue with parking, not the trail itself. It is a more populated path than what I normally prefer, but still a nice quick get away.