The Falls Lake Trail - A Geologic Guide





The Falls Lake Trail constitutes a 60-mile portion of the 1,000-mile NC Mountains to the Sea Trail (MST). Beginning at the Falls Lake Dam, it stretches westward through mostly scenic public lands in northern Wake and Durham Counties. The trail is well marked and well maintained, and it passes through two State Parks and one County Park. The 1994 CGS guide has stops in the area, as does the GSA Centennial Field Guide (SE).

We are developing a geological guide, keyed with GPS waypoints, to an existing trail log. The guide is written for the general public, and field excursions may be tailored to different levels. Young children will enjoy discovering soapstone and magnetite; college geology students can learn the basics of geological mapping. The trail traverses parts of the Wake Forest, Bayleaf, Creedmoor, and Northeast Durham 1:24,000-scale Quadrangles, geological maps of which have been published by the NC Geological Survey.

The trail begins in the Falls Leucogneiss of the Raleigh terrane, then winds through the Falls Lake, Crabtree, and Carolina terranes, before entering the Mesozoic Durham sub-basin. Along the trail, the hiker encounters an impressive range of rocks, minerals, and other geological features, including garnet schist, lineated leucogneiss, soapstone, boulder conglomerate, diabase dikes and sills, actinolite, talc, kyanite mineralization, foliations, lineations, folds and faults. There are opportunities to discover map-scale structural features, including crossing the hinge zone of the Raleigh antiform, where dip changes from eastward to flat to westward; walking back and forth across the Mesozoic Jonesboro normal fault, where geomorphic features as well as rock types show the location of the fault; and crossing the ductile Falls Lake fault, where mylonitized granitoid gneiss marks a fundamental terrane boundary.

The field guide will be accessible via smartphone, so that descriptions of features can be viewed on the trail. Future plans include utilizing the location services of smartphones to couple real-time location information with the field guide. We hope the guide may inspire similar efforts along other portions of the MST and adjoining trails. This would give more people, including geologists, teachers, students, and interested hikers access to the educational benefits we envision.
Falls Lake Trail Geologic Map Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 11 link Section 4 Section 5 Section 6 Section 7 Section 8 Section 9 Section 10 Section 12 Section 13 Section 14 Section 15 Section 17 Section 19 Section 20 Section 21 Section 22 Section 23
Map showing the location of Falls Lake Trail with respect to the area geology. Falls Lake Trail path for sections 1-17 provided by Bob Steinbeiser.


Choose a trail section to explore on the above map or choose from the list below. 

A glossary has been prepared defining some of the geologic terms used in this guide. Access the glossary from the main navigation bar at the top of each page.

Section 1 Section 7 Section 13 Section 19
Section 2 Section 8 Section 14 Section 20
Section 3 Section 9 Section 15 Section 21
Section 4 Section 10 Section 16 Section 22
Section 5 Section 11 Section 17 Section 23
Section 6 Section 12 Section 18 Geologic Guide to the Hidden Rocks Trail - Annie Louise Wilkerson M.D. Nature Preserve


iphone and ipad users!

Attention iphone and ipad users:  Using the free app, Avenza PDF maps, you can view geopdfs on your iphone or ipad.  Using this app and downloadable draft geopdf maps of portions of the Falls Lake Trail, you can have real time location information while accessing the guide. Access Draft geologic geopdf maps of the Falls Lake Trail here.


Comments and Feedback

Tell us about your hike experience and/or please leave your comments and feedback about the Falls Lake Trail Geologic Guide. Your comments and feedback will help us improve this and other guides.

Link to Comments and Feedback page.