This trail is a pretty straight shot and it's easy to tell which way to go, which is good, because sometimes it's a bit between marked trees. It's also a little more rugged in the first quarter/third, but it opens up considerably as you approach the start of the overlap with Old Salem Turnpike.
Deer Run Trail
(which branches off River Walk) has a blaze that is also blue, but "a much darker blue." It curves up a hill, so it should be clear that it is different. Deer Run is quite rugged.
Do be aware that some construction will be happening between 2018 and 2019, and keep an ear out for oncoming diggers and steamrollers. They move slowly and are hard to miss.
Bring bug spray if gnats bug you - I forgot it, and there were a couple points where I wish I had some.
A trail runner may prefer to follow Old Salem Turnpike and run on the section where it overlaps with River Walk. You can do this by pulling into Lot A rather than going down to Lot E, and just following the Old Salem Turnpike route. This means you skip the slightly narrow and overgrown section of River Walk by Lot E unless you follow it to the end. You can loop back to Lot A either by just following Old Salem Turnpike to Lot D and then proceeding by the road to Lot A, or going through the Historical Area (accessible at Lot D), and getting back to the start of Old Salem Turnpike to carry you back to where you began. (Or just double back the way you came)
The first thing to be aware of with this trail is that there's a small lot with a self-service day pass payment kiosk. It's $3 for the day pass at this spot, but be aware that Explore Park is undergoing a number of improvements, and this might increase between 2018-2019. You can learn more about those improvements along the trail.
Second thing to note is that the lot is relatively small. I recommend either carpooling or, if this lot is full, parking at one of the other lots by Old Salem Turnpike trail, which connects to (and overlaps with) this trail for a little while. Those lots are also free!
This trail feels a bit less managed than some of the others in this park. First, you're following the blue blazes but occasionally, you'll see a red blaze, suggesting that perhaps they changed the color at one point. The first quarter or so of the trail is a bit narrow and brushy, so be prepared to duck under a branch or two. You'll parallel the river the whole way, and all along the route are rough dirt access points if you'd like to go fishing.
You'll also see signs advertising the renovations they're doing (particularly along the waterway) as part of the Adventure Plan. The park and the trails are all still open, but be aware that there might be the occasional construction vehicle trundling along on its way to shoring up part of the trail. If you're local and interested in what they've got planned, you can find out more about on their website
After that initial brushy section, though, the trail opens up to a more comfortable width with a relatively flat trail. There are multiple access points to the Historic Area if you're interested in exploring more. Further along, where you overlap with Old Salem Turnpike (red blazes), the trail is quite wide and flat, with packed gravel. If you'd like to enter and exit at this point, do note that the OST trail near this point does have a pretty long and steep road up to the parking lot, but it is paved and easy to navigate.
Keep going toward the end and you'll pass the trailhead for the Deer Run Trail
, which itself has the trailhead for the Turkey Scratch Loop
and the Palmer's Pond
connector back to Old Salem Turnpike.
In addition to listening to the river, you'll probably hear a train passing across the water!
In late May, there are small flying bugs aplenty! Some beautiful black swallowtails, a bunch of peculiar metallic-green beetles that didn't look like June bugs, and the occasional gnat. If you're not a fan of things flying around your face, bring a little bug spray or repellent, particularly if you access from the southerly parking lot (Lot E) and need to go through that initially narrow, slightly overgrown section.
If you're into fishing, there are plenty of places to pull off the trail and throw a line in the water. Keep an ear out for squirrels, deer, and wild turkeys.