The Best Bike Trails: River to the Sea Bikeway

“Riverwalk, Wilmington” by Shane Thacker

“Riverwalk, Wilmington” by Shane Thacker


The 11-mile River to the Sea Bikeway, also known as WMPO Bicycle Route 1, features paved and off-road sections that run along the Historic Beach Car Line. The route passes through residential streets, multi-use paths and several arterial roadways.

The ride

The adventure starts at the end of Market Street, which is located at the Riverwalk. You should be able to see the USS North Carolina Battleship right across the Cape Fear River from here. The route then takes you through three beautiful neighborhoods: Old Wilmington, Bottom and Forest Hills. From there, you will cross Independence Boulevard and pass by Empie Park. You will then be taken to South Kerr Avenue via Park Avenue. The bikeway briefly merges with Peachtree Avenue, crosses South College Road and passes Pine Grove Drive along the way before rejoining Park Avenue.

Things get a bit trickier from this point.  As soon as you reach Wallace Avenue, you will be riding through an off-road path all the way to 52nd Street, passing the University of North Carolina along the way via Wood Dale Drive. You will be riding on paved roads again between 52th Street and Hinton Avenue.

The sections beyond Greenville Avenue are the toughest of the trail and are in no way beginner-friendly. So, if you are new to the sport, then this is where you turn back. Wrightsville Avenue and Oleander Drive are very busy arterial roadways that do not have a lot of bicycle facilities. In addition, these sections also cross several bridges.

Access and parking

You can get to the downtown Wilmington trailhead by taking the Wilmington Downtown exit at US Highway 74. Just make your way south via North 3rd Street, turn right at Market Street and travel west until you reach Riverfront Park. You can park in the street or at the Wilmington parking deck located at North 2nd Street and Market Street.

Parking is also available at Empie Park. You can reach it by taking US Highway 76 northbound to Independence Boulevard. Turn right at Park Avenue and left at the park driveway. Just refer to the Route 1 signs for directions to the bikeway from the parking area.


Finally, if you want to start your ride at the Wrightsville Beach Trailhead, then just take US Highway 74 and take Salisbury Street once you reach the Salisbury Street-North Lumina Avenue intersection. Street parking is available here but you can also park at Wrightsville Beach’s municipal complex located at the Salisbury Street-Seawater Lane intersection.

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