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American Tobacco Trail

The American Tobacco Trail is a rails-to-trails project in Durham, Chatham, and Wake Counties.  The trail follows the abandoned rail corridor of Norfolk Southern Railroad, which was used to ship tobacco from farms to the American Tobacco Company in Durham for processing.  The abandoned rail line was identified as an opportunity for a recreational trail and the Triangle Rails to Trails Conservancy was formed in 1989.

6.5 miles of the trail is located in southwestern Wake County and this portion is managed by Wake County Parks and Recreation.  The 4.5 miles of trail in Chatham County is managed by the Town of Cary.  The remaining portion in Durham County is managed by the City of Durham.

Contact Information:

1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Road
Apex, NC 27502

Phone: 919-387-2117
Fax: 919-387-4349



American Tobacco Trail:

Length: 22.2 miles

American Tobacco Trail is a 22-mile rails-to-trails path that follows the abandoned railway that shipped tobacco from farms to be processed at the American Tobacco Company in Durham.  The trail starts right in downtown Durham at the corner of Morehead and Blackwell streets, right across from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  In about two miles, Rocky Branch Trail, part of the Durham greenway system splits off.  At three miles, Riddle Road Spur splits off; see trail description below.  The trail crosses Cornwallis Road just before 3.25 miles and shortly after, an old tobacco barn can be seen between the trail and Fayetteville Road.

The trail crosses MLK Parkway at a crosswalk and then crosses Fayetteville Road between 4 and 4.25 miles.  Solite Park, where parking and restrooms are available, is at 4.25 miles.  The trail continues following Fayetteville Road south, eventually passing behind Southpoint Crossing and crossing I-40 along an impressive pedestrian bridge.  This was the last segment of the trail to be completed.  Across the interstate, the trail runs behind Streets of South Point mall and eventually curving back and passing under Fayetteville Road.  A trail parking is located here.  Just before mile 10.25, the trail passes Herndon Park where restrooms and parking are available.  After 10.25, the trail crosses Scott King Road and enters Chatham County before mile 11.  South of Scott King Road, the trail is dual surface - paved and sand/gravel surface for equestrians.

After mile 11.25, there is a bridge over Northeast Creek in a swampy area near Jordan Lake.  The trail crosses O'Kelly Chapel Road between 12.25 and 12.5 miles and then Pittard Sears Road before 13.25.  Parking is available at Pittard Sears Road.  There is a bridge over Panther Creek after 13.5 and the trail crosses New Hope Church Road before mile 14.5.  A parking lot is here as well as restrooms and drinking water.  South of New Hope Church Road, the trail is gravel surface the rest of the way.  After mile 15.5, the trail crosses into Wake County and goes under Yates Store Road.  The next road crossing is Morrisville Parkway just after 16 miles.  Before 16.75 miles, the White Oak Church Road Trailhead is on the right, where parking and restrooms are available, and the trail crosses White Oak Church Road after 16.75 miles.  Before the trail reaches 17.5 miles, an old tobacco barn can be seen down from the trail to the left.

The trail crosses Green Level Road between 17.5 and 17.75 miles and then crosses Wimberly Road before 18.5 miles.  There is trailhead parking here, but no restrooms.  A bridge leads over White Oak Creek before 18.75 miles and the trail crosses Goodwin Road before 19.5 miles.  A tunnel leads under US-64 after 19.75 miles there is a bridge over Reedy Branch before 20.75 miles.  There is one more street crossing for Olive Chapel Road between 20.75 and 21 miles.  The trail leads through a wetland area here where Beaver Creek feeds into Jordan Lake.

A bridge leads over Beaver Creek after 21.25 miles and the trail enters drier ground.  The southern terminus of the trail is just after 22 miles at the New Hill-Olive Chapel Road parking, where there is parking and restrooms.

Eagle Spur:

Length: 2.3 miles

The Eagle Spur follows the original route of the railroad.  When Jordan Lake was constructed the railroad was rerouted to what is now the American Tobacco Trail.  The trailhead is along Stagecoach Road, just west of NC-751.  The trail follows the abandoned railway from Stagecoach Road through Jordan Lake Game Lands and ends at Jordan Lake as the rest of the railway has been flooded.

Riddle Road Spur:

Length: 1.5 miles

This spur trail follows the route of the Riddle Road Spur of the CSX railroad.  Starting from the American Tobacco Trail at the intersection of Fayetteville and Riddle Roads the paved trail follows Riddle Road northeast.  In a quarter-mile, the trail crosses Alfred Road and then crosses to the north side of Riddle Road at 0.5 miles.  After 0.75 miles, the trail crosses NC-55 at a traffic light and then South Alston Street just before 1.25 miles.  The spur ends at South Briggs Avenue at 1.5 miles.

Trail History:

The history of the American Tobacco Trail is the story of the tobacco industry in Durham.  Robert Morris first began manufacturing tobacco in Durham in 1858, which became Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco.  During the Civil War, Union soldiers developed a taste for North Carolina tobacco, creating demand following the war.  Bull Durham eventually became the largest tobacco manufacturer in the world.  Washington Duke also began manufacturing tobacco after the war and was the first to mechanize the production of cigarettes.  His son James formed the American Tobacco Company in Durham.  To satisfy the increasing demand for tobacco, the trains delivered tobacco from farms in rural Wake and Chatham Counties to Durham.  The Durham and South Carolina Railroad completed the line through New Hope Valley in 1906 and it eventually was sold to Norfolk Southern.  In the 1970s, the Army Corps of Engineers had the railroad moved eastward in preparation of the construction of Jordan Lake.  The Eagle Spur Trail now follows the old route to the lake.  Railroad use began to dwindle in the 1970s as trucking became the primary mode of transporting goods and Norfolk Southern abandoned the railroad in 1979.  In 1987, the Durham City Council passed a resolution stating that abandoned railroads within the city would become part of future greenways.  Triangle Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was formed in 1989 to help preserve abandoned rail corridors, working with state and local governments.  Since then, the trail has been constructed in bits and pieces.  In 2014, the pedestrian bridge over I-40 was finished, completing the trail from downtown Durham to southwestern Wake County.

Blog Entries:

26-Jan-2019: Jordan Lake Hikes

External Links:

Triangle Rails to Trails website: http://www.triangletrails.org/