“Wilderness in the heart of Chapel Hill adjacent to UNC Chapel Hill Campus, with plenty of hills.
— Chris Lynch
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Wildlife
The best part of this trail is the first 1/2, ascending the Battle Branch Trail
from the Chapel Hill Community Center Park through Battle Park. It has a wilderness feel in the heart of Chapel Hill. The descent on Franklin Street is not much fun, but there are some beautiful old mansions to admire as you head downhill. The finish along the Bolin Creek Greenway is flat and easy along a paved path.
Need to Know
There are several places where the Battle Branch Trail
has variations. See the description below for more detail. Generally, the first section of the Battle Branch Trail
right after starting at the Community Center Park has a (preferred) Lower Trail that is hillier and crosses streams, and an Upper Trail that is more likely to be dry and is more level. The last half of the Battle Branch Trail
consistently climbs uphill and has a flatter, lower part that stays to the left and close to Battle Branch Creek (less interesting) and a hillier section to the right of the creek that involves more interesting singletrack.
The 1.5 miles at the start of the run are mostly on singletrack trail, much of which is uphill with lots of rocks and roots, so watch your footing. The descent along Franklin Street is on sidewalks alongside a moderately busy 4-lane street, and you will need to cross from right to left at some point. Be careful crossing, as there are no stoplights before the left turn on Elizabeth Street. If you need a controlled pedestrian crossing, there is one just below (about 50 feet) Elizabeth Street, and you can backtrack to Elizabeth Street from there.
Find plentiful parking at the Chapel Hill Community Center Park. The Battle Branch Trail
starts right by the Community Center building. You'll leave the Community Center Park very soon and cross a small bridge, after which you follow Shepard Lane for about 100 feet before turning right onto the main beginning of the Battle Branch singletrack trail.
Do not take any side trails other than those that lead to the UNC Campus. (The first sign you'll see is for Sugarberry Road; instead follow the sign to UNC Campus.) Soon you have a choice to take the Lower Trail or the Upper Trail to the UNC Campus; either one is fine, but the Lower Trail is more scenic.
Shortly after passing the Sandy Creek Trail
sign (following signage to UNC Campus), you'll cross another bridge over Battle Branch Creek and enter Battle Park proper; this is the nicest part of the trail and you'll encounter a couple of nice viewing platforms. I prefer to keep taking the right, "pedestrian" trail rather than heading directly along the creek. Do not take any of the side trails with names, such as the Cedar Top Trail
or Solitary Hill Trail
Eventually, the pedestrian trail rejoins the OWASA access trail along Battle Branch, and you'll cross the creek on a rocky portion, then cross again on a bridge where you'll turn right and continue going uphill.
After another 1/4 mile, you reach the end of Battle Branch Trail
and turn right on Park Place. After that, stay right again on Franklin Street. Look for a safe place to cross from right to left across the busy 4-lane street.
After about 1/2 mile, you turn left on Elizabeth Street and continue making your way downhill to reach the Bolin Creek Greenway. Continue until you reach a stop sign on the greenway and then turn right.
From there, continue on the flat Bolin Creek Greenway until it ends where you started at Community Center Park.
Flora & Fauna
Battle Park, through which the Battle Branch Trail
runs, is a mature hardwood forest, with deer and larger birds of prey including owls. The Bolin Creek Trail
segment is more open and has similar wildlife, but greater pedestrian traffic makes sightings less likely.