Situated in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this extensive 10-mile trail network offers a plethora of experiences that cater to intermediate level riders. From twisting single tracks through dense forests to routes that will challenge your technical skills, the trails in Chapel Hill have something for everyone. However, be prepared to navigate through a maze of routes and occasional pedestrian traffic.
- Distance: 10 mi
- Level: Intermediate
- Route Type: Network
- Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The network can be described as a "make-your-own-adventure" with multi-directional routes and minimal signage. While the trails are not entirely marked, random arrows and fire roads intersecting the trails can guide your way out if you get lost.
- Fast and Narrow Single Track: Accessible from the school parking lot, this section offers tight routes that are barely wider than your handlebars. It provides a sensation similar to downhill ski slaloming, except the poles are replaced by skinny pine trees.
- Occoneechee Loop: For those who enjoy a rock and root challenge, this is your paradise. The trail lacks smooth flow and downhill speed, offering instead an assortment of gnarly roots and sharp turns.
- Airport Side: This section provides a relatively enjoyable ride and tends to be a crowd-pleaser among riders who prefer less technical challenges.
- Rock gardens and natural obstacles
- Sharp turns and switchbacks
- North Shore elements for thrill-seekers
- Sporadic wooden bridges and jumps, though some are in disrepair
Pros and Cons
- Diverse Trail System: There are countless miles of trails that can suit riders of almost any skill level.
- Natural Setting: The network meanders through lovely pine forests and around Bolin Creek, offering some respite from urban life.
- Proximity to Town: Accessibility is a plus, as the trail sits within the town's boundaries.
- Crowding: The trail system often gets congested, especially on weekends.
- Root Overgrowth: Some areas have become increasingly technical due to root exposure, likely exacerbated by weather conditions.
- Poor Signage: Newcomers might find navigation challenging due to the lack of well-marked routes.
- Accessibility: To get there, from I-40 East get on Highway 86 (Airport Road), turn right on Homestead Rd, then turn left on Seawell School Rd. The trailhead is at the school parking lot on the right.
- Timing: Visit early in the morning on weekends to avoid the pedestrian traffic.
- Navigation: Bring a map or a friend familiar with the trails to avoid getting lost.
Though not without its flaws, the Chapel Hill trail network offers a wide array of riding experiences, making it an indispensable part of North Carolina's mountain biking scene. If you're in the area and itching for a day of riding, this could very well be your go-to destination.