If you’re in Chapel Hill and not in the mood for the challenge of a hilly run, there aren’t a lot of good options.
One fairly flat choice for a short run, though, is the 1.5-mile Bolin Creek Trail, and there are several places to access it.
One end of the trail is at Community Center Park near University Place (formerly University Mall). From there, you run under a Franklin Street bridge (below photo).
The other end of the trail is at MLK Boulevard. That’s where you’ll deal with the only real hill on the course, a short incline for runners headed toward MLK or a short downhill when you run down from MLK (below photo).
If you are driving there, the best place to park is in the lot for Community Center Park. Bathrooms are available. Closer to MLK, you can also park on Bolinwood Drive.
You can run down from East Franklin Street onto Elizabeth Street and reach roughly the midpoint of the trail by way of a short connector trail. There are steps (seen to left in below photo) next to Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen that you can take down from Franklin Street to near the park end of the trail.
The 10-foot-wide trail alternates between a concrete sidewalk surface and a paved surface, and includes a couple of bridges. Coming from MLK, the creek is to your right until midway through the trail when you cross a bridge over the creek. Then the creek is to your left the rest of the way.
It’s best to avoid this trail after heavy rain because large puddles can develop.
If you would prefer to go longer than the three miles an up-and-back run of the trail gives you, there are plenty of ways to add on miles. Just be ready for some hills.
Heading toward Community Center Park, for example, you can continue onto the unpaved Battle Branch Trail to eventually reach the UNC campus at Battle Park after 1.5 miles. If you extend your run onto sidewalks on MLK in either direction, be prepared for some daunting hills.
There are lots of ways to use this trail as an add-on to a longer run.
I live in Durham but head to Chapel Hill when training for a hilly marathon. I’ve integrated the Bolin Creek Trail into a 20-mile loop that starts and ends at the School of Government Parking Deck on the UNC campus.
The Bolin Creek Trail provides a short break from the hills … because the rest of Chapel Hill is full of them!