There are many shorter trails in the Triangle that are excellent running choices. But the crown jewel of them all is the American Tobacco Trail, with one end in Chatham County, 6.5 miles in Wake County and the other end near Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham.
It’s the location of most of the courses of two marathons — the longstanding Tobacco Road Marathon in March and the new RDC Marathon in October — and a few other races, and is a terrific place for walkers, cyclists and runners to get in a few miles or an entire long run.
Parking options vary widely throughout the trail, with the most parking available at Southpoint mall, the staging area for the RDC Marathon. Also in Durham, you can find parking and are bathrooms at Solite Park, Elmira Avenue Park and just off of Fayetteville Road, across the street from newhope church. There also is street parking near the DBAP.
There are restrooms in several other places along the ATT and at stores that are near the trail. In Wake County, there is parking in Apex at 1017 Wimberley Road, 1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Road and 1305 White Oak Church Road, all of which close 15 minutes before sunset. There are bathrooms at the latter two locations. Parking also is allowed on roadsides.
In the Chatham County section between Durham and Wake counties, there is parking at Pittard Sears Road.
Near the mall is the bridge over Interstate 40, completed in 2014, that allows anybody to cover the entire 22.6-mile trail without a detour.
In Durham County, the paved trail is 10 feet wide with some concrete stretches. There are also short spurs along the ATT in Durham: The Rocky Creek Trail (0.75 of a mile) and the Riddle Road Spur (1.45 miles). The latter is just beyond the crest a hill near the appropriately named Hillside High School.
Heading toward Chatham County, you have the choice of pavement or dirt trails (dual surface) once you cross Scott King Road just before the Chatham County line. It remains dual surface until it becomes all hard-packed dirt (compact screenings) at New Hope Church Road.
There are mile markers and markings every quarter-mile and dashed lines in the middle of the paved portions of the trail, except on bridges.
Although you don’t have to watch out for traffic as you would running on the side of a road, there are numerous roads to cross along the way.
Generally, your run won’t be delayed much, or at all, by the streets or roads you must cross. The exceptions, depending on the day and time you’re running, are the two times the trail crosses Fayetteville Road (near Elmira Avenue Park and near Solite Park), and when it intersects MLK Parkway, N.C. 54, Renaissance Parkway and Massey Chapel Road.
Fortunately, you go under a bridge the third time the trail intersects Fayetteville Road. There is a tunnel that takes you under U.S. 64 in Chatham County. After it’s rained, puddles can form in that area.
Although it varies, the ATT generally is flat. There are rolling hills in stretches in the 11.4 miles in Durham County. In Wake County, and also in parts of Chatham County, you might even see folks riding on horses.