New Hope Bottomlands

Repurposed flood plain in Durham offers short hike adjacent to park

For hike #5 of my 52 Hike Challenge I was hoping for a nice, easy, local trail. I had just run 11 miles the day before and I had an indoor soccer game Sunday evening, so I wanted something easy to enjoy with Ryder and McCrae. I did my usual scouring of the internet, books, and Google maps, and I found New Hope Bottomlands Trail in Durham.

New Hope Bottomlands Trail is tucked away with access from some area apartment buildings (if you're a resident), Githens Middle School (if you're a student or staff), or Old Chapel Hill Road Park (for everyone else). It's 2.2 miles in a lollipop loop through a floodplain with some views of New Hope Creek.

Access to the trailhead can be a bit tricky: at the Old Chapel Hill Road Park go past the soccer fields towards the basketball court and turn left to follow the paved trail. The paved trail will end and the natural trail of New Hope Bottomlands trail will begin. (Though if you happen to go right instead of left you'll run into the coolest playground; seriously, I'm jealous of the climbing feature these kids get to enjoy!)

The paved trail from the city park ends and the natural trail begins.

Isn't that the coolest playground?!

The trail had good signs indicating the way, though the online map is outdated and shows "future city park" instead of Old Chapel Hill Road Park. Since the trail runs through a floodplain much of the natural trail is swampy and there are boardwalks, footbridges, and stepping stones throughout. The natural area has a bit of a leftover feeling like it's just there since it can't be used for anything else, but on the other hand it's nice that the trail is available instead of just shrugging the floodplain off as wasted land.

Now is the perfect time to hike this trail: the spring flowers are coming up - a fragrant subtle accent to the grass and leaf covering - but it's still too early for mosquitos to be out in force. 

I spied a pair of mallards paddling in a channel off the creek, and later we came across a section of trail where a tree lay downed across the New Hope Creek and the far bank erupted in a chorus of frogs. It's not the prettiest creek - the floodplain could benefit from a nice volunteer weekend to clear out some rubbish - but it's a good easy way to spend an hour or two.

Hike it:

Get there: The trailhead at Old Chapel Hill Road Park is in Durham, NC. The park is accessible off 15-501 or Old Chapel Hill Road on SW Durham Road.

Distance: Total is 2.2 miles if you start at the end of the lollipop tail, do the loop, and then double back on the lollipop tail. I was a little late starting my GPS tracker, but I clocked it right at 2.17 miles so 2.2 should be accurate. Just the loop is 1.5 miles.

Difficulty: Easy

Dog friendly? Yes

Kid friendly? Yes

Tips: Probably best in winter or early spring. Swampy areas like floodplains can attract mosquitos and you may have venomous water snakes lurking around in sunny spots. Keep on the boardwalks and stepping stones to avoid mud.

What else can you do in the area? Check out Durham and Chapel Hill!

Trail map:


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Have you hiked New Hope Bottomlands Trail, or are you familiar with the Old Chapel Hill Road Park in Durham? Let me know in the comments!


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