What it is: The bridge over I-40 connects two section of the American Tobacco Trail which now spans 22+ continuous miles from N. Durham to Wake County. It was scheduled to open several times in 2013, but due to delays it was not completed until last month.
We have always loved the Tobacco Trail. I have spent many hours jogging with friends and biking with the kiddos over many miles in Durham. However, living south of I-40, it was always a little frustrating that we couldn't reach the northern points on the trail without driving across the freeway. Now, both pieces of the trail are connected and that opens up the possibility for lots of fun with the kiddos. Here are a couple of suggestion on how you could best explore the trail.
*If you don't want to walk a long way or don't think your kiddos can make it that far, simply park at The Streets at Southpoint Mall in the back of the movie theater. There, you can find a pathway to the trail, hop on and walk a few hundred yards up to the bridge. There, you can stop to let your kids watch the cars go by. The best part is that if the kids wave, they can usually get at least one honk from a car or truck passing below. On one side of the bridge you have Southpoint Mall to explore with all sorts of restaurants and shopping. On the other side of the bridge, you can follow the signs for the Tobacco Trail and head a few hundred yards to The Homestead Market shopping center where you can stop at some of our favorite kid-friendly places including Bean Traders, The Mad Popper, Shiki Sushi, or TCBY.
*If you want to go just a little further and still explore the bridge you can park in the shopping center off of Renaissance Parkway next to the mall. You can simply park your car in the parking lot of the shopping center closest to Southpoint Mall and pick up the trail at that edge of the shopping center at a new street light that has been created just for the trail. The bike or walk from this point to the bridge is still not too far, way under a mile. It is a manageable distance for walking with kiddos, but keep in mind that there are big hills heading up to the bridge so new bikers might find this route a bit tricky. This shopping center is a nice beginning or end point for a trail ride as well because it has kid-friendly stops-Rise Biscuit and Donuts, Kid to Kid consignment store, Peek a Do kids' hair salon, Tomato Jakes pizza restaurant, Moonberries Frozen Yogurt, and even a Target.
For more adventurous walkers and bikers, you can start at nearby Herndon Park. This park, off of Scott King Rd. is 3 miles from the bridge. It was an easy bike ride for grownups or a long run. We just popped the kiddos in the bike trailer, and biked to the bridge from that point. The nice place about this starting or stopping point is that there's a playground where the kids can play. Keep in mind at this stop that I would park in the park area itself instead of on Scott King Rd. because of some recent car break ins. Despite that, I have always felt completely safe with my kids at this popular park spot.
4.5 miles from Herndon Park and about 1.5 miles from the bridge is another great stop along the trail, Sutton Station. This past weekend, we went the 4.5 miles from the park to Sutton Station on our bikes with the kiddos. Once we got there, we stopped at Dulce where we sat outside and took a great gelato break. There's also a great fountain and courtyard for playing. It would be a great place to bike or walk to for a summer evening dinner outside at either Nantucket Grill or Bocci. They even have live music on certain summer evenings.
If you're really in for a big adventure you can head all the way downtown which is a little over 10 miles from Herndon Park. Other notable stops along the way are Solite Park and a finishing point at the fantastic American Tobacco Campus downtown. My husband and I are plotting a day long adventure to check out every Durham part of the trail and catch a meal at one end point at Tyler's in downtown.
What a great fun way to connect more parts of Durham!
What we liked: The new bridge connects lots of fun areas to one another. Plus, the bridge itself is fun for kiddos to check out.
What we would change: As has always been true, when on the trail, you have to watch out for your security, especially in certain places along the trail. I have always felt safe on the trail with other adults with me, especially south of MLK Blvd. However, it is good to have a cell phone and another person with you and be aware of your surroundings when on the trail.
Website: http://www.triangletrails.org/american-tobacco-trail (This website has not been updated since the bridge has been completed.)
(watching the cars from the bridge)
(Looking North over the bridge)
(Looking south back toward the mall)
(Just after the bridge on the north side of the freeway-the little green sign has an arrow telling which way to go, but it can be a little confusing to figure out the trail goes right.)