The Fan Branch trail, at 1.6 miles long, isn’t the longest greenway in Chapel Hill, but it certainly has the most going along its path. Here is a quick inventory

  • A community park
  • An elementary school
  • Several playgrounds
  • Picnic benches and pocket parks
  • 4 bridges
  • A tunnel
  • A spur trail to a middle school
  • A connection to another greenway (Morgan Creek Trail)

Let’s get started!

How to access the Fan Branch Trail

One end starts at the Southern Community Park, where there are playgrounds, picnic shelters and some nice restrooms. There is also ample parking and you can even reach the park from the North South bus.

You can also access the trail from Culbreth Road, just up the hill from the Hillsong Church, as well as from Dogwood Acres (via a connector on Dogwood Acres Drive) and from the Morgan Creek Trail.


Not long after you start out, you will encounter two connectors to Scroggs Elementary school.  This is great, as the trail is popular for school aged kids to walk or ride their bikes to this school.  On nice days, the Scroggs bike racks are loaded with bikes!


As you continue north, you will wind along with the Fan Branch Creek to your left.  And you will arrive at a nice park the HOA has built along the greenway. This pocket park was rebuilt in 2020 and has hammocks, benches and plenty of seating for parents or grandparents to watch their children play.


At this point, the trail transforms into a typical neighborhood greenway as it follows Edgewater Drive through the middle of Southern  village. But sprinkled at each intersection are smaller pocket parks and picnic benches, painted by residents.  There is more work afloat to make these corner parks larger and have more features so stand by.

The trail then begins its descent into a wooded section, continuing to shadow the creek.  Numerous birds have been discovered in this area. You reach the first of four bridges, which cross the Fan Branch.It is not unusual to see dog walkers take their dogs down to the creek at this point to cool or to get a splash.


A little farther along and you reach the second bridge, this one crosses Obie Creek. In years past, there have been beaver dams erected in this section of the creek and you could watch the dams from the bridge.

Moving along north, the trail flattens out and parallels S. Columbia street to the right, and the woods to the left.  There is a fork here that leads you to Culbreth Road to the right, and the greenway to the left.

Bridge number three comes up, again crossing Obie Creek, and then the tunnel.  Built recently, the Culbreth road tunnel allows the trail to continue safely away from car traffic. There is a great staircase with bike channels that allow neighbors off Culbreth road to access the trail here. During the December holidays, a buddy and I place lights at the entrances for a bit of merry tactical urbanism!


Finally, the last bridge is met, this one crossing Morgan Creek and the tail connects to Morgan Creek.


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John Rees lives in Chapel Hill. His day job is an enterprise architect for a big IT company. He was, until very recently, a member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission and former chair. He serves on...