Get to Know Durham Trails: Ellerbee Creek Trail

By: Mark Kinsey, Office Assistant

We're coming to you with a Durham Trail Spotlight! This week we’re highlighting features of Ellerbee Creek Trail that are fun for children and their families to enjoy while keeping social distancing in mind. We’ve also created an activity sheet you can complete at home or take with you to a park! Download the activity sheet here.

About the Trail
Ellerbee Creek Trail is part of the North-South Greenway, which extends all the way from Horton Road to Jordan Lake. There are many fun things to explore along the way, but the one-mile section that runs from Rock Quarry Park past Edison Johnson to Northgate Park has several surprises worth discovering! If you start your adventure in Rock Quarry Park, there is a huge event field with plenty of room to be active. Your friends and family can throw a frisbee, play catch, kick a ball, play a game of tag, fly a kite and more. When was the last time you played Simon Says or Mother May I?

There is also an opportunity to search for geocaches in Rock Quarry Park. Currently there are two of them:
  • The geocache named “The Lonely Puppy” is pretty easy to find and viewable for free on geocaching.com and their app. The best place to start is the parking lot in Rock Quarry Park.
  • The geocache named “Rock Quarry Park” can be hard to find and is only viewable for people with a paid membership at geocaching.com. This cache is not suitable for young children because it is in the woods, 50 feet off a path, in a spot where geolocation is not reliable.
From the field, there are two trails that take you on either side of Edison Johnson to Murray Avenue. Both trails are paved and have unpaved side paths that are fun to explore. You can head out one trail and come back the other, making a loop.

The first trail is the Museum of Life and Science Bike Path, which starts at the bottom of the Rock Quarry Park parking lot and takes you to the Edison Johnson parking lot. The side path from this trail is the MLS Trail Loop, which takes you close to the museum where you can see some huts and what looks like a big tree house. Of course, you can’t get to the tree house since the museum is closed, but it is a cool sight to see. If you’re looking for a place to picnic (or pickup-n-picnic!), there are benches at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial behind Edison Johnson. Keep an eye out for the memorial to Bernie the Dog Soldier. Nearby there is a display of nature brochures that you can use for a scavenger hunt. Be mindful that other people have probably touched the brochure cases.

From this side of Edison Johnson, consider taking a short walk over to the Museum of Life and Science where you can see a rocket standing tall at the front entrance. Across Murray Avenue there is picnic pavilion that echoes when you speak under it - try making strange noises and hear them bounce back at you. The pavilion is for use by patrons of the museum. If you walk along Murray Avenue to the other side of Edison Johnson, you can either take the second trail back to Rock Quarry Park or continue on this trail to Northgate Park.

The second trail is the Ellerbee Creek Trail. It starts on Stadium Drive by the National Guard Armory and runs along the Ellerbe Creek to Murray Avenue. This section of the trail is great for exploring. If you enter the side trails behind Edison Johnson, you’ll find that they go up and down small hills, winding back and forth and occasionally splitting so that it can feel like you’re in a maze! The Ellerbee Creek Trail continues across Murray Avenue and ends up at Northgate Park. If you’ve ever walked this part of the greenway, you know that there’s at least one big surprise. A brontosaurus! This large dinosaur statue used to be part of the Museum of Life and Science, but now he hangs out by the trail, calmly keeping an eye on everyone who comes along.

Recently, several chalk drawings have been spotted on the greenway. You can make other pedestrians happy by adding a chalk drawing of your own. (Here are details about our Chalk Creation Challenge through May 6.) But watch out for bikers. The greenway is a terrific place to ride your bike!

Once you get to Northgate Park, there are more open spaces for play, and the greenway continues to Club Boulevard. And there you can enjoy exploring the stone foundation of the Lavender House. This historic building was the original location of what would later become the Museum of Life and Science. Although it had to be demolished due to flooding, Durham Parks and Recreation restored the grounds as an activity space two years ago. The raised platform by the chimney would be a great place to put on a show! Film it and post it on social media! Or perform it live for friends via Facetime or a similar video-calling app. What a great way to connect while social distancing!


While the parks, trails, and greenways are open, please remember the following for your safety and comfort:
  • Many parts of our parks are closed, including restrooms. For the most up-to-date list of what is open and closed, see our website.
  • Always maintain social distancing, per the city and state stay-at-home orders.
  • Consider taking sanitizing wipes with you to clean benches or other areas people might have touched before using them.
  • Please take all trash home with you instead of leaving it in the trash cans.
  • Although our dog parks are closed, dogs are allowed in city parks, as long as they remain on a leash and the owner cleans up after them.
  • Always follow safety precautions while hiking greenways and trails.
Do you plan on visiting the Ellerbee Creek Trail sometime soon? Connect with Durham Parks and Recreation on social media and share with us your latest outdoor adventure!

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