Libba Cotten Bikeway - Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC


If you have been thinking about exploring the Chapel Hill area, the Libba Cotten Bikeway is the best way to do it. This unique half mile trail connects the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus and Carrboro, a young, artistic city that features many locally owned cafes, restaurants, music ventures and markets. The Libba Cotten runs along an active rail way, which UNC uses to transport materials to its power plant, making it the only rail trail of its kind in North Carolina. The trail is paved and well maintained with separate bike and walking lanes, which is helpful because many students and professors use it daily to get to and from campus. While you are in the Chapel Hill area, don’t miss visiting popular attractions like Franklin Street, and UNC’s wonderful campus. The Carrboro terminus shoots you out right into the heart of the town, so there is plenty to see, eat, and do right off the trail. Locals and visitors alike will love using the Libba Cotten Bikeway for transportation and recreation!

The bikeway was named for Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, (1895-1987) best known for her song “Freight Train,” referencing the train that traveled on this stretch of tracks past Cotten’s home on Lloyd Street in what became Carrboro.  Cotten’s unique left-handed guitar and banjo playing style earned her a place on the Smithsonian Folkways recording label and winning a Grammy at age 89.  Read more about Cotton and hear an audio recording of her music.  In September of 2013 a North Carolina Historical Marker was placed on East Main Street, near the intersection with the railroad tracks to memorialize her contribution to North Carolina. 

Libba Cotten 

Ms. Libba Cotten

Directions and Parking

To start in Carrboro, find the bikeway entrance on Roberson Street, just south of the corner of Main and Roberson streets, behind the Armadillo Grill restaurant and across the street from The Station (yes, it is train themed restaurant)!  The trail is on your left, marked with a green street sign reading “Libba Cotten Bikeway” and yellow concrete pillars.

To begin on UNC’s campus, follow Cameron Avenue West until it intersects Merritt Mill Road. The Bikeway begins at the intersection and is marked with yellow concrete pillars. Unfortunately, parking at this terminus is limited because of its proximity to UNC. There are many public parking areas around the downtown Chapel Hill area, which can be found at the Town's Parking Information site.

Trail Information

Whether you are interested in walking or biking the half mile trail, the Libba-Cotten Bikeway is set up to accommodate heavy use; ( see our Map of the Bikeway ).  In addition to being paved, it is marked and divided for foot and bike traffic (the bike lane is further divided for two way traffic). It does intersect one street, but the crossing is well marked and safely guarded. You will have no problem following the one mile trail, just be alert and courteous to the other users around you. Bikes, roller blades and strollers will have a smooth ride, and dogs are welcome as long as they are on leashes and picked up after.

If you begin on campus, the trail follows the railway behind busy Franklin Street and along some residential and business areas as Chapel Hill turns into Carrboro. The path is relatively flat for being in Chapel Hill and it should be an easy walk or ride for anyone. There are markers on the trail that explain the lanes divisions so be sure that you are using the correct lane depending on your direction and mode of transportation. As you pass the Old Carrboro Cemetery, Carrboro begins to come into view. If you wish to continue into the town when the trail ends, take a right at the Libba Cotten Bikeway sign and then a left at East Main Street and you will be in the middle of the central business district.

Trail Photos


Chapel Hill and Carrboro are both very interesting and exciting towns to visit, offering attractions whether you are 4 or 64 and everywhere in between. In Chapel Hill, visiting the campus of UNC is a must. In addition to a handsome collection of old growth trees and relaxing quads, you can visit the Morehead Planetarium, the Ackland Art Museum, Playmakers Theater or Memorial Hall. Franklin Street offers restaurants ranging from the famous Top of the Hill to Spanky’s even a local brewery (Carolina Brewery) in a just a short walk. Stop by the Yogurt Pump or Sugarland for a sweet ending to your meal.

In Carrboro, you can find many more locally owned cafes, bars, and restaurants, even a co-op grocery store called Weaver Street Market that features local produce from the area's farmers. If you want to be a local, visit Open Eye Café (wear something trendy and you’ll fit right in) or head down to Cat’s Cradle to check out who is playing. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t have to worry about a car since it is all within walking distance with the Libba Cotten Bikeway.

If you do want to stay the night, check out the historic Carolina Inn located right on UNC’s campus (legend has it that there are many ghost wandering about the rooms!) or the Franklin Hotel on (you guessed it) Franklin Street. Other options include the Siena Hotel, , the Loft, Courtyard Inn by Mariot or Hampton Inn and Suites, all within three miles of UNC’s campus and six to Carrboro.

More information about the Town of Carrboro can be found here.