Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail

North Carolina

18 Reviews

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Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail Facts

States: North Carolina
Counties: Harnett
Length: 7 miles
Trail end points: N McKay Ave. (Dunn) and Cape Fear River Trail Park, 1002 S 13th St (Erwin)
Trail surfaces: Concrete, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032288

Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail Description


Following the route of a historic rail line that once serviced a coal plant and denim textile mills in Erwin, the Dunn-Erwin Rail Trail passes through wooded terrain interspersed with open farmland and cotton fields. While the original rail trail runs for about 5 miles, an extension along a non-rail-trail section to the Cape Fear River Trail Park (not to be confused with the similarly named trail in Fayetteville) brings the total length to 7 miles.

Surfaced in crushed stone, the Dunn-Erwin Rail Trail is ADA-accessible. Its comfortable, flat surface makes for an easy and relaxing experience. Although the trail intersects with streets in multiple locations, the crossings are well-marked. Trail users will find a series of signs that feature maps and information about points of historical interest.

About the Route

Beginning just north of downtown Dunn, the rail trail heads northwest, passing the Dunn Dog Park in 1.1 miles before heading into the flat farmland that makes up the countryside of Harnett County. The trail crosses the Black River in 0.7 miles, before reaching the approximate halfway point, where you’ll encounter an abrupt left turn that you’ll take to head southwest toward Erwin.

The flat, open terrain continues for 1.2 miles until the trail passes under US 421 and enters Erwin. There, trail users will find a small-town setting and the trail is occasionally lined with trees. Streetside parking is available near the greenway in Erwin. After the rail-trail portion ends, at the intersection of East H Street and 13th Street, the route continues for 2.2 miles to the south/southwest, first on a well-marked concrete pathway that meanders through downtown Erwin, quiet neighborhoods, and industrial areas, and then transitioning to a crushed-stone trail along remote forestland. The trail reaches its western trailhead with restrooms and parking at Cape Fear River Trail Park on the Cape Fear River. The park also offers nature trails, scenic overlooks, canoe access, and a picnic shelter.

The rail trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile trail network that runs from Maine to Florida, connecting 15 states and 450 cities and towns along the way.

Trail History

The Dunn-Erwin Rail Trail connects the two central North Carolina towns of Dunn and Erwin, which lie between the metropolitan areas of Fayetteville and Raleigh. The Aberdeen and Rockfish rail line (previously Durham & Southern Railway) once served the towns of Dunn, known for cotton production, and Erwin, known for cotton and denim textile mills. The disused rail line opened as a rail trail in the early 2000s.

Parking and Trail Access

The Dunn-Erwin Rail Trail runs between N McKay Ave., (Dunn) and Cape Fear River Trail Park, 1002 S 13th St (Erwin), with parking available at both ends.

Parking is also available at:

  • Dunn Dog Park, 701 N Ashe Ave (Dunn)

See TrailLink Map for more detailed directions and all parking options.


Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail Reviews

This was our first trip to this rail trail and was a very peaceful walk with our two small dogs. We duct venture to far since this was our first outing with them. Next time we'll go further. But from what we saw it was very clean. ¿

This was our first trip to this rail trail and was a very peaceful walk with our two small dogs. We duct venture to far since this was our first outing with them. Next time we'll go further. But from what we saw it was very clean. ¿

nice ride

Flat and easy ride with only a couple road crossings. A go to trail when I just want to petal.

great family bike ride!

We had a great family bike ride: 4 adults and three kids, started at the Dunn end of the trail and rode to Erwin and back. The section in downtown Erwin is nicely incorporated into a block of downtown that included an excellent bakery. Great cookies to fuel the ride back to the car. Trail is pretty flat, long low grades. Surface is compacted gravel. There are some roads to cross so we had to keep close to the kids. Enjoy

Cool and Pleasantly Simple

A good portion of the trail offers adequate shade. Also, both sides are very straight and evenly “terrain,” although the Dunn side does have a substantial stretch that slightly inclines. And, I would advise having some type of protection, in case of a stray animal (namely, a loose dog). Otherwise, it’s one of my favorite trails to run on.


Not well maintained and not warning for crossroads

I am new to the Benson area. A friend came to visit so we thought we would try out the Dunn/Erwin trail. For starters, good luck finding the trail head. There isn’t one. The trail has a lot of large stone and I don’t mean gravel by any means. Packed crush and run would be wonderful but this is large stone which is hard to ride on. There are no warning signs that roads are ahead. We were riding along and all of a sudden we had to brake fast because out of no where there was a road. This happened time and time again. Worse yet, the roads are not marked with white pedestrian walking/biking paths letting drivers know bikers or walkers may be entering from either side. I find this trail a bit dangerous and should be better marked. Maybe it’s lack of funding. I usually ride in Wake County, Clayton and Garner. Loose dogs yes, I would never walk my pack of 3 on that trail. It’ s sad because it could be used by so many more people. We need more hiking trails in this area and we need to bring more greenways for biking in this area.

Warning: Off Leash Dogs Rampant

I have lived in Erwin for 11 years and have used this trail many times. It is a shame, because it is a nice trail, but in the last couple of years I have had more and more problems with off leash dogs. Earlier this year I was chased by a pack of 3 aggressive dogs on the Dunn side of the rail trail, and there is another off leash aggressive dog that will charge and bark at the intersection of the trail and Suggs Rd on the Erwin side. We have tried, unsuccessfully, to alert Harnett Co Animal Control about these dogs. My husband left them messages which they never returned. So we have had to stop walking our dogs on this trail. It was not just the fact that the off leash dogs were taking an interest in our dogs, I also spoke to a couple of people who use the trail for jogging without dogs, and they are also being bothered by the aggressive dogs. So use with caution, and if you can, call the Harnett Co Animal Control if you have the same problem. Perhaps if enough people complain they will do something to make this trail safer.

Scenic, shaded, and scluded

We parked our truck in Erwin, and started at the trial head on our 21 speed mountain bikes. The trails were well maintained, there were a lot of rural scenery, it was not busy, it was mostly smooth crushed rock, and it intersected with public streets. We rode from Erwin to Dunn and returned in less than two hours. This a nice find for us in Harnett County, we plan to return often.

Very Nice

Great for an urban trail bike. 5 mile ride to Erwin then there are 3 restaurants there. The crossing offer good vision so you don't have to slow up much except for one.... The only negative is the unauthorized horse riders who ruin the trail for bicycles.

Easy and pleasant walk

The rail trail between Dunn and Erwin NC is level and well maintained. The locals use it often and feel as though it is their duty to tell visitors about the surrounding area.
If you plan to do the entire 10 miles, pack no less than 2 bottles of water per person because there are no water fountains between the end points. A small container of insect repellent wouldn't hurt.

Beautiful Trail

My family and I rode this trail yesterday, starting in Erwin, to Dunn and then back to Erwin. Ten miles round trip. My 8, 11 and 13 year olds all enjoyed this trail. The surface is well kept. The grade, if there is one, was not noticable in either direction. There are several road crossings on this trail but they are well marked.

We passed several historic houses on the side of the trail as we left Erwin, then you get into nice rolling country. As you get into Dunn you pass behind some industrial plants, which I always find interesting.

My 8 year old wanted to head back as soon as we got to Dunn, although I would have liked to explore Dunn a little on bike before heading back. The streets in Dunn appeared to be wide and not too heavily traveled, so they may lend themselves to exploration.

We bought water and snacks at the BP in Erwin before we headed out. It is a block away from the trailhead in Erwin. There was plenty of parking and we felt safe to leave our truck there while we were gone.

When we returned there are several eating options within site of the trailhead. Tubby's Diner was very busy and looked inviting, but the kids chose the pizza place, Pizza House a few doors down. The pizza was good, my wife and I split a sub which was tasty. There was also a Chinese restaurant and another upscale looking restaurant on that strip. Next time I want to try Tubby's.

It was an easy drive from Raleigh to Erwin. Less than an hour, we took 401 south out of Raleigh got on 55 E in Fuquay Varina and rode that right into Erwin.

Thank you to the towns of Erwin and Dunn North Carolina for making such a nice trail available to us.

What a Surprise

We rode the trail yesterday (9/5/10). The reviews left us a little unsure as to what we would find. What a pleasant surprise. The trail was well groomed and maintained, and we got to see some of the things that make up the little places like Erwin and Dunn. A small neat business district, a small suburban or residential area, and then the farmland growing things like cotton and soybeans. This was a great ride, will be back.


How about directions from the South? thanks.

Enjoyable First Ride

My family lives in a rural area of our county and - though our eight year old son enjoys riding - he can never venture off our property for a ride. This is particularly frustrating for him as I do all my riding on the country roads which are currently off limits to him. I was hoping to find a trail not too far from where we live where I could take our son - and in time our six year old daughter - out on rides that they would like and which I thought offered a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.

I found one such ride on the Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail.

My son, who had previously done his rides around our house, rode like he was in the last stage of the Tour de France - except on a trail in Dunn & Erwin rather the Champs-Élysées in Paris. We started about 1.5 miles from the Dunn end of the trail and headed towards Erwin. We rode back to the end at Dunn before returning to our car and heading home. He was absolutely thrilled by the experience and we are planning to do it a few more times during the fall. Though in the future we will schedule the ride so that we end up in Erwin at lunch time so we can dine at either the Pizza or Chinese restaurant that are at the trails' end.

I do have to say that riding the trail on my road bike (Novara Strada) was a bit of a challenge; however, it was not an overly difficult task. I had my son lead the entire ride and he easily and safely negotiated the road crossings and the bollards (aka orange posts) without difficulty. I do wish the trail was better maintained and having a better 'in-town' experience at the Dunn end of the trail would be terrific; however, the trail met my expectations and I look forward to many more rides with my son and daughter over the years ahead.

For me and my son, it was an enjoyable and memorable first ride together.

Nice, flat trail with good mileage indicators - perfect for a long run

I ran the Dunn-Erwin trail end-to-end (and back) a few weekends ago while visiting relatives in Dunn. I grew up near the starting point on the Dunn end and remember when the trail was a set of rusty, unused rails. As a runner, I appreciated the markers ever 0.1 mile indicating the distance to and from Dunn and Erwin. The trail itself was very flat, making for a pleasant run. It was a quiet run and I passed through lots of rural areas between the towns that I had never been through before. I agree somewhat with the previous posters that the beginning to the Dunn end of the trail was not well marked, but since I grew up nearby I knew where it was located. It would be great if the Dunn end could be extended further toward downtown.

Very Disappointing and also very unsafe

We rode this trail on Sunday May 4, 2008. The trip began at the Dunn trialhead which was very hard to find. Parking at the school which was suggested was very unsafe and in my opinion not a place to leave an unattended vehicle. The first part of the trail was very rundown and the trail narrowed drastically as grass grew towards the inside of the trail. Dunn has done nothing to enhance the trail or even acknowledge it. As we rode toward Erwin we noticed that as the trail crossed numerous highways that as the trail approaced the roadway, there was a lot of loose gravel and usually a sharp curb where the trail height differed from the roadway height. Mix this with large orange steel posts which you have to negotiate at this point makes it very unstable for even the most experienced rider. There are large iron bars like butterfly wings protruding from the inner steel posts to keep motorized vehicles off the trail and these bars barely allow for a bicycle. I am thankful I took the mountain bike rather than the recumbent. Also as the trail approaced the road, it usually was at such an angle, traffic was hard to spot. Traffic was also usually very high speed coming across these bicycle crossings. The trail had large piles of gravel alongside which had eroded towards the middle of the trail causing thick piles of gravel on the trail. Judging from the marks in the trail this was a very popular trail for dirt bikes and four wheelers. I just can't think of anything good as far as the condition of the trail between the trail heads themselves.
I will have to commend the folks at Erwin though on the neatness and the marking of their trailhead. I surely wish I would have started my ride at the Erwin side. The people milling thru the town were friendly and it had the atmosphere of a smalltown. There was not a lot there, but what was there was a pleasant surprise from what was at the other end. The trail may not have been so bad for a hiker or walker, but for cycling, its just not there. The scenery is not so bad, it's just the safety of the trail that is a little disturbing.
I have ridden trails in numerous other states and found them great. Actually I am very much in favor of the rails to trails program. I will have to commend Florida and Virginia on their trails as they are superb. I dont believe this is so much a rails to trails issue but a local on. Being a native North Carolinian and cycling in this state for over 45 years, NC has just never adjusted to cyclists nor will they ever I truly believe.
Again I commend Rails to Trails and Virginia and Florida on their trails, but I would have to rate this one as unsafe. For walkers and hikers, it may be worth the jaunt. Thanks

"Nice, but a little disappointing"

"We drove from Raleigh to experience this trail, and although the trail itself was enjoyable, the towns at both ends - Erwin and Dunn - were not. Part of why we chose to visit the trail is because we enjoy visiting historic old towns that are quaint yet vibrant. Instead, we found two ""downtowns"" that are severely rundown and depressed. Again, the trail is worth experiencing -- you'll see cotton and corn fields, old graveyards, and other interesting sights. But ""downtown"" Erwin, where the trail ends, seems to consist of a few rundown buildings featuring a pizza joint and a cafe. Venture onto the surrounding streets and you'll find yourself amid rural suburbia, not a historic old town.

We found the same to be true in Dunn, at the beginning of the trail. From the trailhead, there are no directions or signs indicating how to actually get ""downtown""'...we had to stop and ask one of the few people we could find out and about -- an ice cream truck vendor. Once we found our way ""downtown,"" we thought things were looking up. Banners from the lightposts read: Dine. Shop. Discover Downtown Dunn. Or something to that effect. Sadly, there were few shops, no restaurants, and little to discover other than the fact that downtown Dunn needs a lot of help. It should take down the banners until it has some of those things to offer.

After what we had read about the historic towns of Dunn and Erwin, we were looking forward to tooling around on our bikes on each end of the trail. Wish we had known in advance that the trail really is the main attraction here, not the cities. As long as you're clear on that beforehand, you shouldn't come away disappointed. "

Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail

Excellent trail - level with nice gravel surface. Has concrete markers each 0.1 mile so it is easy to keep up with a timed pace. Has enough variety to make it interesting.

Nice Trail

"Rode the trail today in the rain. Started in Erwin, rode to Dunn, tooled around downtown Dunn for a while then pedaled back to Erwin. There are a couple of places to eat in Erwin, signage at the trail in Erwin gives good info on trail and area history as well as points of interests. The ride and lunch were a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon. Wish the trail were longer."

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