Best Rail Trails in the Country
#Railroad #Trails #Outdoors
With our busy lifestyles in the 21st century, it can be hard to find time to exercise. It can be even harder to find an exercise that is fun. While yoga in the park is always an option, rail trails (re-purposed railway tracks) are guaranteed to provide you with both great exercise and entertaining sights.
From walking to cycling, rail trails allow people to travel on long, flat paths for miles. With no cars in sight, traveling on rail trails is safer than traveling on a sidewalk. And the best part? Most rail trails cut through beautiful woods and pass by historical sites.
While there are multiple rail trails in every state, only the best rail trails are listed here. From seaside trails to historic trails, keep reading to learn about some of the best rail trails in the country.
#1 – Little Miami Scenic Trail
Located in Ohio, the Little Miami Scenic Trail stretches over 78 miles. Why is this trail so great? Well, scenic was included in the trail’s name for a reason.
The Little Miami Scenic Trail not only has historic landmarks (such as houses nearby that were a part of the Underground Railroad), but the trail also has beautiful views of a river and flourishing nature sights such as wildflowers.
Also, you aren’t just stuck walking on the Little Miami Scenic Trail. You can also ride bikes, roller blade, and even ride horses in some areas.
#2 – Katy Trail State Park
At a total of 240 miles long, Katy Trail State Park is one of the longest trails in the U.S. Located in Missouri, the Katy Trail partly runs through the famous Lewis and Clark Trail.
You can hike, run, and ride bikes on the flat trail, which is composed of crushed limestone rather than pavement. In one area, horse owners can even take their horses for a ride.
There is also plenty to see on the trail, as most areas of the trail are near the winding Missouri River, and it also passes through four historic railroad depots leftover from the trail’s railroad days.
#3 – Rio Grande Trail
At 42 miles long, the Rio Grande Trail’s paved trail and flat surface make it an easy trail for runners and cyclists in Colorado.
You will have to contend with traffic when the trail intersects with roadways, but other than that, you won’t have to worry about vehicle traffic when walking your dog or going for a run.
Because the Rio Grande Trail does run through brush, however, make sure to keep an eye out for snakes that may be sunning themselves on the hot asphalt.
You may also ride your horse on the Rio Grande Trail.
#4 – Great Allegheny Passage
Winding through the state of Pennsylvania, the Great Allegheny Passage is one of the longest rail trails in the country.
At 140 miles long, this rail trail passes by beautiful natural attractions, from serene lakes to towering mountains. You will also get a feel for Pennsylvania’s history, as the trail cuts through historic coal mines and steel plants.
If you want to make things more interesting, you can also cycle through the trail towns on the route. At these quaint towns, you can find lodging and restaurants to rest before the next leg of your journey.
#5 – Bizz Johnson Trail
The Bizz Johnson Trail has been dubbed the most scenic rail trail in California. While only 25 miles long, the Bizz Johnson Trail winds by a river and through a canyon, offering plenty of opportunities for you to capture that perfect nature shot.
You can also fish and swim in the river by the trail. In the winter, you can go cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. It is recommended that if you go biking, you use a wide-tire bike that can handle more rugged terrain, as the trail is not paved.
The Bizz Johnson Trail also hosts a Rails to Trails Festival each year in October.
#6 – Shining Sea Rail Trail
This rail trail is for ocean lovers. If you want to jog to the sound of crashing waves and seagulls, then you have to try out the Shining Sea Rail Trail in Massachusetts.
While this rail trail is only 10 miles long, it is an easy and beautiful path to bike on. There is even a new bike repair station along the path if you need to add some air to your tire or make a quick chain repair.
This trail is busier than others on this list, especially during the prime tourist season in Cape Code. If you want to enjoy the trail with relative solitude, you may want to visit it in the off season.
#7 – Elroy-Sparta State Trail
The Elroy-Sparta State Trail’s 32-mile route has the honor of being considered the first trail rail in the country. As the first trail rail, this route has railroad tunnels over 140 years old. When you pass through a tunnel, it is recommended that you bring a flashlight and jacket, as the tunnels remain cool even in the summer.
The trail also wanders through wetlands and prairies, making for plenty of opportunities to view nature and wildlife.
In the winter, snowmobiling is allowed for you to enjoy the beautiful area. Hikers may also camp at one of the two designated camping grounds. If you enjoy hunting, you are allowed to hunt in certain seasons in the Elroy Sparta State Trail area.
#8 – Shelby Farms Greenline
This rail trail in Tennessee is another great rail trail for beginners. At only 10 miles long, the trail makes for an easy bike ride, while also offering interesting visuals along the way.
Shelby Farms Greenline is home to a herd of American bison and offers parks and a local lake along the way (making it perfect for family trips).
To beat the heat, the trial is also mostly shaded along the route, making it great for those who look upon the sweaty summer months with disdain. The Shelby Farms Greenline also offers a free bicycle repair station.
#9 – GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail
The GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail is perfect for walking and cycling. Even though this rail trail is in the city of Greenville, South Carolina, you won’t feel as if you’re in the city.
Passing through city parks and situated near the Reedy River, the trail features 22 miles of scenic nature. The trail also passes by the Greenville Zoo, which means you may hear the roaring of lions or the chatter of monkeys as you pass by.
There are also multiple water fountains and restrooms along the trail, so you don’t need to worry about venturing off the trail in search of a drink.
#10 – Banks-Vernonia State Trail
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail has a rich history. Originally created to transport lumber across Oregon, 22 miles of the railway have now been re-purposed into a trail.
A beautiful trail cuts through Oregon’s wilderness. This provides ample shade for joggers and riders (yes, horses are allowed on the trail). There are also old bridges and trestles dotting the trail, leftovers from its railroad days.
So if you want to wander through Oregon’s nature and see railroad remnants from 1920, this trail is one of the best options available in Oregon.
Still need more ideas? If you don’t feel like traveling to another state to experience a rail trail, you can search the Rails to Trails Conservancy to find a rail trail near you.
If you are planning a vacation, though, make sure to get out and start exploring the best rail trails in the country.
It doesn’t matter if you are active or trying to be more active, rail trails allow you to set your own pace on a nice flat surface — there are no steep hills to climb.
So get out there and start enjoying the country’s rail trails; they make exercising seem easy with their beautiful settings and rich histories.
About the Guest Post Author:
Rachel Bodine is a freelance content writer for TexasCarInsurance and FloridaCarInsurance. Rachel recently graduated from Robert Morris University with a B.A. in English. She enjoys writing blog posts that educate readers on important insurance topics by providing information in an engaging and data-driven format. She resides in Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh.
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