Five Rail-Trails to Explore This Summer
All across the country, unused railroad corridors have been converted into more than 22,000 miles of open rail-trails. From downtown urban locations to pathways stretching along coastlines, outdoors enthusiasts have their pick of scenic and historical places to ride, walk, skate, or run.
New York City’s High Line
Towering 30 feet over Manhattan’s West Side, the spectacular High Line is constructed on an elevated freight line that stood unused for years. Incorporating cutting-edge landscape and architectural design into the historically significant structure, the park has been instrumental in the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Wisconsin’s Elroy-Sparta State Trail
Set amid a classic Wisconsin landscape of rolling hills, farmlands, and pastures dotted with grazing cows, this trail offers a fun and relaxing corridor. But what makes the trail really special are three dramatic railroad tunnels that burrow deep through rock and plunge users into darkness. You need to purchase a day-use permit, available at trailheads.
Alabama and Georgia’s Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet Trails
For biking enthusiasts, the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet Trails are about as close to perfection as you can get in an off-road route. This is one of the longest paved rail-trails in the country, with beautiful natural surroundings and few road crossings—and it’s within easy reach of downtown Atlanta. There are also several trail-adjacent diversions, including a popular lake, walking path, and historical railroad sites.
Utah’s Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail (HUP)
Traversing its namesake state park, the trail offers stunning views of the Wasatch Mountain Range across wetlands, through small towns, and along Weber River to Echo Reservoir. Sixteen plaques are scattered along the trail and provide facts and stories about early Mormon settlers, the prehistoric animals that once roamed the area, and the coal and silver industries that were the lifeblood of the area in the late 1800s.
Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail
Stretching almost 33 miles from the North Carolina border through wooded areas, rolling farmland, and charming small towns, the trail follows the former corridor of a steep mountain railroad that had trains creep up a 7 percent grade. The VCT has had a large economic impact on the small towns of Abingdon and Damascus, with amenities and bike shops catering to trail users.