You may say what are Rail Trails and how can you take advantage of them?
Rail trails are converted railroad bed used as multi-purpose trails for recreation use. Because of the gentle grade on most rail trails you can walk, bicycle, hike, horseback ride, run, inline skate and cross-country ski. Although most trails are multi-use trails, no motorized vehicle are permitted.
Most importantly rail trails make these activities available to most everyone’s physical condition. The flat to gentle grade makes it possible for all ages, young and old to enjoy the scenery and tranquility that awaits you. Most of these trails are by mountains, rivers and historical landmarks. I’ve been to some that have benches to rest along the way and picnic areas to stop and enjoy lunch.
Where are these trails?
These trails are popping up all across America in urban, suburban and rural areas. There are in excess of 20,000 miles of rail trails across the United States. Some of these trails are “shared” with existing railroads, either scenic or industrial and are separated by fencing or paths along these corridors. Others are just multi-use paths for the enjoyment of outdoor adventurers. I’ve personally had never used a trail that is still an operating railroad. Most trails I’ve been to no longer have rail tracks and the surfaces are usually dirt, grass or gravel but usually a combination of all three.
These trails can be anywhere from a couple of miles to 50 to 60 miles and some longer than that. It is a great experience to visit the train stations that were along these rails. Some are still in existence and are used as visitor’s centers and restrooms.
Most trails are marked with mileage markers and run throw America’s small towns where there is an opportunity to stop and get something to eat or visit landmarks. These trials have boosted local economies in the area where they are located.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a non-profit organization in Washington DC that works to create these trails across the country. They have a website which has a database describing each rail trail location, maps, photos along with trail ratings and reviews. If you are looking for a trail in an area you are visiting, check out this website https://www.traillink.com/.
They also publish regional books for purchase that has maps, difficulty and full trail description. I found these books very helpful in planning our trips. You can also learn more about them at
My Favorite Trails
Some of my favorite trails are the Catskill Scenic Trail which goes from Roxbury, NY to Bloomville, NY and the Pine Creek Rail Trail which is 62 miles and runs through the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon.
The rail trails are truly a treasure for all outdoor adventures! Share your stories and your favorite trails below: