Railtrails are old railway lines converted into groomed trails. They offer peaceful and pleasant scenery and great bicycling trails for the whole family to enjoy.
For those who love outdoor sports, the rails to trails movement is fueling a renaissance in outdoor adventure. Throughout the United States and spreading throughout the world, the rails to trails movement transforms outdated or retired railway beds into excellent bicycling trails through some of the most scenic and beautiful parts of the nation. Best of all, most railway lines run on a track with a grade of less than 10%, meaning that they are mostly smooth, with few steep hills. For those who love to bike but hate fighting traffic, rail trails provide a relaxing way to bike along a groomed trail, enjoy natural beauty, and see the sights.
Transforming a Railway Line into a Bicycle Trail
Rail trails are created when a railroad company retires a railway line or spur line. Typically, the land cannot be developed, since it usually consists of a narrow stretch of land spanning many miles through out of the way countryside with little or no direct road access. Instead of allowing these right of ways to go to seed, railroad companies are donating them to counties, towns and municipalities to create trails. The rails to trails movement brings wonderful outdoor access to citizens.
Rail trails can range in length from a few miles to many hundreds of miles. Sometimes trails are linked, providing an excellent opportunity to extend one’s outdoor adventure.
Rails to trails are a wonderful way to see the sights. Most meander along pretty countryside, following the paths of streams, rivers or creeks. Some, like the Greenbriar Trail in West Virginia and the new High Bridge Rail Trail in Prince Edward County, Virginia, take you to historic places. The Greenbriar Trail goes through Cass, with its historic locomotive and tours by old-fashioned steam driven train up the West Virginia countryside. The High Bridge Trail terminates at High Bridge, a massive railroad bridge that was the site of a major Civil War battle. Bring binoculars so you can stop and enjoy the scenic wonders and leave plenty of time to explore historic sites.
Most rail trails have outdoor bathrooms like outhouses or port-o-potties. Some go through towns, and you can easily exit the trail and find a bathroom, water, food or shelter in town. Others traverse rugged or remote areas, and civilized amenities are hard to find. It’s wise to bring your own drinking water, snacks, food, bike repair kit, first aid kit, and toilet paper for a day’s outing.
Bicycling a Rail Trail
For the majority of rail trail users, bicycling is king. Most rail trails feature a groomed surface of some kind, whether it’s hard packed dirt or crushed stone. Any type of bike is suitable for a rail trail, including plain old fashioned coaster bikes, street bikes, mountain bikes and multi-purpose bikes. Because railroad companies typically smoothed out any hills in the terrain before laying the tracks, you’ll find it’s mostly smooth sailing and a flat terrain. Bikers should watch for hikers and horseback riders on rail trails, and pass thoughtfully, calling out which side they plan to pass by.
Free Outdoor Adventure in America’s Most Scenic Places
The rails to trails movement provides everyone with access to lovely trails through some of the nation’s most beautiful countryside. They’re free to use, and provide wonderful outdoor adventures for the whole family.