I love riding rail trails. For me, a good rail trail is through a wilderness area, has few road crossings, and is suitable on hybrids with road oriented tires. I love paved trails, but the trails with the best scenery don't tend to be paved. I do meandering rides of various distances, but usually like a trail where I can do at least a 20-30 mile round trip.
Does anyone have any favorites in the Northeastern Region? I'll list a few I have ridden and liked. I'll expand the list, and list any future findings, if the thread catches on.
Many rail trails I like are near water, and I typically do out and back rides... so I like starting at the down river side, so that the return trip after I turn around is usually slightly down hill. The slope is usually so gentle, that I don't really notice it until I turn around. However, especially when I lose track and ride until I start to get tired, it is nice for the return trip to be a little easier.
Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail
One of my favorite "local" places to ride. Crushed stone surface that is pretty good for most of the length of the trail. One rough spot near the railroad crossing about 6 miles from the Glen Onoko side, and the last mile or so on the north (from Tannery road to the end) is not as smooth, closer to single track than the rest of the trail. Most of the trail you are beside the Lehigh River. The southern 6 miles (before the railroad crossing) rides beside an active rail line (lightly used) but from there north it is more wilderness. There are several small waterfalls along the route, and other than the middle access point at Rockport, you will not see a car from Glen Onoko to Taqnnery Road (about 25 miles). Well, you will sometimes see a pickup truck with a park ranger making the rounds of the trail, but other than that, it is car free. There are connecting trails at both ends, I have not taken the ride south of Glen Onoko/Jim Thorpe yet. THe only facilities along the trail is at the Rockport accesss, which has a restroom facility. Permanent, but outhouse like... there is a similar facility at the Glen Onoko parking area, and stores at the northern access point in White Haven.
Black Diamond Trail
This is really an extension of the same trail system as the Lehigh Gorge to the north of White Haven. I have not ridden the whole trail yet, but I did ride about 6 miles from White Haven before turning around. The trail up to the first crossing (about 1.5 miles) is rugged... just like the last section from the Tannery Road junction to White Haven, only a little rougher. What is it about the trail between those two crossings? It seems like a different trail than the rest of the system. However, once you cross the road (and it isn't straight across, you have to ride along the road for a hundred yards or so) the trail is much nicer. You run past some homes and farms that you don't see on the Lehigh Gorge, but the trail and view is still nice. The only other down side is that there are a few crossings over railroad tracks etc and the posts are a little close, causing me to slow down quite a bit before crossing. I will definitely be taking this trail for the full length next year.
Pine Creek Trail
This is a 60+ mile trail running between Wellsboro and Jersey Shore in northern PA. It runs through the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania" on the north end and has a crushed gravel surface. I have ridden 2 sections of this trail, and it is very nice. The first time, we started near Jersey Shore and did an out and back trip (about 8 miles then had ice cream and turned around). The creek is great to ride along, and at a few places the trail crosses bridges to the other side for a while. The surface is great for riding. There are several signs teaching about the local wildlife, particularly rattle snakes. I haven't seen any yet, but I guess they are fairly common. The second trip we rode was the northern half, from Wellsboro to Slate Run (which is about 1/2 way down the trail). I had Pine Creek Outfitters shuttle my car (with luggage) to the hotel, so it was convenient, and allowed us to hit the road home the next morning because we had other plans. There are occassional outhouse type facilities on the trail, and small stores at as couple of the small villages that the trail passes through. The north end is definitely the most scenic part, but don't expect anything like the real Grand Canyon. It is beautiful, and well worth the time to ride!