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Top Ten Rail Trails in the US (video)

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Top Ten Rail Trails in the US (video)

Old 10-20-23, 08:48 AM
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Top Ten Rail Trails in the US (video)


I'd like to ride all of these.
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Old 10-20-23, 12:15 PM
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For those who don;t have the time:

10. Hiawatha
9. Couer d'Alenes
8. Mickelson
7. Olympic Discovery
6, Katy/Rock Island
5. Palouse to Cascades
4. Northern Trail (New England)
3. Erie Canal
2. Ohio to Erie
1. GAP/C&O

I've done all of 10 and nearly all of 8 along with the GAP and the eastern 7 miles of the No. 7, which are not very interesting but quite fast as you slope down from the Bitterroots on a smooth, paved surface. Also did No. 3 from Lockport to a bit east of Rochester BITD.

I'd say the Hiawatha (and the 9 miles of right-of-way from the official end of the trail at the Pearson trail head to the town of Avery) were the most unique in terms of features and scenery. Over a dozen tunnels and several high trestles in a forested setting.

One thing that is not mentioned is that the Hiawatha continues east as the Olympian Trail where the Hiawatha ends at the East Portal trailhead. It will take you all the way to St. Regis, MT. The Bitterroot 300K, mentioned in the video, includes both the CdA trail and Hiawatha, along with other portions of the former Milwaukee Road right of way. Looks like a nice loop.

Mickelson was also a fun ride, although not as "warm and fuzzy" in the sense of cute little towns conveniently spaced. Fortunately, there are nice trail rest areas, including some with water cisterns and shelters from both sun and things like hail. Not much in the way of authorized/legal camping outside of Hill City, Custer and at the southern terminus in Edgemont. And be prepared for noticeable grades. The climb south from the Englewood trailhead is tough for a rail trail. It's worse if you start from Deadwood. And it takes you to over 6,200'.

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Old 10-20-23, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
For those who don;t have the time:

10. Hiawatha
9. Couer d'Alenes
8. Mickelson
7. Olympic Discovery
6, Katy/Rock Island
5. Palouse to Cascades
4. Northern Trail (New England)
3. Erie Canal
2. Ohio to Erie
1. GAP/C&O

I've done all of 10 and nearly all of 8 along with the GAP and the eastern 7 miles of the No. 7, which are not very interesting but quite fast as you slope down from the Bitterroots on a smooth, paved surface. Also did No. 3 from Lockport to a bit east of Rochester BITD.

I'd say the Hiawatha (and the 9 miles of right-of-way from the official end of the trail at the Pearson trail head to the town of Avery) were the most unique in terms of features and scenery. Over a dozen tunnels and several high trestles in a forested setting.

One thing that is not mentioned is that the Hiawatha continues east as the Olympian Trail where the Hiawatha ends at the East Portal trailhead. It will take you all the way to St. Regis, MT. The Bitterroot 300K, mentioned in the video, includes both the CdA trail and Hiawatha, along with other portions of the former Milwaukee Road right of way. Looks like a nice loop.

Mickelson was also a fun ride, although not as "warm and fuzzy" in the sense of cute little towns conveniently spaced. Fortunately, there are nice trail rest areas, including some with water cisterns and shelters from both sun and things like hail. Not much in the way of authorized/legal camping outside of Hill City, Custer and at the southern terminus in Edgemont. And be prepared for noticeable grades. The climb south from the Englewood trailhead is tough for a rail trail. It's worse if you start from Deadwood. And it takes you to over 6,200'.

Thanks for the summary. I hate watching videos. I'd rather read a well written article.
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Old 10-20-23, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by phughes
Thanks for the summary. I hate watching videos. I'd rather read a well written article.
Roland has been doing a series of YT’s on “other than riding” since they finished the release of their France trip. That series as well as their cross U.S. series were terrific and worth the time watching. The US trip seemingly used well over a 1000 miles of rail trails and canal trails out of the 3000 some odd miles they rode. It was educational how they stitched that route together. The France trip was equally interesting as they were mostly on canal paths in a 1000 mile trip. I highly recommend watching their stuff.
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Old 10-20-23, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
Roland has been doing a series of YT’s on “other than riding” since they finished the release of their France trip. That series as well as their cross U.S. series were terrific and worth the time watching. The US trip seemingly used well over a 1000 miles of rail trails and canal trails out of the 3000 some odd miles they rode. It was educational how they stitched that route together. The France trip was equally interesting as they were mostly on canal paths in a 1000 mile trip. I highly recommend watching their stuff.
Glad you enjoy them. I do not like watching videos. I would rather read a well written article. I can read faster than I can watch the video. You are free to like videos.
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Old 10-20-23, 04:22 PM
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This year I did much of the following three on the list:

4. Northern Trail (New England)

3. Erie Canal
2. Ohio to Erie

I can see why the Erie Canal and OTET are on the list. Both New York and Ohio have done a good job in stitching things together, adding signage and having links with adjacent businesses.

I found the Northern Trail OK but underwhelming and not really in the same category as the other two. If I were to nominate a replacement for this list it would be the sequence of four trails in Wisconsin: 400 Trail, Ellroy-Sparta Trail, La Crosse River Trail and Great River Trail. These can link together in a ~140 mile sequence.
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Old 10-20-23, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
This year I did much of the following three on the list:

4. Northern Trail (New England)

3. Erie Canal
2. Ohio to Erie

I can see why the Erie Canal and OTET are on the list. Both New York and Ohio have done a good job in stitching things together, adding signage and having links with adjacent businesses.

I found the Northern Trail OK but underwhelming and not really in the same category as the other two. If I were to nominate a replacement for this list it would be the sequence of four trails in Wisconsin: 400 Trail, Ellroy-Sparta Trail, La Crosse River Trail and Great River Trail. These can link together in a ~140 mile sequence.
I added a comment in Roland’s YT to also consider the multi-part trail running from Kingston, NY to NYC, via the Walkill Trail, Hudson Valley Trail, Duchess Rail Trail, Maybrook Trail, then the assorted Putnam/North and South County trails into NYC. 110 miles all told. You can ride out of or into the city with maybe a mile of road riding.
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Old 10-21-23, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by phughes
Thanks for the summary. I hate watching videos. I'd rather read a well written article.
Same. I skipped over most of the video looking just for the rankings. I did spend a little time on the Northern Trail because I didn’t remember knowing what it was. And by chance, I heard him mention the Bitterroot 300.
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Old 10-21-23, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by mev

....I found the Northern Trail OK but underwhelming and not really in the same category as the other two. If I were to nominate a replacement for this list it would be the sequence of four trails in Wisconsin: 400 Trail, Ellroy-Sparta Trail, La Crosse River Trail and Great River Trail. These can link together in a ~140 mile sequence.
I've ridden the 4 Trails Tour (101 miles). Not very long, but very scenic with some nice towns and camping options along the way. Perrot State Park and the city campground in Wilton come to mind. The Wilton campground has good showers(and a pool) and they may still have a Sunday morning pancake breakfast at the pool shelter. Portions of the Sparta-Elroy trail were recently closed for a couple years due to storm damage, but I believe it's all repaired and open. The trails are a significant draw for the towns and local businesses, so the DNR keeps them in good shape.

Bike 4 Trails.

In sort of the general area..the Root River Trail and the Paul Bunyan/Heartland Trails(Crow Wing State Park to Bemidji State Park) in Minnesota are also very nice rides. The Paul Bunyan can be stitched together with other trails in the area for a longer ride. There's a nice little city campground in Pine River along the PB trail that you will find zero info on the web(at least a few years ago) that it exists. We camped there one night for $7..and free firewood.

Two trails that have caught my interest, though I've found limited info on(so far) is the Mesabi and Taconite trails in northern MN.
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Old 10-21-23, 11:42 AM
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Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame trails:

https://www.railstotrails.org/our-wo...-hall-of-fame/
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Old 10-22-23, 04:58 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs
Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame trails:

https://www.railstotrails.org/our-wo...-hall-of-fame/
Note that bikes are not allowed on the High Line in NYC. It is, however, an interesting walk, albeit often very crowded. One of the things you can see is the building where the Oreo was invented.

A group called The Friends of the High Line helped make the trail possible. One of the more notable members was none other than Patty Hearst, once known as “Tanya.”


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Old 10-22-23, 08:26 AM
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Ellroy-Sparta Trail


Dating from 1967, the grandfather of US bike trails!

I've ridden the 4 Trails Tour (101 miles). Not very long, but...
Compared to a typical road tour, that's very true, but we are kind of talking about trails here. It's short compared to the Katy (240 miles) or GAP (150 miles). However, it's on the long side as rail trails go, and comparable to the Mickelson (114 miles), Silver Comet & Chief Ladiga (95 miles), Paul Bunyon (115 miles), and longer than the well-known Montour (47 miles), Coeur d'Alenes (73 miles) and Little Miami (78 miles).

The 250-mile-long Florida C to C is "88% complete". The 326-mile-long Ohio to Eire is 90% segregated path.
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Old 10-22-23, 08:58 AM
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I was underwhelmed by the Erie Canal Towpath. It was 2019, so maybe it is improved. The locks were great, but the signage was poor/non existent. It was July when I did it and hot. The path is on the north side of the canal and thus gets the sun all day long. There was a dearth of services, especially in the eastern half. The GAP-C&O is orders of magnitude better in those departments.
YMMV
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Old 10-26-23, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
I added a comment in Roland’s YT to also consider the multi-part trail running from Kingston, NY to NYC, via the Walkill Trail, Hudson Valley Trail, Duchess Rail Trail, Maybrook Trail, then the assorted Putnam/North and South County trails into NYC. 110 miles all told. You can ride out of or into the city with maybe a mile of road riding.
^ this. You can get from the Bronx up to Kingston on the Hudson river -- you're on shared roadways for maybe 3 miles total of the 110+, and those are gentle small-town roads connecting between trails in Brewster and then New Paltz.
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Old 10-26-23, 07:35 PM
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The only thing I’ll say about Walkill south of New Paltz is that it pretty much sucked when I rode it in 2018. Muddy in several places. I had to walk a couple of times. Rough in several others. Not much to look at scenery-wise. Hopefully, improvements have been made to the surface.

ACA substituted it for roads on the other side of the river on its Atlantic Coast route. I call it trail miles for the sake of trail miles. Not only does the trail end in the middle of nowhere, you have to use some unfriendly roads to get back to where you would be if you stuck to the original routing, The original route used fine roads with little traffic and much better scenery, including better views on the “Gunks.” When I came down that way again in 2021, I followed the original route: Much better riding experience that had been in use as far back as 1999, when I first rode it the day before Hurricane Floyd moved in.
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