The gluttony season of holiday treats will be here soon, so now is a good time to get moving and get in shape to combat all those extra calories. With a network of more than 2,000 rails to trails projects covering over 23,000 miles across the USA, options for getting some exercise and fresh air are abundant. Roller blade, bicycle, walk or run your way to a healthier you. And when the trails are blanketed with the early snow of winter, give snowshoeing or cross country skiing a try. Here are five great trails around the country to try out.
The country’s longest rails-to-trails project is the Katy Trail in Missouri. Winding from St. Charles to Clinton for 237 miles, the trail follows a section of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. Made from crushed limestone, the Katy Trail is flat and scenic taking you beneath towering river bluffs and meandering through peaceful farmland and small-town America. It covers most of the state and is idea for cycling, hiking or running. On the 35 mile section from Sedalia to Clinton, horseback riding is also permitted. There are 26 trailheads along the way where interpretive panels describe the Native American and early settler history that included a certain man named Daniel Boone.
Established in 1991 on the right-of-way of the former Ebensburg and Black Lick Railroad in western Pennsylvania, the Ghost Town Trail stretches 36 miles from Black Lick, Indiana County, to Ebensburg, Cambria County. The trail derives its name from the many ghost towns that were abandoned in the early 1900s with the decline of the local coal mining industry. Historical markers along the trail provide information about the Black Lick Valley’s intriguing history. One point of interest is the Eliza Furnace, in Vintondale. The furnace operated from 1846 to 1849 and is a unique relic of the Black Lick Valley’s early industrial era. It is one of Pennsylvania’s best preserved iron furnaces and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The trail is open year round to cycling, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
If you’re looking for a long-haul adventure, check out the Great Allegheny Passage. It started as a small bike trail between two charming Laurel Highlands towns and has grown into a phenomenon that beckons bikers and hikers from all over the world. The trail stretches 150 miles from Pittsburgh, through the Laurel Highlands and on to Cumberland, Maryland. Along the way the trail passes through several interesting towns. At mile 128 you’ll find “Little Boston” at a busy trailhead and ballpark. A short ride or walk north of the ballpark on the GAP is Dead Man’s Hollow natural area, where you can park your bike and hike several miles of woodsy trail. If 150 miles isn’t enough for you, the GAP connects with the C&O Canal towpath in Cumberland and extends all the way to Georgetown in Washington D.C. for a total length of 334.5 miles.
Starting at the 1927 train station in Susanville, 208 miles northeast of San Francisco, the Bizz Johnson Trail follows the route of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad line which was established in 1914 for transporting logs and milled lumber to and from the Westwood Mill. This dirt and gravel trail stretches 30 miles through forests of fir and pine en route to Westwood where a 25-foot-tall statue of Paul Bunyan watches over the trail-head. The trail crosses the Susan River 12 times on bridges and trestles and passes through two tunnels. The Bizz Johnson is popular for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. And, you can camp along the Susan River or fish for rainbow and brown trout.
Just 45 minutes outside of Chicago, the North River Valley trail extends over 40 acres and includes sections through 11 local communities. The trail runs beside the picturesque Fox River in Northern Illinois alongside historic railroad lines. It crosses six bridges and passes through nature preserves and charming towns. A great place to start is Elgin, where you can stop in at Domani Café for coffee, sandwiches or a sweet treat to get you going. In winter, break out your bike’s snow tires or strap on snowshoes or cross-country skis and keep moving.
Do you have a favorite rail trail?
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Terri Marshall is a New York City based freelance writer whose work includes travel, spirits, and all things chocolate. Terri's work appears in several publications. She has been a featured guest on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel radio program and Denver's KZKO Radio Morning Express show. Terri will not hesitate to go to the source for great chocolate - even if that means hiking through the jungle and picking cacao pods herself.
Happiest when she's globetrotting, Terri has covered destinations all over the United States, Europe, and into Central and South America. Favorite adventures include reindeer driving in Norway and fishing for piranhas in the Amazon jungle of Peru. You can keep up with Terri's adventures on her website www.TrippingwithTerri.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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