I haven’t really thought about it much until I started putting together this blog, but—some of my best outdoor fitness experiences, whether traveling or close to home, have been free of charge and involved reuse: walking or biking on a rail-trail, a trail that is a repurposed rail bed, usually named for the busy railroad lines that once ran there. Because the terrain on which the trails are located was once traversed by trains, the trails are generally pretty flat, a big plus for “low key” bicyclists like me, and they often give you access to natural areas you can’t get to by car, as well as “behind the scenes” views of buildings and neighborhoods you’ve only been able to see previously from the front.
A highlight of a family trip to NYC in 2016 involved walking the High Line, the 1.45-mile repurposed path of an elevated freight rail line that served several industries from 1935-1980. We got exercise without having to deal with nearby car/taxi traffic while taking in beautiful, elevated “behind the scenes” views of the city and seeing some cool art along the way as well (as seen in the photo above). In 2017, my husband and I took our first trip as empty-nesters to southern Missouri, to experience the Total Eclipse and stay in an Airbnb along Missouri’s Katy Trail, a 237-mile, east-west rail-trail that stretches from one side of the state to the other– we biked to several sites along a 20-mile section. Back home in Texas, my family has enjoyed Dallas’ Katy Trail and Santa Fe Trail for several years– each provides a unique look at Dallas that you can’t see from streets or highways.
As outdoor activities have been “more acceptable” during these COVID-19 times, I’m taking a more purposeful look at rail-trails as possible places for out-of-the-way mini-vacations and weekend exercise spots. While the Dallas Katy Trail and NYC Hi-line are usually crowded (at least when we’ve experienced them), the Missouri Katy Trail was not at all. Most of the time, we hardly saw anyone pass by. Are there other rail-trails not so far away that might be good, uncrowded walking or biking spots?
The TrailLink website is the place to find out. Sponsored by the nonprofit Rails to Trails Conservancy, it allows you to search by zip code and also filter for the type of trail you want—I checked off my desired surfaces (concrete, asphalt, crushed gravel), and desired activities (biking, walking), and it showed me several choices close to home (within 30 minutes’ drive) that I’d never heard of before. You can even filter for “dog walking” as an activity. And now I want to visit all of them!!
Please share any memories/experiences you’ve had on rail-trails! And check out photos of our own rail-trail adventures at the Untrash Instagram and Facebook pages.