This is the first in a continuing series of Bike Trail posts. Like the back roads of America, the recent interest in bike paths and rails-to-trails paths provides a new insight on “back roads”. Each Bike Path post will include surrounding information, vehicle support info and trail ratings as provided by my wife Julianne. One bike pump equals a “poor” rating while five pumps equals an “excellent” rating. We’ll also provide links to the RTC TrailLinks overview of the trail. Complete Trails Overview Post is HERE.
The Legacy Trail in Lexington, Kentucky is a totally paved bike trail that basically covers a 12 mile distance from downtown Lexington to the Kentucky Horse Park.
Though not a “rail trail,” per se, the trail is well-maintained, has ample parking on both the north and south ends of the trail and also includes a parking spot midway in the trail at Coldstream. All along the trail are flag banners that can be seen from quite a distance.
The trail runs through farmland after it leaves the city and then eventually enters into horse farm country. For the bikers that want a little bit more ride than the 12 mile trail offers, there is an extension that can be taken through the Kentucky Horse Park that is about 8 miles and goes through some beautiful horse farm country where one can see the plank fences, horses grazing in the fields, etc. My daughter Marissa took this video of horses following them on the trail.
The rail trails typically are straight and fairly level with slight hills and slight curve. The legacy trail, according to my wife Julianne, is a bit more challenging in that it has some pretty heavy duty Hills and there are a couple nearly 90° turns, including one at the bottom of the hill they can be even dangerous. These are a downside to this trail, as far as my wife is concerned, but since she has ridden it numerous times, she knows when to be cautious.
She loves this trail and has only rated it lower than a five because of the hills and the curves. Julianne and our daughter Marissa also enjoy adding on the Horse Park portion of this trail as it is a biweekly adventure for them to come out and get some good exercise and still get in about 16 or 17 miles of riding.
Other amenities included on this trail are drinking fountains, bike air pumping stations with a variety of useful tools and each parking area does have a portable restroom. I should note that the bike pumps and tools were kindly provided by local Lexington company Pedal the Planet where both Julianne and Marissa got their bikes. I hope to get mine there in the near future as well.
Other non-motorized vehicles can be used on the trail including skateboards, in-line skating and walking.
In terms of vehicular support, there are actually three areas along the trail with good parking. The main trailheads are at the Northside YMCA in Lexington (near Lexmark), the mid-trail Coldstream parking area and then the Horse Park trailhead on Iron Works Pike, across the road from the Horse Park.
There are ruminations that the trail may be extended further north towards the town of Georgetown, but I have not been able to find anything definitive regarding this at this point.
In recent weeks, my wife Julianne has taken to riding on bike trails around the upper Midwest. In the past few weeks she has ridden bike trails in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and will soon be on a nice trail in Virginia.
She is finding these very enjoyable and has done some with her sister and some with our daughter Marissa, and one even with the grandchildren. As a support driver I enjoy taking her and driving the back roads to meet her (and the others) along the trail.
Many of my upcoming blog posts will cover some of these scenic bike trails, many which are called Rails to Trails. This post is an overview of these trails with links to my posts below and also brief details about the Rails to Trails movement and some of the things that are going on with that around the country.
As some railroads have gone defunct or gone out of business, the rails have been pulled up and trails have been made to replace them. These trails include the bridges and trestles, assorted tunnels (some of which are very long) and, of course, the wonderful scenery that these old railroad tracks pass through.
This whole movement was started by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy which transforms unused rail corridors into vibrant public places—ensuring a better future for America made possible by trails and the connections they inspire. According to their website, the “RTC serves as the national voice for more than 160,000 members and supporters, 30,000 miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails, and more than 8,000 miles of potential trails waiting to be built, with a goal of creating more walkable, bikeable communities in America.” It has been in operation since 1986 and the trails continue to get placed all over. The RTC History can be seen in detail here.
Julianne has fallen in love with these and I have too! Currently I only provide vehicular support, but I hope to be on the trail with her in the near future after I am able to get a bike. In the meantime, I am thrilled to drive the back roads nearby and see the small towns. Those too will be documented.
Not all of the Bike Trails are “Rails to Trails” trails. There are others such as the Legacy Trail in Lexington which has been built specifically as a bike trail…from scratch. These too will be covered.
Much of the documentation on the bike trails centers on the trails, but little is written about the “support” roads that a driver would want to take to meet the riders along these long trails, if wanted or needed. I have made efforts to document this in photos and will provide details in the posts on each trail…including maps when needed. (If links are not live, then the posts are still being worked on)
Finally, I have worked with Julianne to rate the trails. She will rate them from 1 pump (poor) to 5 pumps (excellent). Each separate post will include her comments about the specific trail. Comments and details will be in each individual post, but the ratings are also shown below with just a couple of comments.
Following is a growing list of trails — long and short — that we have covered. Check back here often as I will update links here and minor details as new trails are taken.
The first of the trails is perhaps our most visited due to proximity to where we live. It is the “middle of the week” riding trail for my wife and occasionally my daughter who joins her on these trips.
The Legacy Trail runs north and south through Lexington among green spaces, neighborhoods and parks. The trail joins the Kentucky Horse Park and the Lexington YMCA. (There are plans to extend it south beyond the YMCA to the memorial art garden named for African American jockey, and multiple Kentucky Derby champion, Isaac Murphy).
This trail is about 12 miles long and is completely asphalt. Julianne typically takes it form the Coldstream Parking Lot, so it is a bit shorter. But, she adds an additional 8 miles with a ride along the roads in the Kentucky Horse Park.
Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail – Cuyahoga Valley N.P., OH (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
Julianne and her sister Laura rode a portion of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail while on a trip to Ohio in early May 2016. We made a visit to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park after we found that part of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath runs through that park. Julianne and Laura rode about a 10 mile section of this 85 mile long path which actually runs from Scranton Flats in Cleveland down to Bolivar, Ohio. While they rode the predominantly crushed gravel trail, I visited some sites in the National Park.
Montour Trail – Pittsburgh, PA (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
On another trip in May 2016, Julianne visited her sister in Canonsburg, PA. Right outside of Canonsburg is the Montour Trail which actually runs from the northwest of Pittsburgh (starting at Moon Township), down through Pittsburgh and into Canonsburg area. It is about a 30 mile trail. The unique thing about that trail is that it also meets up with a much larger trail called the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. Complete from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage connects with the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath to create a 335-mile non-motorized route between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. They hope to ride the complete trail in 2017.
Dawkins Line Rail Trail – Swamp Branch, KY (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
In early June 2016 Julianne and I took a trip down to Salyersville, KY (actually to the small village of Royalton) in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. This was at the trail head of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail, the longest Rail Trail in Kentucky. It is currently 18 miles long, but will be extended to 36 miles in the next year or two. The second half of the trail was to be completed and opened to the public in November 2015, but was still not completed on our visit. It will supposedly extend farther west into Breathitt County and will include access to the 1,556-foot Tip Top Tunnel. The trail passes by historical coal structures, goes over 24 scenic trestles and also includes the Gun Creek Tunnel, which spans nearly 700 feet. It was the first trail that she had been on with a tunnel.
Little Miami Scenic Trail – Southern Section – Xenia, OH (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
In mid-June 2016 we made our first trip to Ohio so Julianne could ride the southern portion of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a 78 mile trail that stretches from Springfield, OH (north of Columbus) all the way to Newton, OH (just outside of Cincinnati). On this trip she decided to take the southern half of the trail, from the main Xenia Station to the small town of Morrow (the trail actually goes all the way to Loveland, but it was a bit too far to ride that day.) as of this trip, Julianne has been happiest about this particular trail, thus a Five Pump rating.
The trail is paved all the way and has lovely shady areas, some nice bridges and also links to a number of other trails that comprise the 330-mile network of paved, off-road trails in Ohio’s Miami Valley. Eventually this trail will be a link in a trail that will go from the Ohio River in Cincinnati all the way to Lake Erie in Cleveland (called the Ohio to Erie Trail).
North Bend Rail Trail – Cedar Grove, WV (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
In late June 2016 Julianne once again met up with her sister in West Virginia for a ride down the North Bend Rail Trail. It is a 72-mile trail in north-central and western West Virginia and is operated by West Virginia State Parks. It is also part of the and is part of the American Discovery Trail. On our June trip, we started at North Bend State Park and she and her sister rode west to Cedar Grove (Happy Valley). The trail has 13 tunnels that were originally constructed by the B&O railroad. One of the tunnels, nearly 2000 feet long, is also supposedly haunted.
Julianne rated this trail a three due to the nature of the trail. There are parts with rough, sharp gravel that are not conducive to hybrid tires. But, on the other hand, the trail has some beautiful scenery.
Unfortunately for her, just after the long tunnel she got a flat tire and had to walk nearly five miles to meet me at the next location. Cell service is scant along this trail and much of the trail is not close to any roads.
Little Miami Scenic Trail – Northern Section – Springfield, OH (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
In early July 2016 we took our daughter and her three children and headed north to Springfield, OH to catch the northern section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail. This portion of the trail runs form Springfield, goes near a great dairy (perfect for an ice cream stop!), passes through the artsy town of Yellow Springs and makes its way into Xenia and beyond. Like the southern section, it is all paved and very scenic. There are a number of side trails available.
Tri-County Triangle Trail – Washington Court House, OH (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
We visited this trail in early July 2016, taking a trip up to the town of Washington Court House, OH. Julianne rode the 32 miles into Chillicothe, OH. Like the other Miami Valley trails, this one is paved all the way and also very scenic, though it has less shade than the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Also, unlike the Little Miami, there are many more rural areas without cell phone service. But, Julianne said it was a fun and enjoyable ride.
Virginia Creeper Trail – Damascus, VA (Click here for Trail Post with photos)
Perhaps one of the most beautiful and fun rides out there, the Virginia Creeper is about 33 miles of bike riding bliss. We visited in mid-July 2016 and took the drive from Damascus, VA to White Top Station in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. From there the ride begins with a nearly 17 mile downhill glide on the crushed gravel surface. The trail goes through luscious forests, passes by a number of Christmas Tree farms and over a number of bridges and trestles into Damascus (known as Trail Town USA), which is a perfect place to stop for a break before tackling the more challenging ride to the trail’s end in Abingdon, VA.
Damascus has a number of Shuttle companies that will take you and your bikes to White Top and then you can ride down. You can also catch similar shuttles in Abingdon.
Julianne rates this a 4 1/2 only because the gravel trail can be tricky. However, young kids and older folks all seem to enjoy the downhill ride. The last 6 miles into Abingdon is a gradual uphill battle, but doable. Definitely one of America’s MUST VISIT trails. That is why it is a Hall of Fame Trail.
As noted in my previous post about Prosperity/Canonsburg/Washington areas of Pennsylvania (see post HERE), we took an afternoon with my wife’s sister and her family to take a drive around Pittsburgh. Obviously, an afternoon does no justice to a large beautiful city like this, but that was all the time we had. Fortunately, I have been to Pittsburgh before and have knocked out a few places worth visiting (see my post which includes some Pittsburgh sites HERE).
Our drive took us past the amazing glass structure built by PPG — their headquarters. Some call it the “Glass Castle” and indeed, it looks like one.
Actually named PPG Place, this amazing building is one of six structures designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee and completed in 1984. The six buildings cover three city blocks and five and a half acres. All of the buildings are of matching glass design consisting of 19,750 pieces of glass. The complex centers on One PPG Place, a 40-story office building.
We also crossed over the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge, named for the 60’s era Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder. We passed by the Andy Warhol Museum (but didn’t stop to visit).
A study in 2006 noted that there were 446 bridges in Pittsburgh thus giving the town the nickname “The City of Bridges.” Of course, not all of them are the massive structures crossing the three major rivers. There are nine or ten prominent bridges, including the Clemente, which is one of the “Three Siblings,” which are three parallel, nearly identical self-anchored suspension bridges that cross the Allegheny River at 6th, 7th, and 9th streets. They were named for prominent Pittsburgh residents: Roberto Clemente Bridge, Andy Warhol Bridge, and Rachel Carson Bridge.
After driving around a bit, we headed to the Monongahela Incline to take a ride up Mt. Washington, a hill that provides amazing panoramic views of Pittsburgh. This proved to be the highlight of this trip.
The Monongahela Incline is the oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the U.S. It opened on May 28, 1870, and has since then transported millions of passengers. Built at a cost of $50,000, the incline opened up Mount Washington to development, enabling people to live 600 feet above the city and still have easy access to factories and businesses along the river.
At one time Pittsburgh had 15 inclines. Today the Monongahela and its younger sister the Duquesne (about a mile away) are the only ones that remain. The cars are not self-powered, and do not even have operators on board. Instead, they are pulled up and down the inclined track by a cable driven by an engine in the upper station, where the operator works. The cars operate in pairs, permanently attached to opposite ends of a single cable, with one going uphill and the other going downhill simultaneously. The cars therefore counterbalance each other, so the engine needs to provide only enough power to overcome friction and the difference in the weight of the passengers in the two cars.
The ride up the hill is about 635 feet and climbs a little over 365 feet in altitude at a grade of about 35 degrees. At its max speed of 6 miles per hour, the ride takes about three or four minutes. There is no air conditioning in the buildings or on the actual trains. So, on a hot day like we experienced, it was a warm wait.
Each car holds about 23 people, with room for about 8 persons in each section of the car. It is certainly something I would want to sit down on rather than stand in. The view from the window can be kind of scary.
Once atop Mt. Washington, the view is breathtaking with expansive views of the three rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio) and the many bridges over these rivers.
While at the top, we took in the view, walked over to DiFiore’s for an ice cream treat and a rest. From there I caught sight of an amazing wall mural. Titled “Bloom,” this giant mural was painted by Gerard Tonti in October 2007. This is one of a number of large Art Murals funded by the Sprout Public Art project of Pittsburgh. According to the website Pittsburgh Murals and Public Art, there were 32 original Sprout murals, but there are many more throughout the 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Looks like my next trip may be a mural hunt!!! (Pittsburgh Murals has created a great spreadsheet for the mural/public art seeker HERE.)
Also while driving along the top of Mt. Washington we came across a lovely statue sitting on the edge of the hill (at Greenbriar Avenue and Sweetbriar Street). Titled “Point of View,” this 2006 bronze sculpture by James A. West depicts George Washington and the Seneca leader Guyasuta, with their weapons down, in a face-to-face meeting in October 1770, when the two men met while Washington was in the area examining land for future settlement along the Ohio River.
That pretty much ended the day trip to Pittsburgh for us. It was fun, but certainly warrants another visit in the near future.