Explore America's Epic Railroad-Turned-Trail System

Discover small towns, wildlife, bridges and tunnels on these railroad lines restored as bike paths.

Historic bridges, tunnels and small towns are dotted along America's 31,000-mile trail system created from a web of rail lines.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy created the national network and these now-vibrant trails are used by walkers and cyclists easily accessible to children, adults, the handicapped and senior citizens. 

Here are 11 courses that will wow you with their charm, beauty, length and history. 

Virginia Creeper Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail

Locomotive displays, high ridgelines and grazing animals are all things you'll come into contact on this trail favored by cyclists and equestrians. It's considered the best rail-trail in the east and meets up with the Appalachian Trail in more than one location. The route is dotted with small towns; Damascus is the self-proclaimed "friendliest town on the trail." 

Length: 32.7 miles

Area Covered: Virginia's Grayson and Washington counties

Wisconsin's Elroy-Sparta Trail

Elroy-Sparta State Trail

The country's oldest rail-trail is spectacular for its darkness. Visitors on this Wisconsin trail pass through three hand-dug railroad tunnels that stay at a constant 60 degrees or less. The smooth trail is lined with crushed limestone and meanders through five small towns.

Length: 32.5 miles

Area Covered: Wisconsin's Juneau and Monroe counties

Missouri's Katy Trail

Katy Trail State Park

This trail is built on the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, a must for train enthusiasts. Katy meets up with 26 additional trail heads and sees four fully restored railroad depots along its route. The segment that passes through Boonville is an official part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Forests, wetlands, prairies and rolling fields are among the scenery on this trail.

Length: 239.6 miles

Area Covered: Missouri's Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Henry, Howard, Montgomery, Pettis, St. Charles and Warren counties 

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

The Wabash Trace Nature Trail showcases southwestern Iowa's hills, prairies and woodlands—those who keep a sharp eye out may be able to spot one of the endangered red-tailed hawks who make their homes here. Eight rustic towns, each with its own trail head, dot the ride from Council Bluffs—just outside of Omaha, Nebraska—to Blanchard—on the Iowa/Missouri border.

Length: 63 miles

Area Covered: Southwestern Iowa's Fremont, Mills, Page and Pottawattamie counties

Paul Bunyan State Trail in Minnesota

Paul Bunyan State Trail

This is the longest continuously paved rail-trail in the country, with Paul Bunyan State Trail boasting small towns every 8-10 miles in addition to more than 30 lakes and streams along its route. Campers can do so at either end of the trail—at Crow Wing State Park or Lake Bemidji State Park. In winter, snowmobiling is allowed on the trail. 

Length: 119.3 miles

Area Covered: North to central Minnesota's Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties 

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail

Winding along the Susan River, then through its rugged canyon, you'll cross over 12 bridges and trestles and pass through two tunnels on this fir tree-lined trail. It follows the route of the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad line, established to transport logs to the Westwood lumber mill. Fall visitors are rewarded with spectacular foliage colors.

Length: 25.4 miles

Area Covered: Lassen County, central California

Great Allegheny Passage

Great Allegheny Passage

The longest rail-trail east of the Mississippi crosses the Eastern Continental Divide, lush hillsides, stunning viaducts and numerous river crossings. It connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland and is a Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame trail. Along the way, you'll discover what it was like to be part of the Industrial Revolution through a series of once-booming railroad towns. 

Length: 150 miles

Area covered: Maryland and Pennsylvania's Allegany, Allegheny, Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties

Idaho's Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes highlights the Panhandle's greenery, running along rivers, beside lakes and on the rail line that popped up during Idaho's silver boom. It's an area rich in wildlife; keep your eyes peeled for the coyotes, beavers, raptors, moose and black bears.

Length: 73 miles

Area Covered: Idaho's Benewah, Kootenai and Shoshone counties

Little Miami Scenic Trail

Little Miami Scenic Trail

This well-shaded route is the centerpiece of Ohio's 330-mile network of trails. It passes through state parks, natural habitats and bridges old and new connecting five counties and multiple trail heads. 

Length: 73 miles

Area Covered: Western Ohio between Cincinnati and Springfield

Pumpkinvine Nature Trai

Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Pumpkinvine was named for a rambling shoot with numerous twists and turns. It passes through one of Indiana's largest Amish communities running past small towns and farms; corridors are blanketed in thick forests of maple and oak trees with colorful wildflowers.

Length: 18 miles

Area Covered: Indiana's Elkhart County, near the Michigan border

Florida's Pinellas Trail

Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

Pinellas is considered an urban trail. It crosses dozens of pedestrian bridges en route from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, and in Dunedin runs along the Gulf of Mexico. The trail, most popular with cyclists, also connects several county parks. 

Length: 38 miles

Area Covered: Connects St. Petersburg, Florida, to Tarpon Springs, Florida

Tanglewood Trail

Tanglefoot Trail

Mississippi's longest rail-trail follows the path of an abandoned railroad line once lead by William Faulkner's great grandfather. It winds through the foothills of the Appalachians with their mature hardwood forests, fields of cotton and soybeans, pastures, wetlands and trees draped with kudzu. It connects six small-town communities and has four "whistle stops." 

Length: 43.6 miles

Area Covered: North-central Mississippi's Chickasaw, Pontotoc and Union counties