Every year, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy team is sent out of the office on a mission: to collect data for the next rail-trail guidebook. We take to the trails in small teams to gather mapping info, trail descriptions, points of interest and photos—we usually also come back with swanky local trail business merch, stronger calves and a few funny tales—and the end result is always a new, amazing guidebook.
This year was great, and we wanted to share our incredible experiences in the Midwest—our “#MappingMoments”—with you! Here are our top 10 favorite photos, and you can check out all of our on-the-trail adventures on our Instagram page. And don’t forget to look out for our Midwest rail-trail guidebook this spring!
1High Trestle Trail (Iowa)
There are few things more spoke stopping than a spiraling trestle 130 feet above ground. That’s why we’ve chosen the envied trail selection of every team: the High Trestle Trail. Stretching nearly 26 miles from Ankeny to Woodard, Iowa, this rail-trail crosses the Des Moines River, farmlands and lush valley. Learn more ➙
2Wabash Trace Nature Trail (Iowa)
Another wish-list trail, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail was a former Trail of the Month and is in the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. A scenic 63 miles from Council Bluffs to Blanchard, this rail-trail is one of Iowa’s longest and touches the border of Missouri. Its medley of natural landscapes is complemented by the occasional historical site and remnants from the retired Wabash Railroad. Learn more ➙
3Sauk Rail Trail (Iowa)
From its whimsical bike arch welcoming all riders onto its smooth 33-mile path, to its statuesque wind turbines that dot the horizon, the Sauk Rail Trail easily earned its spot on this best-of list. Starting and finishing between two lakes, the lightly undulating trail also carries you through pristine prairies and wetlands. Learn more ➙
4Camp Chase Trail (Ohio)
A piece of the developing cross-state Ohio to Erie Trail, the under-development Camp Chase Trail is a history buff’s dream. Nearly complete, the aspiring 15-mile trail parallels the Camp Chase Railroad (named after the Civil War encampment) and passes near the remaining Confederate Cemetery just outside of Columbus. Learn more ➙
5Valley Parkway Trail (Ohio)
Yes, what looks like a glittering, enchanted forest is a real place you can visit. But Ohio’s Valley Parkway Trail provides its users with more than visions of green. Although it does bring you by Emerald Necklace Marina, the nearly 14-mile path also travels along the blue waterway and sandy-brown tones of the shale cliffs of the Rocky River Reservation. Learn more ➙
6Rock Island Trail (Illinois)
Being of both city and serenity, the nearly 38-mile Rock Island Trail promises its visitors the full-spectrum feel of Illinois. The southern segment winds through the city, carrying you by a museum, botanical garden, historical sites and a zoo; whereas the slightly longer northern section provides a more bucolic trip—taking you through farmlands, woodlands and small towns. Learn more ➙
7Hennepin Canal Parkway (Illinois)
The Hennepin Canal Parkway is an extremely long and epic trail. The 105-mile path was built to link the mighty Illinois and Mississippi rivers, earning the entire canal a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Along the route, the terrain ventures from farmland to marsh to forest, and is punctuated by remaining locks and aqueducts. Learn more ➙
8Indianapolis Cultural Trail (Indiana)
Distinguishing itself as both a change in scenery and change of pace, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an exciting route rooted in the vibrant, urban landscape of Indianapolis. You won’t see any racecars on this 9-mile trail, but you will find yourself zooming through the city’s five cultural districts, museums, the pedestrian mall and the NCAA Hall of Champions.
Learn more ➙
9Little Blue Trace Trail (Missouri)
A charming name for a charming little trail—Missouri’s Little Blue Trace Trail was easily a team favorite. Acting as a 15-mile companion to the Little Blue River, this delightful greenway takes its riders over railroad bridges and through farmlands, shady areas and the Little Blue Trace Nature Reserve. Learn more ➙
10Red Cedar State Trail (Wisconsin)
Clearly, Wisconsin’s trails are equally as noteworthy as its friendly folk and fantastic cheeses. In addition to permitting its riders the spectacular sight of Red Cedar River by bridge, the Red Cedar State Trail boasts views of nearly every other variety: wetlands, prairie, forests, farms and the abundance of nature found within the Dunnville State Wildlife Area. Learn more ➙
That’s our Mapping Moments list. We hope you had a good time trailing along with us! Don’t forget to look for our rail-trail guidebooks this spring!