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Using Trails

Here Are Five Fantastic New Rail-Trails That Opened in 2023

By: Laura Stark
December 11, 2023

New York's Adirondack Rail Trail ribbon cutting | Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
New York's Adirondack Rail Trail ribbon cutting | Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

At the close of 2023, America now boasts more than 25,000 miles of open rail-trails, where people flock to enjoy time with family and friends, experience nature and access places in their neighborhoods and beyond. Here we spotlight a handful of the exciting new pathways that made their debut in 2023.

These five trails join the ranks of the more than 2,400 rail-trails making a difference in people’s lives across the country.

Odessa-Hector Rail Trail (New York)

New York's Odessa-Hector Rail-Trail | Photo courtesy the Village of Odessa
New York’s Odessa-Hector Rail-Trail | Photo courtesy the Village of Odessa

Tucked into the Finger Lakes region of New York, the newly opened Odessa-Hector Rail Trail provides new opportunities to take in the area’s gorgeous scenery. The gravel pathway, which welcomes pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians and snowmobilers, begins at Texas Hollow Road in Odessa, and follows the old Lehigh Valley Railroad corridor through hardwood forests on a 2.5-mile northwestern journey to Hayes Road in Montour. Not far from trail’s end, the Catharine Valley Trail, running 14 miles south from the tip of Seneca Lake, offers additional options for exploring.

New York's Odessa-Hector Rail-Trail under development | Photo courtesy the Village of Odessa
New York’s Odessa-Hector Rail-Trail under development | Photo courtesy the Village of Odessa

The project is an immense source of community pride—constructed largely through volunteer efforts and private funding from local businesses and organizations. One especially dedicated volunteer, Bruno Schickel, was honored with a trailhead in his name and presented with a knife forged from an iron railway spike to cut the ribbon at the trail’s September 2023 opening ceremony. Advocates for the trail hope to one day expand its length to 16 miles by continuing the route north through Burdett and up to Hector.

High Line Trail (Iowa)

Iowa's High Line Trail | Photo courtesy City of Mason City
Iowa’s High Line Trail | Photo courtesy City of Mason City
Iowa's High Line Trail | Photo courtesy City of Mason City
Iowa’s High Line Trail | Photo courtesy City of Mason City

In October, people in Mason City, a community in north-central Iowa, celebrated the opening of the first segment of the High Line Trail, which will serve as a key transportation route through the city. Long considered the missing piece of the city’s network of trails and bike lanes, the new rail-trail will offer a paved, 8-mile north-south route linking the downtown area with picturesque natural areas, including the 440-acre Lime Creek Conservation Area and Nature Center and East Park, where the Winnebago River and Willow Creek meet.

Following a former Union Pacific line, the aptly named High Line Trail is partially elevated, including four railroad bridges. Its newly completed southern leg stretches nearly 3 miles from 19th Street SE, near Georgia Hanford Park, up to 12th Street NE, where it will connect to a large bike park and single-track trail network under construction.

Related: 5 Rail-Trails to Awe at the Architecture

Southwest Greenway (Michigan)

Michigan participants in the Southwest Greenway's opening event | Photo courtesy Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Michigan participants in the Southwest Greenway’s opening event | Photo courtesy Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

Although not quite a mile in length, Detroit’s newly opened Southwest Greenway makes a key connection between the downtown RiverWalk and the Ford Motor Company’s Michigan Central campus, once the site of a train station that’s now a 30-acre business and technology research hub in the Corktown neighborhood.

Michigan's Southwest Greenway's opening event | Photo courtesy Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Michigan’s Southwest Greenway’s opening event | Photo courtesy Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

From Bagley Street, the paved pathway follows a former rail corridor to West Jefferson Avenue, just steps from the Detroit River and the developing Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park, which is slated to open in 2024 and become a major recreation destination. The new rail-trail is also part of the larger Joe Louis Greenway, an in-progress 27.5-mile looped trail system that will connect neighborhoods and parks across the city.

Related: Emerging Rail-Trails: Michigan’s Joe Louis Greenway (Rails to Trails, Winter 2022) | Watch Digital Feature

Meadow River Rail Trail (West Virginia)

West Virginia's Meadow River Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Greenbrier Environmental Group, Inc
West Virginia’s Meadow River Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Greenbrier Environmental Group, Inc

Those looking for a wild and wonderful trail experience have an exciting new option in West Virginia’s Meadow River Rail Trail, which opened its first section this fall for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and other outdoor enthusiasts. The 9-mile crushed-stone pathway meanders through lush woodlands along its namesake river from Nallen, through Russellville, to the confluence of the river with Burdette Creek. Highlights of the route include its two stunning bridges, one in Russellville and the other at Burdette Creek.

West Virginia's Meadow River Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Greenbrier Environmental Group, Inc
West Virginia’s Meadow River Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Greenbrier Environmental Group, Inc

The next phase of the project, expected for completion in 2024, will extend the trail another 9 miles southeast to Rainelle, a town just a short drive from the New River Gorge National Park, which became the state’s first national park in 2020 and offers a plethora of other trails to explore.

Related: West Virginia: Wild and Wonderful Rail-Trails of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (Rails to Trails, Fall 2021)

Adirondack Rail Trail (New York)

New York's Adirondack | Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
New York’s Adirondack | Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Laura Stark | Photo courtesy Laura Stark
Laura Stark

Laura Stark is the senior editor for Rails to Trails magazine, responsible for highlighting trails and the people working hard to support them across America.

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