Several iconic trails play host to the Great American Rail-Trail in Ohio—the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Ohio to Erie Trail.

The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail connects two major metropolitan areas and one of the country’s most-visited national parks—and comprises a major portion of the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh corridor of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, one of RTC’s TrailNation™ projects, which will connect Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York via a developing 1,500-miles-plus trail network.

In Clinton, the Great American route branches off on the Ohio to Erie Trail, which—connecting to Cincinnati through Columbus—is composed of many trails that link the state’s diverse communities, including that of the largest population of Amish in the country. Along the route, commemorative sites pay homage to the state’s rich historical attributes, including the role that it played with the Underground Railroad and as an innovator in American aviation.

Ohio Great American Rail-Trail Map 2022
From Rails to Trails Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2019 issue

The Birth of Aviation and the Great Miami River Trail

Great Miami River Trail | Photo by TrailLink user benkretz
Great Miami River Trail | Photo by TrailLink user benkretz

The Wright Brothers’ pioneer status in aviation is common knowledge. Lesser known is that Orville and Wilbur also ran a bike shop. The brothers caught the “wheeling” bug in the 1890s once they got hold of a safety bicycle and eventually they started repairing, then building, bikes. Their engineering feats soared in scope from there.

Their home base of Dayton is the largest city along the Great Miami River Trail—a segment of the Ohio to Erie Trail, which is the state’s gateway trail to the Great American. In Dayton, you can find an array of historical sites connected to the Wright Brothers (and renowned African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar). A good starting place is the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, especially in the summer. During the warm months, park rangers lead bike tours to other interpretive centers in the area. Read about more historical connections along the Great American Rail-Trail here.

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The “Great American” Route Through Ohio

RTC’s route analysis defines the preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail through Ohio as 335 miles and more than two-thirds complete—comprising 234 existing trail miles and 101 gap miles. The Great American will be hosted by more than two dozen existing trails through Ohio. Click the links below to view full trail descriptions on TrailLink.com.

Trails Along the Route

Gateway Trail

Camp Chase Trail (Part of Ohio to Erie Trail) | Photo by Jody Dzuranin
Camp Chase Trail (Part of Ohio to Erie Trail) | Photo by Jody Dzuranin

Ohio to Erie Trail

While not quite stretching sea to shining sea, the Ohio to Erie Trail will connect two major waterways: the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Lake Erie in Cleveland. Cutting a diagonal across Ohio, the developing project offers some 326 miles of trail on the ground already. The Holmes County Trail, one of many gems in the route, is a bucolic beauty known for its use by one of the largest communities of Amish in the country.

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Be a Part of the Movement to Complete the Great American

Like you, we can’t wait to see the Great American Rail-Trail vision come to life—but we can’t do it alone. Help us reach 1 million pledges for the Great American, showing the strength and solidarity of the trails community.


Completing the Great American Rail-Trail: Catalyst Initiatives in Ohio

In every state along the preferred route of the Great American, needs for completing the trail vary. To spur trail completion, RTC has identified initial catalyst initiatives—projects or challenges that would most benefit from RTC’s national breadth of resources. (View the complete list of catalyst initiatives and criteria here.) Through these initiatives, RTC will support local and state partners, investing time, expertise and organizational resources in specific projects that are critical to the ultimate completion of the Great American Rail-Trail.

Holmes County Trail (Part of Ohio to Erie Trail) | Photo by Calvin Holderbaum
Holmes County Trail (Part of Ohio to Erie Trail) | Photo by Calvin Holderbaum

Statewide Trail Network Funding

RTC will continue to work with a collaborative of more than 200 trail constituents—the OhioNetwork—to advocate for statewide public funding for trails that prioritizes networks and spines and can be used to advance the Great American Rail-Trail. In addition, RTC will continue to pursue implementation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources State Trail Plan and work with the Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus in seeking public funding for trail networks and spines in the state.

Great American Rail-Trail Gaps #14 (Wolf Creek Trail Extension—Dayton to Trotwood), #15 (Preble County Line to Ohio-Indiana State Line) and #16 (Ohio-Indiana State Line to Richmond)

RTC will work with local partners—Preble Trails, Five Rivers Metroparks, the City of Richmond and the Preble County Park District—to provide the expertise and resources necessary to complete the combined 31.8-mile trail gap. Activities will include identifying local match funding for the Wolf Creek Trail Extension and coordinating with Preble County and the City of Richmond on activities including a corridor feasibility study, cost estimation, trail design and engineering, local stakeholder engagement, funding strategy and ultimately construction of the cross-state connector project.

Ohio's Wolf Creek Trail | Photo by Amy Forsthoefel, courtesy Five Rivers MetroParks
Ohio's Wolf Creek Trail | Photo by Amy Forsthoefel, courtesy Five Rivers MetroParks