Nine Can’t-Miss Moments from Our Guidebook Mapping Trips!

Posted 08/29/18 by Suzanne Matyas in America's Trails

Kinzua Bridge Skywalk | Photo by Anthony Le, courtesy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

We here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy are a lucky bunch. Not only do we get to spend our days blazing the way for built and budding trails across the country, but, for a few weeks every summer, we also get to explore and map trails for our regional guidebooks.

Awesome job, right? (Before you ask, you can learn how to join our team here 😉)

These trips are sweet work perks, but they serve another far more important purpose: To update our guidebooks, TrailLink and all of our other resources with the latest trail routes and information—such as restrooms, water fountains and other points of interest—that trail users rely on. And by experiencing the trails firsthand, we are able to verify that they are the destination-worthy adventures you can expect to find in all 12 of our guides

But you don’t have to take our word for it—you can see it for yourself by checking out our #MappingMoments! Before we polish them up and put them in our guidebooks—which have full-color photos, waypoint-filled maps, handy directions and descriptionswe share our on-the-ground “moments” from the trails with you on social media.

This year, our team ventured out to update hundreds of miles of trails for our popular Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York Rail-Trail Guidebook. And thanks to friends at Alter Cycles, we went well-equipped and in style! Whether asphalt or gravel awaited us, we saddled up and rode these smooth, swanky rides on trails that passed roaring waters, peaceful forests, buzzing downtowns and everything in between.

We can’t wait to share all of these amazing trails with you when our new guidebook comes out in Spring 2019—but until then, we hope you’ll enjoy a handful of our favorite moments from our travels this summer!  (If you’d like to catch up on all of our #MappingMoments, be sure to check out our Instagram.)

New York

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park

Since it opened in 2009, the converted bridge now plays host to numerous walkers, bicyclists, joggers and tourists who come to drink in the staggering view of the dark waters below. Bookending the Walkway are the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Dutchess Rail Trail, which seamlessly form an 18-mile paved pathway through New York’s Hudson Valley.

Bonus: Virtually join us on our Alter Cycles as we cruise across the Walkway Over the Hudson, aka the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.

Don't look down! Here's the view from standing 212 feet above the Hudson River on a 1.28-mile Hall of Fame trail. Watch...

Posted by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on Thursday, August 9, 2018

Great Gorge Railway Trail

Not into wheels? No problem. Hikers, power walkers, amblers, trail-runners, historians and photographers can rejoice over the Great Gorge Railway Trail. Numerous lookout points starring the swift turquoise waters of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River, as well as the relics of their industrial pasts, will undoubtedly cause visitors to slowly traverse this short trail. Though barely over a mile long, multiple photo shoots along the way resulted in an hour-long trek to the trail’s endpoint at the impressive Whirlpool Bridge.

So, we really hope you like these three (out of 3,000) photos we snapped!

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

We know it looks more like a dream than reality … but the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is in fact a real place. This vision in green can be found tucked away in the Hudson Valley region, just a few hours north of the Big Apple.  Over its 20-plus miles, this rail-trail carries its passengers by farmlands, hillsides, rivers, gorges, orchards and verdant trees along the former route of the Wallkill Valley Railroad. Though much of the path lends itself to a relaxing experience, users are sure to stop and drop jaws at the Rosendale Trestle: a 940-foot-long bridge that stands 150 feet above the Rondout creek. The iconic bridge was originally constructed in the 1870s, and today grants its visitors spectacular views of Joppenburgh Mountain and of Rosendale’s vibrant Main Street—which is known for its popular July festival, that we sadly missed.


Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Pittsburgh is known for steel, enthusiastic sports fans, the birthplace of Heinz Ketchup and being the City of Bridges. Visitors of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail are treated to all of the above and more while traveling its smooth 24 miles. Nestled along the banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, the Y-shaped trail comprises several unique sections, which carry its users by the home fields of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates, multiple magnificent bridges and all the way to the iconic Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).

Its connections don’t end at the GAP, however, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail is also part of the developing 1,500-miles-plus Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (a TrailNation project)!

Kinzua Bridge Skywalk

Feeling dizzy? That’s because this Mapping Moment is from atop Pennsylvania’s Kinzua Bridge Skywalk, 301 feet above the ground! When it was built in 1882, the Kinzua Bridge—also known as the Kinzua Viaduct—took the title of tallest railroad bridge in the world. After the bridge was no longer used by the railroad, it was eventually opened as a state park, granting the public a chance to "walk the tracks across the sky." In 2003, a tornado unfortunately demolished large sections of the bridge, but today, the 600-foot remaining portion provides dazzling views of the fallen segments and the beautiful Kinzua Valley.

If you’re hankering for a slightly longer trail experience, the 6-mile Kinzua Valley Trail, which is nestled in the Allegheny Forest, is just a short distance away.

McDade Recreational Trail

If you’re in the mood for pristine natural landscapes and a good thigh-burning workout, Pennsylvania’s McDade Recreational Trail is for you! The 32-mile greenway wanders through the stunning Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which boasts nearly 70,000 acres of forest, the Appalachian mountains, historic landmarks, the Delaware River, waterfalls, fields and the Delaware Water Gap. It has taken millions of years for the river to cut through the mountain and form this gorgeous geological feature, and the trail is great way to experience its awe-inspiring effect. In addition to its variety of beautiful views, the trail will also introduce you to several hills that are sure to get your heart pumping.

Being nestled in nature, you’re likely to see a whole range of wildlife—big and small—along the trail. Pro tip from our team: bring bug spray!

New Jersey

Middlesex Greenway

On these trips, we are very serious about accurately recording trail data, waypoints and other key mapping information—but we like to have a bit of fun along the way, too. This “wooohooo!” moment is brought to you by the 3.5-mile Middlesex Greenway. With its pedestrian and bike bridge which transports users safely across U.S. Route 1, the trail serves as an important transportation corridor, but the paved path also provides an escape into nature as it is primarily shaded by surrounding trees. The trail furthermore serves as a connector for multiple towns in northeastern New Jersey and is part of the East Coast Greenway, a developing 3,000-mile trail system that stretches from Maine to Florida.

Pleasantville to Somers Point Bike Path

Our team had an unquestionably pleasant experience on the 8-mile Pleasantville to Somers Point Bike Path (it may have even included a stop for a tasty ice cream treat …). The community gem ties together four small New Jersey cities—Somers Point, Linwood, Northfield and Pleasantville—providing a safe route connecting the surrounding schools, neighborhoods, parks, stores, and (of course!) ice cream shops. Though the picture of peacefulness here, the path also is within a short distance of the Atlantic Ocean and vibrant Atlantic City!

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Columbia Trail

One of our Garden State favorites, the Columbia Trail offers a bouquet of colorful landscapes. The majority of this 15-mile route runs alongside the Raritan River as it travels through lush forests, parklands, farmlands and a series of small towns. Our team luxuriated in the cool shade from its trees in the summer, but the fall foliage is sublime and definitely worth a leaf-peeping visit as well!

Despite being not far from the urban centers of Trenton and Newark, wildlife abounds along the trail, especially as it travels through the 500-acre Ken Lockwood Gorge. After decompressing in this natural escape, users will be happy to know that the trail connects to two other networks—the Patriots' Path and the Liberty Water Gap Trail—which navigate their way to Liberty State Park, right across from the Statue of Liberty.

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