Of the more than 2,100 rail-trails across America today, 39 exemplary pathways have been inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Since 2007, RTC has been recognizing these model rail-trails—celebrated for their scenic value, popularity, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, and the community connections they make. Among their number are some of the first pathways of the rail-trail movement, as well as others that revolutionized how trails can impact communities along their routes, or that simply showcase some of the country’s best and most unforgettable trail experiences.
In this new edition of the Rail-Trail: Hall of Fame guidebook are updated descriptions of our previous winners and the four latest entries (spotlighted below), which were ushered in by public vote. So, settle in and explore these rock star trails from home, and get ready to plan your future trail adventures.
Louisiana’s Tammany Trace is a Southern belle nestled in the pristine natural surroundings of the Northshore, separated from vibrant New Orleans by vast Lake Pontchartrain. Spanning just over 28 miles, the rail-trail crosses a number of small creeks and bayous on more than two dozen bridges, and connects five quaint towns—Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombe and Slidell—each with its own unique character and appeal. In the tall piney woods, coastal marshes and wetlands along the route, quiet travelers may have the fortune of seeing wild turkeys, red foxes, deer, rabbits, or even a wild boar or alligator. This lush backdrop has been a summer escape for New Orleans residents and other visitors since the 1800s. Offering the best of both worlds, the Trace has many areas that feel remote, even though restaurants and shops are always close at hand.
The Cardinal Greenway—the longest rail-trail in Indiana—stretches 62 miles from Marion to Richmond in the state’s bucolic eastern countryside. The trail takes its name from the Cardinal, the passenger train that once regularly ran the route; in Muncie, travelers will find the beautifully restored Wysor Street Depot, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Highlights of the route include several bridges—such as the one that overlooks the Mississinewa River—and experiences through scenic parks and quiet woodlands. At trail’s end, the Greenway connects to the Whitewater Gorge Trail, which features rugged cliffs and waterfalls accessible by foot paths off the main trail. The Cardinal Greenway is also a host trail for the 3,700-miles-plus Great American Rail-Trail, which will one day form a seamless connection between Washington, D.C., and Washington State.
Hudson Valley Trail Network (New York)
Tucked into New York’s picturesque Hudson Valley, a trio of connected rail-trails—the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, Walkway Over the Hudson and William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail—form a seamless paved pathway spanning nearly 22 miles. Beginning on its west end, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail connects the towns of New Paltz, Lloyd and Highland as it travels through a mixture of commercial areas and wooded canopy. Highlights include a rock cut where springtime wildflowers bloom in the crevices, and two magnificent arched bridges. At its eastern end, the trail connects to the Walkway, one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world. From the bridge, the views of the Hudson River, 212 feet below, are simply breathtaking. In Poughkeepsie, the Walkway meets the Dutchess Rail Trail, which continues east through a green landscape of dense tree cover, and then south through a smattering of communities and along the Veterans Memorial Mile to the Hopewell Depot built in 1873.
One of the longest rail-trails in Mississippi, the Tanglefoot Trail meanders for 43.6 miles through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area. The trail follows a former railroad line created by Col. William C. Falkner—great-grandfather of Nobel Prize–winning author William Faulkner—in the late 1800s. The paved pathway features mature hardwood forests, fields of cotton and soybeans, pastures and wetlands. Dotted with shady spots to take refuge from the heat, the trail takes riders over wooden bridges that offer views of waterways and wildlife. Along the way, the route connects six communities—New Albany, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, New Houlka and Houston—that offer pleasant places to rest, eat and shop. Four whistle-stops—reminiscent of train depots—serve as additional trail entrances and tributes to the pathway’s rich history as a railroad.
Want to learn more about these amazing destinations and other great Hall of Famers? You’ll find maps, helpful details and beautiful photos of 39 multiuse trails across the country in our updated Rail-Trail: Hall of Fame guidebook, available now.