Since 2007, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has recognized 38 exemplary rail-trails and trail networks around the nation through the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Now, it’s time to choose the newest addition to this prestigious list—and we need your help to decide.
After considering and reviewing trails from across the country, we’ve narrowed it down to three outstanding nominees, who have been selected on merits such as scenic value, high use, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, community connections and geographic distribution.
To determine which of these nominees gets the esteemed spot, we’re holding a nationwide vote from July 30 to Aug. 6. During the voting period, it’ll be up to trail aficionados like yourself to support your top pick by voting as many times as possible and encouraging other fans to do the same.
But before you cast your vote, get to know the 2021 Rail-Trail Hall of Fame nominees!
Weaving through the picturesque landscapes of New Hampshire, this once heavily traveled, former Boston-to-Montreal corridor of the Northern Railroad is now a safe space for residents and tourists alike to commute and enjoy nature. Along its 59-mile length, the Northern Rail Trail offers scenic views of lakes, greenery and everyday life for trail users, who flock to the space for activities such as walking, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and dogsledding. Mascoma Lake, one of six right next to the trail, even skirts around a portion of the trail—allowing for trail users to cool off on a hot day with a swim. Historical elements abound along the trail, including: trestles; a covered bridge, the granite remains of a locomotive turntable and restored milestone markers; stone culverts; and Andover’s Potter Place Railroad Station, a restored railroad station from 1874 turned museum.
Passing through rural areas, most without sidewalks, the Northern Rail Trail was created, and immediately used, as a safe alternative to biking and walking on roads. Both students and community members now use the trail for commuting, as well as enjoying programming and events.
Plans are in the works to extend the Northern Rail Trail to West Lebanon and the state capital of Concord!
These two connecting trails are community favorites in Delaware. The trails—which link to two main ocean beach communities, over a dozen residential developments and major retail businesses—are well-traveled by locals and tourists. Beyond recreation, these trails are used as alternative methods of transportation-- giving trail users the ability to walk or bike to work, school, restaurants, and shops. Last year over a million people chose to use the Georgetown–Lewes Trail and Junction & Breakwater Trail instead of vehicular modes of transportation. Trail users of all kinds enjoy the paved and crushed-stone paths to get around, see the sites and participate in a variety of events.
The Georgetown-Lewes Trail begins at Gills Neck Road and shares a terminus with the Junction & Breakwater Trail. Users of these trails can take in the magnificent scenery at Cape Henlopen State Park, where they can connect to several gorgeous beachside trails to explore. Once inside the park, users will be treated to a beautiful, pine-studded rail-trail, which winds next to wetlands and farmland. Much of the trail is nestled in nature, and trail users may spot hawks, snow geese and Canada geese, as well as deer, squirrels and other small woodland creatures. Farther down the path, there is a chance for a quick break and perfect photo op at a refurbished 80-foot railroad bridge built in 1913.
Part of this trail was dedicated to the memory of Tom Draper, who was not only a TV station owner, but also an avid cyclist and nature lover. In addition to the nods to its history, the beloved pathway has an exciting future, as the Delaware Department of Transportation has plans to extend the Georgetown-Lewes Trail in 2021.
The longest paved loop in the nation, the Raccoon River Valley Trail is known as the “quintessential central Iowa experience.” This path totals 89 miles and offers views of agricultural landscapes, woodlands and prairies on a route that connects rural communities as well as the larger cities of Jefferson, Des Moines and Perry. On the eastern leg of the Raccoon River Valley Trail, a plethora of wildflower meadows bustling with wildlife are on full display; along this same route, shops, bicycle-repair stations and restored train depots welcome trail users. To add further delight, the Town of Adel recently created a unique and colorful “lighted bridge” and the City of Waukee installed eye-catching public art, including a 350-foot-long gateway pergola, along the local trailhead.
When the Raccoon River Valley Trail first opened in 1989, there were few major trails in Iowa, but since its opening, it has been embraced by locals and visitors to the region. The trail is not only a tourist engine and vital asset for health and wellness—but a way to bring together people together through various programs and events, from statewide races to local 5Ks.
Looking to the future, the Raccoon River Valley Trail is continuously expanding its connections—aiming for all to have access to the nature it offers. More connections to other trails are continuously in the work, including a connection to the iconic High Trestle Trail.