Sidebar: Vacation Close to Home

Rhonda Ostertag
September/October 2008
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Traveling along a rail trail provides a relaxing “stay-cation,” offering new scenery, recreation and the opportunity to unwind without the need to drive or fly to a distant spot. Here are just a few rail trails to visit:

The Minuteman Bikeway, in Massachusetts, winds along 10 urban miles where the American Revolution began in April 1775; historical markers unravel the tale.

Withlacoochee State Trail, in central Florida, travels 46 paved miles through wildlife management areas, a state forest and small towns with citrus stands. At Istachatta, you can buy jumbo boiled peanuts at a general store that was once a whistlestop hotel.

The Katy Trail traverses Missouri on the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas rail line, stringing together river bluffs, Lewis and Clark history, rural landscapes, prairies, wetlands and forests.

Paul Bunyan State Trail, in Minnesota, is a 110-mile trail, with 57 paved miles. It travels past 21 of the state’s 10,000 lakes and visits pine forests, wetlands and communities.

The Route of the Hiawatha, at the Montana-Idaho border, traces 15 scenic mountain miles where the old Milwaukee Railroad crossed the Bitterroot Divide. It is noted for its towering trestles, long tunnels and wildlife viewing.

George S. Mickelson Trail in South Dakota travels 110 miles through the Black Hills, national forest, rangelands and canyons.

Oil Creek State Park Trail near Titusville, Pennsylvania, travels 9.7 miles alongside picturesque Oil Creek in the bottom of a broadleaf-forested canyon. This historic rail trail travels past the birthplace of the oil industry, Drake Well (now a museum).

Chief Ladiga Trail, Alabama’s first extended rail trail, offers a family-friendly, 33-mile discovery in Calhoun and Cleburne counties. Named for the Creek Indian leader, it passes through wetlands, woods and farmlands.

The Betsie Valley Trailway in Michigan offers a 23-mile tour on different surfaces from Frankfort to Thompsonville, passing through Beulah. This pleasant see-the-area trail travels along Betsie River and Lake and Crystal Lake. Birding and autumn colors draw and delight travelers. 

Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway in Texas strings 20 miles through signature Texas landscape: sweeping prairies, longhorn cattle and horse ranches, percolating tributaries and cottonwoods. Along the route, you cross an overpass span decorated with 104 Lone Stars.

Prairie Spirit Rail Trail is a 51-mile rural celebration of Kansas, where songbirds, turkeys, rabbits and deer are quite at home. Small towns, shade trees, ponds and open countryside engage visitors.

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