The Rails to Trails Movement
This 21 mile abandoned railroad bed makes an ideal surface for hikers, bikers and horseback riders to enjoy. The rail trail has been officially renamed the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, in honor of Maryland's third Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary. Dr. Brown's vision was the major driving force in developing this multi-use recreational trail. Points of natural and historic interest can be found along the way, including the restored Monkton Train Station, which serves as a museum, gift shop and Ranger Station to visitors on the NCR. The Monkton Station is open Wednesday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Station is also open on weekends in the spring and fall. The Sparks Bank Nature Center is also located on the NCR Trail. The Nature Center is open on summer weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is available to school groups on request. Ambitious trail enthusiasts no longer need to make a U-turn when they get to Pennsylvania. The York County (PA) Park system has picked up where we left off. The Pennsylvania portion of the trail extends about 20 miles north to York, Pennsylvania.
The WMRT currently offers about 23 miles of flat, paved trail surface. The eastern terminus of the trail, known as Big Pool Station, is located ½ mile west of historic Fort Frederick State Park in Washington County, Maryland. Many visitors begin their WMRT excursions here although some prefer to start at the western terminus located in Pearre, Maryland, near Sideling Hill Wildlife Management Area. The WMRT parallels the C&O Canal for its entire length. Common activities that people enjoy on the trail include hiking, biking, jogging and inline skating. The easy grade and paved surface make this path ideal for families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities (the trail is very wheelchair friendly) to enjoy a trek outside. The trail is suited to anyone seeking a pleasant, leisurely outdoor experience. Biking and walking are the most popular uses of the WMRT. Pets are permitted on the trail.
The Easton Rail-Trail runs from Idlewild Avenue in the heart of Easton to Tanyard Branch. The initial 2.5-mile paved segment of the trail was completed in 1998. This existing segment connects Idlewild Park on the south end of town with the North Easton Park at the north end of town and is widely utilized. Future expansion of the trail would follow the rail line north to the village of Cordova. The town has restored a historic railroad station along the trail which serves as a museum, visitors center, and offices for non-profit organizations.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail offers 135 miles of hiking and biking between Cumberland, Maryland, and Duquesne, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. In Cumberland, the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, creating a continuous trail experience, 320 miles long, to Washington, DC.
The Maryland section of the GAP is a 22 mile rail trail that follows the route of the former Western Maryland Railroad from Cumberland, Maryland to the Pennsylvania line (Mason-Dixon Line). The GAP in Maryland parallels the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and its operational steam locomotive, which provides scenic three-hour excursions to interested travelers. The trail is composed of crushed limestone which is suitable for most bicycles. The trail elevation increases 1625 feet over its course when riding south to north. This rise is a moderate railroad grade of about 1.5%. There are no serious climbs, with two tunnels and several bridges to take you through the mountains not over them. The final few miles from Duquesne to Pittsburgh are still under construction and are anticipated to be complete by September 11, 2011. Check the web site for trail status www.gaptrail.org
The Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis (WB&A) Trail (not to be confused with the B&A Trail) runs along the site of the former Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad. From 1908 through 1935, state-of-the-art electric commuter trains ran along this route through Bowie and Glenn Dale, carrying passengers between Washington, DC, and Baltimore.
The 5.6-mile trail from Route 450 in Glenn Dale, running northeasterly to the Patuxent River, includes five bridge crossings, two tunnel crossings, and two at-grade intersections. Ancillary facilities include trail head parking and rest areas with benches, bike racks, and landscaping. The 10-foot wide bituminous trail runs from Glenn Dale through Bowie, and opened in November 2000. The trail will eventually be extended across the Patuxent River into Anne Arundel County.
The B&A Trail covers 15.5 miles between Glen Burnie and Annapolis following the route of the B&A Short Line Railroad. The B&A Trail maintains four parking lots and also passes behind shopping centers and public parking areas were trail users might access the Trail.
St. Mary County Department of Recreation & Parks is pleased to announce that the Three Notch Trail project is currently under construction. The recreational trail is being constructed along the 28-mile, County owned railroad right-of-way (ROW), which runs south from Hughesville (in Charles County) to Lexington Park (to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station). The trail will be a non-motorized pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian trail. The trail is being constructed of asphalt and will be 10 feet wide in most sections. Appropriate signage, benches, crosswalks and road barriers are also included in the scope of work. The project will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Capital Crescent Trail follows an abandoned railroad right of way and extends 11 miles from Georgetown, in the District of Columbia, to Silver Spring in Montgomery County. Approximately 5.5 miles of the trail are in Montgomery County. The trail, one of 500 rail-to-trail projects in the nation, traverses neighborhoods and parkland and includes stretches along the Potomac River. The trail is the most popular trail in Montgomery County. The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, a private, non-profit group, maintains a web site about the trail that features detailed maps: www.cctrail.org
The Catonsville Rails to Trails (CRTT) follows along a two and a half mile section of the old Catonsville Short Line Railroad from Charlestown to Catonsville. The one and a quarter mile eastern section of the Trail from Charlestown to the Beltway has been cleared. Access points are Maiden Choice Lane, Paradise at South Prospect, and Shady Nook Ave. A one half mile section of Trail has also been cleared on the western side of the Beltway with access from Mellor Ave. across from the Catonsville Armory. Plans are to complete the clearing and improve the surface of both sections of the Trail. CRTT is looking into ways to connect the two sections of the Trail in the future. Approved uses include walking and biking. Surface is rough gravel and dirt.
The College Park Trolley Line Trail
The College Park Trolley Line Trail provides a safe pathway for students, from kindergartners to doctoral candidates, to walk and bike to school in College Park. The short, paved trail follows the route of the trolley that once ran from Washington, DC, to Laurel between 1903 and the mid-'50s. With service roads on either side of the trail, trail users have easy access to three schools, and there is a partial route for college students heading to nearby University of Maryland. Of course, you don't have to be earning a degree to use the trail. Local residents use the path for after-dinner walks, commuters take it as a shortcut to the Metrorail system. The trail sits on a raised berm and crosses several quiet neighborhood roads, where you can easily pick up the pathway. Plans for expansion of the trail will enable the pathway to connect to a series of long trails around the region, and link all of College Park, end to end.
Maryland's Cross Island Trail spans Kent Island in Queen Anne's County, providing multiple points of access to everything from libraries and schools, to ball fields and the waterfront. It's an impressively signed, well-maintained, beautiful community asset. Begin at Terrapin Nature Park, a parcel of protected land for birds and native plant life. Just past the nature area, to the left of the trail, is an old graveyard with less than a dozen cracked and weather headstones tucked into the trees. If you can spot it, it's worth a peak. From here, the trail quickly winds through light residential neighborhoods and stands of white pines and hemlocks. At the first mile marker, you come to Old Love Point Park, a recreation area with baseball and soccer fields. Continuing along, the trail passes through farm fields, and you'll be able to see a lighthouse in the distance that indicates how close you really are to the seashore. At mile 3.8, you will have to do a short, back-road jog to reconnect with the trail, but a blue-painted bike lane makes this a simple transition. Back on the path, you'll come to a long wooden bridge that provides the first unhindered view of the water. This lovely expanse is a gem of the Cross Island Trail. Before reaching the marina in Kent Narrows, you must head uphill to cross over the causeway on the parallel US Hwy. 50, where there is an extremely wide shoulder. At the marina, you have a choice: Head to the left to Chesapeake Exploration Center, or head the right to continue along the trail. Here, the trail becomes a series of sidewalks and access points to the waterfront and its restaurants and boat slips.
Most visitors to Great Falls, Maryland, even long-time residents of Washington, don’t get away from the canal or the river. What they are missing are cool woods with wide paths away from the crowds. The trails are excellent for running, though some hills may be steep for short distances. Rocks also occasionally mine the path. Mining of a different sort was labored over near the intersection of Falls Rd. and MacArthur Blvd. Gold, over 5,000 ounces worth, was mined there and extracted through a chemical process. The mining went on from 1900-1939. Passing by the site, you can see the remains of the old building used, and also a water tower. It’s all off-limits for direct exploration and enclosed within a chain-link fence for safety’s sake. The mine shaft itself can be very dangerous. This mostly tree covered route (4.25 or 3.5 miles) starts by taking the path between the restrooms and the old Tavern. Just past the Tavern, look for the trail head sign for the Gold Mine Trail and turn left on it into the woods. It’s blazed in blue and climbs steeply at first. Bear left where the trail intersects the old trolley line. The trolley and tracks, long ago removed, took visitors to the falls from the city. Keep your eyes open to turn right, leaving the old trolley line, before hitting the road. After doing so, you’ll soon hit the loop portion of the Gold Mine Trail. Bear a little left at this intersection, but go straight across. The left most trail at this intersection takes you to the park entrance/exit road. A little further and you’ll reach the high point of the route, around 180 feet higher than at the traffic circle. The Falls Rd. Spur Trail will eventually appear on your left. If you wish to actually see the gold mine site, take this to detour further up the hill. Otherwise, continue on the Gold Mine Trail and head downward. The regular route turns left at the Angler’s Spur Trail. Going straight to finish the loop out as an option, the trail drops more before climbing back to the spur portion of the Gold Mine Trail. You can return the way you came via the trolley line. On the longer route, the Angler’s Spur Trail descends along a ridge before steepening at the bottom. I spotted several deer and a fox near here. Upon hitting the gravel road, turn right. It’s flat. Good views of the Widewater are visible through breaks in the trees. Turn left going over a bridge for the canal and head back to the start on the towpath.
The Indian Head Rail Trail is Charles County’s exciting new recreational trail. A generous gift through the Department of Interior’s Federal Lands to Parks Program, Charles County has completed converting this abandoned railroad corridor into a 13-mile bike trail. Connecting the Town of Indian Head to Route 301 in White Plains, the IHRT traverses approximately halfway across our County.
Without doubt, the IHRT is a unique opportunity to enjoy some of Southern Maryland’s most undeveloped natural areas. Originally built in 1918 as a supply route for the Navy’s Indian Head Powder Factory, this elevated rail bed passes through the Mattawoman Creek stream valley. Cyclists, hikers and nature enthusiasts will experience the surroundings of mature forests, natural wetlands and occasional farmland. Wildlife abounds! Visiting the IHRT is almost like stepping back in time.
The MA & PA Heritage Trail is a walking, running and bicycle trail located on portions of the former Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad corridor in Bel Air and Forest Hill, MD.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy serves as the national voice for more than 150,000 members and supporters, 19,000 miles of rail-trail throughout the country, and more than 9,000 miles of potential rail-trails waiting to be built. We have supported the tremendous growth and development of rail-trails since opening our doors February 1, 1986. Then, there were fewer than 200 known rail-trails. Today, there are more than 1,600 preserved pathways that form the backbone of a growing trail system that spans communities, regions, states and, indeed, the entire country.