Across the country, abandoned railroad tracks have been transformed into walking, hiking and cycling trails. Exploring all or part of a trail can be a wonderful way to spend time outdoors on your summer vacation.
While New York City’s High Line is among the shortest trails — only 1½ miles long — it’s one of the most unique. The High Line is a park built on an elevated rail line on the West Side of Manhattan. You can wander through gardens with 150,000 plants, view art displays, watch performances and get a bite to eat. There’s plenty of seating if you want to relax and enjoy the Hudson River.
The Great Alleghany Passage stretches 150 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Along the way you can stop at small towns where you’ll find everything from museums and train rides to summertime festivities like free concerts, outdoor fairs and antique shows. You can travel the first 16 miles on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.
The Silver Comet Trail and Chief Ladiga Trail span 95 miles from Smyrna, Georgia —northwest of Atlanta — to Anniston, Alabama. After the first 10 miles or so, you’ll find yourself in a scenic area of woodlands and farmland, mountains, cliffs and ponds, reaching Alabama’s Talladega National Forest at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains.
Along the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path you’ll find solitude intertwined with suburban neighborhoods. The Prairie Path begins west of Chicago and branches out in three directions. It passes through the Big Woods Forest Preserve, a patchwork of restored prairie and wetlands that includes a lake and stream. The Illinois Railway Museum is a short drive from the trail.
Utah’s historic Union Pacific Rail Trail State Park runs 28 miles from the resort community of Park City, following the route of a rail line that transported coal and silver ore in the 1860s. You’ll have a chance to see wildlife like foxes, bald eagles, moose, deer and beaver.
Nevada’s River Mountains Loop Trail is only 45 minutes from the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip. The 34-mile trail surrounds the River Mountains and connects the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Hoover Dam, Henderson, Boulder City and the rest of the Las Vegas Valley. You’ll be treated plentiful wildlife and the vast beauty of the Mojave Desert.
Washington State’s Burke-Gilman Trail, about 20 miles, is a fun way to explore Seattle and some of the surrounding area. You can start your journey at Golden Gardens Park, on Puget Sound, then continue through some of Seattle’s eclectic neighborhoods, on to the University of Washington and along Lake Washington. At the end of the trail, you can catch a bus back to the city.