Oregon trail makes Top 10 longest rail-trails; John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Washington leads list

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A trail in Oregon is the newest addition to the list of Top 10 longest rail-trails for bicycling.

Merritt Creek Trestle on OC&E Woods Line State Trail in Oregon

Merritt Creek Trestle on OC&E Woods Line State Trail in Oregon

The 110-mile-long OC&E Woods State Line Trail — which follows the abandoned corridor of the Oregon, California, and Eastern Railroad — is listed at No. 10 on the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s latest listing of longest rail-trails. Most of the trail is gravel, cinder, dirt or ballast, except for the 8 miles at the western terminus near Klamath Falls that is paved.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Washington state still leads the list at 253 miles.

The Conservancy created the list to publicize trails that exceed 100 miles in length of which 90% is on abandoned railroad right-of-way.

Some trails, such as the 132-mile Northeast Texas Trail, don’t qualify because long sections are inaccessible because of overgrowth or private property issues. Others, such as the 185-mile C&O Canal Towpath, didn’t make the list because they’re not rail-trails.

Also, it’s worth noting that the Soo Line Trail – Northern Route (No. 5) and Soo Line Trail – Southern Route (No. 9) are primarily all-terrain vehicle routes, although Traillink.com says mountain biking is a suitable use.

Except for the addition of the OC&E Woods State Line Trail, this list is pretty much the same as the last time I checked in 2013. The only other major difference is the Great Allegheny Passage rose to No. 4 (from No. 5) after the completion of the trail into Pittsburgh. Also, the George Mickelson Trail missed making the list by 1 mile.

10 longest trails

Follow links to Traillink.com for more information.

John Wayne Pioneer Trail

John Wayne Pioneer Trail

1. John Wayne Pioneer Trail (Washington), 253 miles — The western section rolls for about 100 miles between Cedar Falls and the Columbia River at Vantage. This well-maintained section passes through the narrow Iron Horse Trail State Park. Bicyclists are treated to dramatic scenery from high trestles in the Cascades and arid plateaus and canyonlands east of the mountains. One of the most visited features is the 2.3-mile-long Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel built 100 years ago.

The going gets much rougher east of the Columbia to the Idaho border. The trail here is often loose railbed ballast. Towns and services are few and far between.

The Cedar Falls trailhead is slightly less than an hour’s drive from Seattle. See all the stories about John Wayne Pioneer Trail at www.bikingbis.com.

2. Katy Trail State Park (Missouri), 238 miles — The route stretches from Clinton to Machens, with many towns in between that offers services to bicycle travelers.

3. Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail (Nebraska), 195 miles — The rail-trail is the old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and rolls across northern Nebraska between Valentine and Norfolk. Sections of it have been closed since 2010 because of severe flooding damage.

Check out the Cowboy Trail Flickr slideshow ; also the Cowboy Trail state website.

4. Great Allegheny Passage (Pennsylvania and Maryland), 150 miles — This is becoming one of the nation’s most popular off-road bicycle routes. While the GAP runs through the Alleghenies between Cumberland, MD., and Pittsburgh, PA., it also connects to the C & O Canal Towpath that runs between Cumberland and Washington DC. Combined, the route is 335 miles and passes many small towns that offer services to bicyclists.

All services are listed at the Great Allegheny Passage website.

5. Soo Line Trail — Northern Route (Minnesota), 148 miles — Rolls on gravel and ballast between Moose Lake and Cass Lake. Although bicycling is listed among the uses, it is more frequently used by all-terrain vehicles. The Minnesota state parks department warns — “This trail is not well suited to bicycling.”

Scraped railway equipment in storage yard on JWP Trail.

Scraped railway equipment in storage yard on JWP Trail.

6. Columbia Plateau Trail State Park (Washington), 130 miles — The trail follows the historic route of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad in eastern Washington. The entire route isn’t passable to bicyclists. The state reports that 23 miles of the trail between Lincoln County and Cheney are developed and open for bicycling. Another 15 miles of trail from Ice Harbor Dam to Snake River Junction are open to hikers and bicyclers

See the state park website for details.

7. Paul Bunyon State Trail (Minnesota), 121 miles — The trail may not be the longest rail-trail in the nation, but it is the longest paved trail. The website reports 112 paved miles from Brainerd to Lake Bemedji State Park. It connects the Heartland Trail, Blue Ox Trail, and the Cuyuna State Trail.

8. Flint Hills Nature Trail (Kansas), 117 miles — This rail-trail links dozens of towns across northeast Kansas that offer many services to bicycle travelers. Parts of its are unimproved, however, and rough going for road cyclists. The trails are suitable for mountain, hybrid and cyclocross bikes.

The trail connects with the Landon Nature Trail, creating nearly 150 miles of bicycling. The trails were developed by the nonprofit Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.

9. Soo Line Trail — Southern Route (Minnesota), 114 miles — Like its sister trail to the north, this rail-trail is mostly devoted to all terrain vehicles. The Minnesota state parks department warns — “This trail is not well suited to bicycling.”

10. OC&E Woods Line State Trail (Oregon) 110 miles — The trail in south central Oregon heads eastward from Klamath Falls to a junction near Beatty. The shorter branch continues east toward Bly, as the northern section heads north toward Yamsay Mountain and Thompson Reservoir.

Other trails that exceed 100 miles:

George Mickelson Trail (South Dakota) 109 miles — The trail passes through the Black Hills for 110 miles, mostly through National Forest land. It has more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four tunnels over that distance. More information at the George S. Mickelson Trail website.

Blue Ox Trail (Voyageur Trail) (Minnesota) 107 miles — Runs between International Falls and Lake Bemidji State Park and connects to the Paul Bunyon Trail, of course.

State Line Trail (Michigan) 107 miles — This rugged trail — mountain bikes only — crosses 50 bridges.

Wild Rivers State Trail (Wisconsin) 104 miles — A trail in northwestern Wisconsin that’s primarily gravel and rough ballast.

If you’re looking for a more inclusive list of longest trails, check out this link to Wikipedia. It’s not complete, though. Curiously it doesn’t mention the longest rail-trail, the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.


Permanent link to this article: https://www.bikingbis.com/2015/01/15/oregon-trail-makes-top-10-list-of-longest-rail-trails/

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