Thinking about taking a hiking or biking trip? Maybe it’s time to consider train travel to one of these rail trails!  While the disappearance of many railroads in the U.S. has had its downsides, one silver lining is the conversion of many former miles of tracks to rail-trails. These provide bicyclists and hikers with a scenic and healthy way to explore the beautiful American landscape. Because these trails are scattered widely across the nation, having a list of them could be a helpful tool. Here are a few of the longest in the country as tabulated by the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

• Katy Trail State Park (Missouri): At nearly 240 miles long, Katy Trail State Park spans nearly the full width of Missouri and is the country’s longest continuous rail-trail, intersecting with rural farmland, scenic small towns, and centers of commerce and government on its route paralleling the Missouri River. Along the way, it invites its walkers, runners and riders on a journey to explore the history of the state. The Katy Trail is in the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame and is designated a Millennium Legacy Trail.

• Palouse to Cascades States Park Trail (Washington): The 229-mile-long Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, is one of the longest rail-trail conversions in the United States. The trail passes through remote and sparsely populated areas of Washington state that are rich in wildlife and natural beauty. The trail is also part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, a 1.5 million-acre landscape surrounding I-90 between Seattle and Ellensburg.

• Cowboy Trail (Nebraska): The Cowboy Trail stretches 189 miles between the Nebraska towns of Valentine and Norfolk (beginning at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park south of town). When complete, the trail will continue west another 126 miles to Chadron. In 2015, a short portion of this western extension—just over 14 miles, stretches of which have been improved with crushed limestone—opened between Gordon and Rushville. The expansive trail can now be found in seven counties: Antelope, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Madison, Rock and Sheridan. The entire pathway also includes more than 200 bridges.

• Great Allegheny Passage (Maryland & Pennsylvania): This is an iconic rail-trail that runs 150 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was built in partnership between state agencies and many local trail groups and volunteers. Ever since the Great Allegheny Passage opened in 2007, overnight bicycle riders and backpackers have flocked to the 150-mile rail-trail in Western Pennsylvania. The welcoming small towns along the route lure travelers with lodging, camping, markets and dining. Trail users marvel at the awesome scenery along one of the longest rail-trails in the United States.

• Soo Line Trail – Northern Route (Minnesota): The Soo Line North Trail travels for 113 miles through forest and bog between Moose Lake in the south and Cass Lake in the north. The trail, which is popular with ATVs in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter, runs through Hill River State Forest, Bowstring State Forest and Chippewa National Forest. The Soo Line North Trail connects with the 114-mile Soo Line South Trail at Moose Lake.

• Columbia Plateau Trail State Park (Washington): The Columbia Plateau Trail State Park has developed 38 miles in two segments between Fish Lake near Cheney and Martin Road near Sprague, and between Ice Harbor Dam near the Tri-Cities and Snake River Junction. It passes through the scenic uplands of eastern Washington and along the Snake River. The middle 92 miles are undeveloped and difficult going. The trail follows part of the former right-of-way of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad, and visitors will see mile markers with numbers referencing the distance from Portland, Oregon.

• Paul Bunyan State Trail (Minnesota): Stretching 119 miles from Bemidji to Brainerd, this multiuse, fully paved trail is mainly for nonmotorized use; however, snowmobiles are permitted during winter. The rail-trail follows an inactive railroad corridor built in 1893 and last owned by Burlington Northern. The corridor passes through boreal forests, along more than 20 lakes and 10 rivers/streams, and among meadows sporting colorful wildflowers in spring. Wildlife will also be encountered along the way. Those using the trail for the long haul will find towns situated every 8–10 miles.

No matter how someone plans to enjoy any of these trails—on foot or on wheels—they provide extraordinary and unique vistas on the United States’ natural allure.

© 2022 Silver Disobedience Inc.