Rails-to-Trails is a nationwide conservation effort to preserve historic and abandoned railway corridors by transforming them into trails. The first of these was the Elroy Sparta State Trail, which opened in 1965 in the small town of Kendall, Wisconsin. Since then, former railway lines from coast to coast have been adapted to fit pedestrian and “pawdestrian” needs. Today, they offer some of the best backdrops for Fido’s next long walk.
Posted by Billy Francis
1. Atlanta Beltline
The Atlanta Beltline is one of ATL’s newest and most popular outdoor spaces. Compared to most pathways on the list, this 22-mile recreational trail is still in its infancy. Construction began in 2005 and continues to this day, gradually transforming disused railway tracks into walkways that feature open green space and parks. One of the highlights for canine visitors is Fetch Park. This unique dog park features a 1976 Airstream converted into a full-service bar with wash stations and Bark Rangers making sure all the pups are playing nicely.
Spend the night in one of The Big A’s best pet-friendly hotels, Loews Atlanta Hotel. Guest pups receive treats, bowls and a food mat at check-in.
2. Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail
Named after former Congressman and trailblazer Harold T. "Bizz" Johnson, Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail sits on the old Fernley and Lassen Railroad line. Established in 1914 for use in the logging industry, it now offers Fido a long stroll through epic woodlands. Covering more than 25 miles of varied pathways, the trail passes through two tunnels, crosses 12 bridges, and runs along the Susan River and other creeks where your pooch can dip his paws in the water. If you’ve ever met Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox on The Great River Road, say hello to another version of the pair at the trail end in Westwood.
After your walk in the woods, rest up at this country cottage near Lake Almanor.
3. Katy Trail
Each year, a million people utilize the Katy Trail in Dallas. The former railway line stretches back to 1865, when the Union Pacific Railroad constructed the Missouri-Kansas-Texas line. The paved pathway has become one of Dallas’ most “pup-ular” attractions and has everything you need for an epic day out with your pooch. Dogs can rehydrate at the bowls provided next to every single water fountain along the 3.5-mile walkway. For something more substantial, swing by Mutt’s Canine Cantina just off the trail. This restaurant and dog park offers delicious brews for humans and a dog menu that includes pupsicles made of beef broth, peanut butter and an edible bone. To help raise money for trail upkeep and expansions, your pooch can become a member for $20. She’ll receive a bandana and invitations to members-only events.
4. Little Miami Scenic Trail
Little Miami Scenic Trail is the third longest paved trail in the U.S., stretching over 78 miles from Springfield to Milford, Ohio. The original pathway took in a section of old railroad tracks next to the Little Miami River. Over the years, like most of the trails on our list, it has grown and brought new life to otherwise deserted places. Along the way, Fido can splash in one of the trailside creeks, hop on another former railroad track starting at Xenia Train Station, explore gorgeous natural areas like Caesar Creek State Park, or stop for a refreshing brew at Devil Wind Brewing.
Little Miami Scenic Trail is only 30 minutes from Cincinnati. Take a detour to The ‘Nati and explore all the city has to offer, including a night at the pet-friendly Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown.
5. Burke-Gilman Trail
Seattle is one of the most pet-friendly cities in the U.S., so it’s no surprise you’ll find one of the best pet-friendly rails-to-trails here. Burke-Gilman Trail is just under 19 miles in length and takes walkers from The Emerald City to Bothell. Highlights include a stop at Golden Gardens Park for some off-leash fun, an industrial sightseeing tour of Gas Works Park, and a visit to one of the most epic dog parks in the country in Warren G. Magnuson Park Off-Leash Dog Area.
Take a break at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Seattle. Treats, food bowls and beds are available at check-in, and the hotel is conveniently located near local parks.
6. Cross Seminole Trail
Cross Seminole Trail is located just outside Orlando, but it couldn’t feel further from its bright lights and theme park buzz. Stretching 23 miles from Seminole to Lake Mary, it’s a wonderful way to experience the natural side of Florida. When you reach Big Tree Park, the paved pathway turns into a raised boardwalk surrounded by cypress trees. Continue your exploration of the Florida outback with a self-guided tour of Spring Hammock Preserve, a habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species. If your dog needs a break from the beating Florida sun, pause for a while at one of the many water fountains on the trail.
Spend the evening near the beach at this pet-friendly vacation home with a great backyard.
7. Monon Trail
Casually switching between wildflower-lined pathways and historic bridges over rivers and creeks, Monon Trail has something for every dog. The Monon Railroad originally connected Indianapolis to Chicago, but sections are now being utilized by pedestrians for important exercise like walking the dog. The repurposed pathway begins in Sheridan and extends south before intersecting with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Take a break from the trail with a short detour into Carmel Arts & Design District, where you’ll find an abundance of interesting art galleries. After your walk, toast another great wander with a beer on the patio at Upland Brewing Co. Tap House.
Complete your adventure with a unique stay at a former factory. Ironworks Hotel Indy is a rustic reimagining of a former industrial building. Canine guests receive treats, beds and bowls upon arrival.