Memorial Day marks a weekend of parades and other ceremonies
to honor those who have died serving our country. It also signals the
unofficial start of the summer season, when swimming pools open, barbecues fire
up in backyards across the country, and families head off for weekend excursions.
This year, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has created a
list of six rail-trails that offer the perfect way to get you and your family
outdoors and active while exploring some of America's memorable historical
sites and battlegrounds.
From the Capital Crescent Trail in the nation's capital to
the Minuteman Bikeway in Boston,
you can experience key moments in our country's history. These former railroad
corridors are deeply rooted in American tradition, trials and triumphs, and
they provide easily accessible-and inexpensive-getaways.
For interactive maps, directions, photos
and reviews of each of the trails on our list, as well as hundreds of other
rail-trails across America,
visit TrailLink.com, RTC's free, one-stop trail-finder website. With
more than 19,000 miles of rail-trail throughout the country, families
everywhere can enjoy a recreational Memorial Day weekend and explore historical
sites along former rail lines that helped shape our country.
1. Western Maryland Rail-Trail - Maryland
This 22-mile rail-trail guides you
through several eras of American history. The eastern trailhead is located a
half-mile from Fort Frederick State Park, which features the stone fort used as
frontier defense for the colony of Maryland during the French and Indian War,
and later in the Revolutionary War.
Location: Washington County
Length: 22 miles
(Limestone Rail-Trail) - Alabama
This 10-mile rail-trail passes
through Sulphur Creek, the site of Alabama's
bloodiest Civil War conflict. During the 1864 Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle,
a Tennessee & Alabama Central Railroad supply train moving Union Army
troops and goods from Nashville to Atlanta came under
attack; more than 200 soldiers were killed. The trail is named for local trail advocate
Richard Martin, who continues to push for the improvement and extension of this
Length: 10.2 miles
Surfaces: Crushed Stone, Gravel
Trail/Swamp Fox Passage - South
Famous for his guerilla tactics during the Revolutionary War, General
Francis Marion earned the nickname "Swamp Fox" by confounding British troops in
the Lowcountry of South Carolina. If you're retracing his steps, be wary of
recent rainfall. The notoriously swampy conditions from Marion's heyday occasionally overtake parts
of the trail as you head through coastal pine forests and wetlands.
Location: Berkeley and Charleston Counties
Length: 42 miles
Surfaces: Grass, Dirt
4. Capital Crescent Trail - Washington, D.C.
This 11-mile rail-trail takes you from the peaceful woods of Silver
Spring, Md., to the historical waterfront of Georgetown in Washington, D.C.-and
only a short bridge ride over the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery,
where you can take part in Memorial Day activities. It's a great route to reach
the fireworks show in the nation's capital without the hassle of crowds or
Location: Silver Spring, Md., to Washington,
Length: 11 miles
Surface: Asphalt, Gravel, Crushed Stone
Bikeway - Boston
This 11-mile rail-trail offers a rolling history lesson. The corridor
carries visitors through Lexington
and near the Lexington Battle Green, where colonial militia-the minutemen-fired
some of the first shots, and suffered some of the first casualties, of the American
Revolution in 1775. The pathway begins just west of Boston near the Alewife metro station.
Location: Boston, Mass.
Length: 11 miles
6. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail - Florida
Running just outside of bustling downtown Jacksonville,
this rail-trail crosses McGirts Creek near Camp Milton,
a site steeped in Civil War history. Halfway
along the trail's route is the Camp Milton Historic Preserve rest area, once
home to the largest encampment of Confederate troops during the Civil War.
Today, you may hear naval aircraft on training
runs at nearby Whitehouse Field.
Location: Duval County
Length: 14.5 miles
Wherever you end up, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!
Photos (top to bottom): Western Maryland Rail-Trail, Capital Crescent Trail and Minuteman Bikeway, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.