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Nature's Own Fireworks Display--Fall a Great Time for Rail-Trails

If the weather where you are is anything like the D.C. area, when you woke up Sunday morning it felt like the seasons had changed overnight.

And though we bemoan the shorter days, the oncoming fall is a wonderful time for rail-trails. Not only do we wave farewell to the sweat-soaked rides and pesky bugs of summer, this time of year Mother Nature unveils an extraordinary pallet of colors with fall foliage.

Across the country, rail-trail groups are planning fall foliage rides and hikes to take advantage of this short but spectacular window of opportunity.

On Saturday, October 20, fans of the Western Maryland Rail Trail have organized their own fall foliage bike ride and picnic. When the colors start to turn and blaze, there are few better seats in the house than a rail-trail. Here's a few rail-trails famous for their fall colors.

Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, Vt. This gentle, crushed-limestone pathway begins in St. Albans and winds through rolling hills and dairy farmland, generally following the Missisquoi River. Daytime temperatures should still be comfortable (nights quite a bit chillier), and the autumn landscape radiates color and wildlife.

Paul Bunyan Trail, Minn. Northern Minnesota usually reaches its autumn heyday between late September and early October. The paved, 110-mile Paul Bunyan Trail (above) is well-suited for users of all kinds, and the foliage views are as epic as the trail's lumberjack namesake.

North Central State Trail, Mich. The 62-mile North Central State Trail in northern Michigan offers an arresting backdrop for fall. Birch and maples pop firecracker yellow and glow red and orange like coals in a campfire.

Hudson Valley Rail Trail, N.Y. Well worth a stroll for anyone eager to feel awash in golden leaves. At just more than two miles long, the Hudson offers an easygoing trip from Highland to Lloyd, where the woods begin to glow by mid- to late October.

Virginia Creeper Trail, Va. The 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail offers a dirt and asphalt journey just above the North Carolina border. The trail's dense forests, sleepy hills, long trestles, pockets of pastureland, grazing cattle and inviting communities will make for a memorable and photogenic ride.

Galloping Goose Trail, Colo. The Galloping Goose is a long, full-day ride that will see you gaining significant elevation as you delve deep into Colorado's Uncompahgre National Forest. The glow of the region's famous aspen trees notwithstanding, this 20-mile-long trail is surrounded by the splendor of snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks.

Silver Comet Trail, Ga. This scenic and well-maintained multiuse trail connects Smyrna, Ga., on the outskirts of Atlanta, with the State Line Gateway Park on the Georgia-Alabama line.

Carrabassett River Trail, Maine. Maine's Carrabassett Valley is one of New England's most scenic plots. Mix in a sea of golden-flamed aspens, crimson red maples and purple-hued Joe Pye Weed each fall, and you've got the makings of the perfect weekend escape.

Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle, Wash. Come fall, Seattle's 17-mile Burke-Gilman Trail is a great spot to savor fall's colorful sweep, which usually strikes between late October and early November. With the higher precipitation in this part of the world, the leaf-peeping bonanza here is shorter--but worth the wait.

American Tobacco Trail, N.C. Along the rail lines that once supplied the factories of the American Tobacco Company, bikers, inline skaters and horseback riders now slice though the thickly forested countryside between Durham and west of Raleigh. Fall generally peaks a little later down here in the South, although the show is no less enjoyable.

Explore maps, photos and reviews of trails across America at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's free trail-finder website, www.traillink.com.



Posted Tue, Oct 9 2012 1:00 PM by Jake Lynch
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