In eastern Kentucky, 18 miles of the planned 36-mile Dawkins Line Rail Trail are open for use. Although only half-finished, the trail has already become the state's longest rail-trail.
Most recently a coal-hauling line owned by the R.J. Corman Equipment Company, the railroad corridor was originally constructed in the early 1900s by the Dawkins Lumber Company—hence the trail's name—to transport timber. The trail crosses eastern Kentucky's striking Appalachian region, home to the highest biodiversity in North America.
The rail-trail passes historical coal structures, traverses 24 scenic trestles and the Gun Creek Tunnel, which spans nearly 700 feet. It is also the site of a national forest and state park. Among the most unique features of this area, in fact, is the elk viewing.
The trail's first phase from Hagerhill to Royalton in rural Johnson and Magoffin Counties opened in June 2013. The rail-trail will accommodate hikers, horseback riders and cyclists and serve as an adventure tourism attraction.
The second half of the trail, anticipated to be completed and opened to the public in November 2015, will extend it farther west into Breathitt County. The extension will include access to the 1,556-foot Tip Top Tunnel and amenities for equestrians such as water fountains for both people and horses, hitching posts, mounting blocks, and corrals near Hager Hill and Royalton.
The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is most easily accessed off State Route 825 approximately one mile west of Mill Creek Road in rural Johnson County.