Beginning just east of downtown Newark, the T. J. Evans Panhandle Trail runs parallel to active tracks of the Ohio Central Railroad, making this trail a nice example of rail-with-trail. Built and funded by the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, the trail is primarily used as a recreational corridor by the families living along the trail. If you like, you can head west from Newark along the sister path, T.J. Evans Trail
The few first miles of this nearly 10-mile trail are tucked behind neighborhoods and businesses and run along State Route 16 and the rail line, illustrating how much urban activity and transportation can fit along a single corridor. Looking south around mile 3.5, you can't miss the home office of The Longaberger Company, maker of handcrafted baskets. This seven-story office building is a replica of the company's Medium Market Basket. Longaberger employees designed the picnic-basket exterior and interior, managed the entire project and constructed more than 50 percent of the building. The interior has cherry woodwork harvested from Longaberger Golf Club property and milled, sawed and shaped by Longaberger employees.
For the next handful of miles the trail winds through the rural landscape of eastern Licking County. Here in Amish County, horse and buggy caution signs are as prevalent as cornfields. You sail past grazing cows and hear frogs croaking in marshy areas along the trail. Summer days find turtles sunning on logs and creek banks. American sycamores, slippery elms, and bittersweet grow in the surrounding woods, and whitetail deer visit isolated ponds along the route.
The best time to visit this trail is early October, when the leaves are bright and the air is crisp. The last 2 miles of the Panhandle Trail mark the southern border of the Longaberger Golf Club property. The course is one of most coveted in the state, with 12-month-long waiting lists.
To reach the trail's west end in Newark, take State Route 16 east to the Buena Vista Exit in downtown Newark and go south 500 feet. Turn left onto Main Street for 300 feet then left onto N. Morris Street. After crossing the railroad tracks, veer right and turn left into the parking lot.
To reach the eastern endpoint in Hanover, take State Route 16 east to the Nashport Road/State Route 146 Exit and go north. Turn right onto State Route 585/Marne Road NE. Take Marne about 1 mile to Felumlee Road and turn left. Go across the railroad tracks; the end of the trail will be on your left.
I road the entire distance July 7th 2008. The asphalt was in great shape. A few cracks that span the width of the trail were all I saw, and they were only noticeable visually. The Eastern 1/2 is more scenic (stone cliffs like Blackhand gorge near by) ...
"I love this trail, especially in the late summer and fall when the goldenrod and purple joe-pye springs up toward the Longaberger golf course. (You can ride into the golf course and use the restroom, too! It's a bit of a hill.) However, there are a few ...