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College campuses are the perfect place for trails as walking and biking make the most sense as quick, clean ways to cover the short distances between the residences, school buildings and businesses that are all close at hand to serve students and faculty. In addition to their value for commuting, many of these trails also whisk travelers out of the hustle and bustle of college life, offering a relaxing, recreational escape from the crunch of finals and school work. Here are some awesome rail-trails in and around college campuses across the U.S.
Stretching nearly 41 miles northwest from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg to small-town Prentiss, the Longleaf Trace traverses landscapes that range from the bustling heart of one of the state’s largest cities to the rural farmland that predominates in this area. The trail’s gateway on the Southern Miss campus offers a welcome center, and the experience on this Hall of Fame rail-trail includes several tunnels and bridges.
Tacoma was once a terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad that stretched all the way to the Great Lakes. Today, the Prairie Line Trail follows a short portion of that route down the center of the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus. Though the rail-trail is less than a mile long, it’s a beauty with a section of elegant gray-and-white brick, ornamental trees, rain gardens and several pieces of public art.
Just across the Schuylkill River from the University of Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill River Trail follows the shoreline northward out of Philadelphia. The 27-mile rail-trail itself offers lessons in history and culture as passes right by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and ends at the Valley Forge National Historic Park.
Not only do the students and faculty of the University of California at Berkeley have access to the glistening San Francisco Bay just a stone’s throw from campus, they also have an expansive trail system at their feet. The San Francisco Bay Trail connects more than 300 miles of trail that ring the bay, connecting San Francisco, San Jose
Cornell University students and faculty have not just one rail-trail in their midst, but two: the East Ithaca Recreation Way and South Hill Recreation Way. This pair of short but sweet rail-trails
Although the 6-mile Caperton Trail runs right through busy Morgantown, the ride is not short on scenery as it rolls through the arboretum on the campus of West Virginia University and traverses Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park, known for its showy cherry blossoms. At either end, the trail also ties into the Mon River trail system for longer get-aways.
Students needing a break from exams and hardcore studying can hop on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail right from the Yale University campus and head north into central Connecticut. The rail-trail spans 40 miles and, when completed, will provide even more miles of fun on a continuous north-south route across the state from New Haven to the Massachusetts border.
Skirting the University of Florida, this seamlessly connected trail network stretches just over 6 miles in Gainesville. The paved rail-trail is a commuter’s dream, linking neighborhoods, businesses and transit stops. A highlight is its U.S. Highway 441 pedestrian overpass; this stunning bridge is topped with a cherry-red simulated railroad track with a DNA-like twist.
Within minutes, travelers on the 9-mile MKT Nature and Fitness Trail
Although only a mile long, the Dinkytown Greenway provides an important link in a biking network connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The trail traverses the University of Minnesota campus on the east bank of the Mississippi River. Part of the route runs through a former railroad trench with the Dinkytown community (after which the trail is named) visible overhead. As the rail-trail heads west, it crosses Bridge No. 9, once used by the Northern Pacific Railway, which yields spectacular views.
Seattle’s nearly 19-mile Burke-Gilman Trail connects University of Washington students and facility with several parks (Gas Works Park is a standout), commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. Built in the 1970s, this Hall of Fame rail-trail was among the first of its kind in the country and helped inspire other rail-trails around the nation.
You'll have a variety of trail experiences to choose from in Washington, from rustic backcountry adventures to well-groomed paved routes through city centers.
Iowa has a rich railroad history, which is remembered and celebrated with more than 800 miles of rail-trail throughout the state.
Colorado: There are few states as well associated with outdoor recreation as this one—and for good reason.