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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.
My wife and I parked at the Swamp Branch trailhead and headed Southwest toward Royalton. Our goal was to go all the way to the southern terminus of the trail but had to stop approx. 15 miles out due to a collapsed tunnel. the tunnel near Royalton was fine and a nice break from a rather warm day. but the tunnel 7 miles Southwest of Royalton had collapsed and was blocked. We turned back there giving us a 30 mile day.
The trail goes through some beautiful territory and well worth the trip. Much of the trail does go through and close to private residence. everyone we saw was pleasant with lots of "Good Mornings" and friendly waves. Much of the homes are pre-fab modular or trailers, due to a collapse of the coal industry some 15 years ago. most families took great pride in their property with nice landscaping and freshly manicured yards.
I have given a 4 star due to a lack of bathroom facilities and no water available. The ladies in Royalton at "Reisners gas station" make sandwiches and sell cold drinks. They were great and we stayed awhile and chatted before continuing on our ride.
The trail is finely crushed stone. In my opinion I would not take a bike on this trail with anything smaller than 32mm tires (standard on most Hybrids).
we brought our Mountain bikes and were glad we did. The larger tires helped in some of the loose and wet areas. My wife did get a flat but we carried extra tubes and got her back riding in no time. Be prepared for flats. bring plenty of water, and bring some snack bars. Hope this helps!
I rode the Dawkins on June 19-20. Started in the middle and rode out and back to Royalton. Second day rode from the eastern most trailhead--Jenny something to Hagerhill, then back to the middle of the trail (Swamp ___), and back to my starting point. I was very impressed with the trail. Good, smooth surface. The weather was very dry, warm, but not excessively hot. You need to bring your own water--no pumps or water fountains that I saw except at the Jenny trail head which is really set up primarily for horses (it's located about 3 miles from the eastern trail terminus on KY 825--not very clearly marked but it has a large parking area, steps to mount horses, a small holding pens for horses. I saw one horseback rider between the two days--nice guy out for a late-afternoon ride, armed with a revolver. Only saw three bikers over the two days.
Beautiful forests, scenery. You pass through some inhabited areas with houses, barns, modular homes, etc. I was chased down by a small white dog coming east out of Royalton and nearly lost my balance and ran off the trail before I got away--next time would use spray. The tunnel is a beauty--dry, wood timbers, smooth. I encountered a large snapping turtle at the eastern portal--almost didn't see it.
Trail is well-maintained, smooth. It's a pretty steady climb from the mid-point put to about the tunnel, but fun and easy coming back down. I stayed the night at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park nearby, and had dinner at Lizzie's (excellent) in Prestonsburg.
Not bike-related, but I did also visit Van Lear, just down the road from Loretta Lynn's homeplace. Visited the Webb Grocery Store (owned and run by Loretta's brother Herman), and took the tour of the old homeplace on Butcher Holler for $5. Enjoyed it.
Kentucky should be very proud of this trail and hopefully will add more in the future.
My wife and I rode this trail May 1st and 2nd on our tandem. Much to our surprise, it provided two days of riding for a total of about 72 miles out and back. This trail is complete end to end, but the Tip Top tunnel is blocked at about mile 25. Someone set a vehicle on fire in the tunnel a couple of years ago. I have my doubts it will be fixed anytime soon. To reach the southern side of the blocked tunnel you have two options. Follow dirt roads to try and find a way around or do what we did. Ride back to the car. Load the bike and follow Rt. 7 south from Royalton to Rt. 542, and follow this road for 7.1 miles to a remote trail head. No markers, bathrooms or much else. Used to be called Evanston. (Town no longer exists and was not on our gps). It's about 9 miles of very remote trail to the tunnel and an additional 1 1/2 miles in the other direction. For some reason this part of the trail was in better shape, and we felt more scenic than the other side of the tunnel. Go figure. Additional note. Beautiful bathrooms off Rt.23 trail head and the Royalton trail head. But they have never been open since construction. We spend two days riding and for the first time ever on a rail trail, did not see a single biker!! Not one. Well worth the visit. Just leave the road bike at home and enjoy. Pa. tandem team.( Marilyn and Roger 68yrs and 71yrs of age)
My first time mountain biking the Dawkins trail and it is a beautiful and fun trail. I passed several walkers, biking groups and a few horse back riders. The scenery is breath taking! I can't say enough good things about this trail or the people I met! I started at the marathon station at Hager hill and rode the entire length 24+ miles and back. Forty nine miles of fun and adventure. There is nothing boring about this trail. The locals have to be very proud of having such a wonderful state trail right in their own backyard.
First time riding a rail trail. I was impressed with the obvious efforts that it must have taken to convert all the various number of bridges to become bicycle friendly. The crushed rock base of the trail wasn't bad at all. We started at midway the trail and headed west to the tunnel. Totally worth seeing!!
just recently rode from royalton to mile 3 in johnson co. the trail is in great shape all the rain has it really smooth dissapointing to see so few riders taking advantage of this trail. really a great place to ride
We have taken portions of this trail on numerous occasions since it first opened. The trail has grown in length on the SW end. Although I don't think the new section it is officially open, you can ride it.
Unfortunately the trail is not maintained well enough for anything but mountain bikes, unless you enjoy giggling your brains out on your hybrids (don't even consider a road bike). The main problem is the horses and the thousands of mini-potholes created by hoof indentations. Don't get me wrong, I don't personally mind the horses on this trail. I have had no issues with horses and their riders, and I don't mind sharing the trail with them, but horses do tear up the trail. Maybe if the maintenance people would drag the trail once a month that would help. But as I understand it, there are only two maintenance people plus some volunteers, so they probably don't have time for this.
Also, we noticed a lot more dogs this last visit. None offered to bite us but came onto the trail and barked at us. My wife is afraid of getting bit, so she was not a happy rider!
Last of all, why don't they open the two bathrooms on the trail? What are they for? They have been there a long time but are never open. Mystery bathrooms... They look good... I guess they must be for the governor or the president when they visit! The maintenance people don't seem to know either.
Great trail i ride it regularly.I have ridden other trails and this is one of the best.After reading other reviews,I see that people have bad reviews.We need to understand this is not a blacktop trail it,s going to have bumps,gravels. snakes mud etc. this is nature,enjoy it If you can't ride well enough to ride around horse poop you need to ask yourself if bikeing is really for you .If your bike is too rough to ride on the trail maybe you have the wrong type of bike. If you want a smooth ride free of trail obstructions ride on the road.It never fails someone will complain every time.and if all the complaints were fixed people would find something else to complain about.Oh before i forget you who complain I have a solution to all your problems with the trail.Buy an indoor exercise bike so you have control of your environment ,but don't forget to get batteries for your tv changer so you won't have to get off,the bike to change channels
The trail is spectacular!! It's very well maintained and runs through a variety of different areas from fields, forest, and backyards. I have ran 11 miles of the trail begining at the Marathon at Hager Hill and ending 3 miles past the Swamp Branch trail head. I have not found a better place to run or couldn't imagine a better place. Surpised it isn't more well known. I can't wait to explore the rest of the trail. Thank you to anyone and everyone that has made this trail what it is.
We just did a part of the trail ride from the trailhead in Royalton to the 114 trestle. The ride was a little bumpy but other then that it was a great ride. Not a seasoned rider here but it was a fun trip and was very sceneful this time of the year. Many people were out working on yards, gardens and such. Everyone was nice and we enjoyed it as a family. We will be returning for more trips. As for dogs, we never seen any that chased us at any point, but then again we did not ride the entire length of this trail, but we did see many dogs. If you go this time of the year, take plenty of water with you.
For this area this was one I was looking forward to riding, a hours drive from home and I'd planned on the trail becoming a regular trip. Very nice people and well maintained but a full time crew couldn't keep up with the hoof prints on the trail, I'm not against people enjoying horse riding but from what I've understood RT's are meant for exercise for cycling and walking. Horses should fall in the same category as ATV's and there are tails for them like the Hatfield and Mccoy system. The trail I give the 3 stars for the view and attempt to maintain, but the horse traffic takes the other two stars away. Pot holes from hoof's and poop, it was unrideable for the daughter on her hybrid bike with the bumps and holes. The horses we passed crowded the trail and were a bit scary to meet a rider at full gallop, I'm sure I'll read of a accident sometime involving a horse here. As far as cycling, I don't plan on returning and unless it is paved and something to enforce horse riding to be safer for all. I fould riding on my mountain bike a good ride where there was a lack of horses. I agree with billybob357's earlier post, this is not the best for cycling which is what RT's are all about but more of the local horse riders club. A real loss for the cycling community and I hope more people comment with other reviews.
Had a great ride today, my second time riding the complete trail and it just keeps getting better. The residents who border the trail are very friendly and keep the edges mowed.
Nice bike rental shop at the Royalton trail head, had a chance to visit with the owner and he is a seasoned rider and advocate of responsible trail use.
The trail is in fantastic shape and very well maintained.
Out and back ride on a very well graded limestone gravel base. I think I will ride my cross bike next trip.
There is another 8 miles of trail listed as undeveloped, will have to add that on the next trip.
I pray they never pave it, truly the nicest gravel trail I have ever rode.
I am an eastern Kentucky resident, so I was excited when I learned of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail only about an hours drive from my house. This was my first opportunity to ride the trail and was somewhat disappointed in the condition of the trail surface. It was heavily pitted with hoof prints and more than just a little bit bumpy. It's a wonderful trail with beautiful scenery. I can only imagine how enjoyable the ride would have been on a smoother surface.
My wife and I are both casual riders, both 44 years old. We rode from Royalton, through the Gun Creek Tunnel and back. I rode a hybrid with front suspension and she rode a hybrid without front suspension. She didn't really have any problems, but she did say it was a little bumpy for her. The trail appeared to have many fresh repairs. We met some volunteers on a clean-up crew who were very nice and informative. There is a little horse poop, but no so much that it's hard to dodge. The tunnel is great, many neat bridges, beautiful scenery.
Here's how this trail is defined bumpy, lumpy, knobbly, stony, rocky, rugged, rutted, pitted, rutty.
I agree with billybob357's earlier post. Not for the cycling people, unless you have a full suspension MTN BIKE & that will make it a little better. No offense to Horse Riders, but it's heavily pitted with horse shoe imprints and needs to be graded monthly if not weekly come summer 2015.
Great trail, but will continue to decline if not taken care of properly.
I had been very excited about the construction of this trail for some time and finally got to go ride it. It's a beautiful trail with lots of potential. It appears to be a great trail for walkers and horses but I couldn't give it five stars because I was disappointed on a bike. The trail was really bumpy and cupped a lot from the horse traffic and it just got old from the nonstop jarring. I ride a lot of trails and I don't mind the occasional rock gardens and rough patches but for whatever reason it just felt like I couldn't keep a lot of momentum up because of the cupped holes from the horse traffic. Sort of like riding in sand. The bridges were wonderful. The views were great. The tunnel was great and fun. I don't know what the answer is and I don't have anything against sharing a trail but I wish there were lanes designated for horses and lanes designated for bikes so we could have a smoother lane. The material will never pack down with the constant tilling from the hoofs. And as this trail becomes more popular and I really believe it will especially with equestrians this trail will have lot less of a draw to returning cyclists I feel. So if you have a horse I know I would go here for sure, I'd love it on a horse. As far as cycling, I don't plan on returning and unless I hear they have devised a better system or trail material. I've ridden too many places I'd rather ride and enjoyed more from a cyclists point of view. But that is my opinion. Don't let me keep you from trying it out. I'd like to see what others have to say. Maybe I caught it after an especially busy week.
The trail is still in the works, but there is already 19 miles completed, and I'm not sure what some of these previous riders were talking about. I am glad I did not listen to their reviews. The gravel is harder to ride on than pavement (of course) and since I am used to only riding on pavement, I only managed 16 miles on my ride. However, I do plan on going back.
There were no dogs that chased me, but I did see some cuties in their yards along with some other great animals along the way. The bridges are great, and my only complaint was the barriers that are used to keep motorized vehicles out are a little too large, and makes getting through them a little bit of a challenge. The bike shop is just opening, but the people there are very nice, and they have a few snacks, drinks, and tools for repairs and a bathroom. It is at what will be the mid-way point, once it is complete. I highly recommend the Peanut Butter Protein Pie if they have any made.
We got some great pictures from our day there and I recommend going in the fall so that you can enjoy the changing of the leaves. If you are in the area, I'd give it a try. If it were closer, I would go there more often. The hills were challenging for me, even though they were gradual, because I'm a newbie to this, but the ride overall was a lot of fun. Gravel is small/compact, and my hybrid was able to make the ride, it just took a little more effort than I am used to. My favorite part, without a doubt, was the tunnel. I recommend having a headlight while riding through that. I felt that the trail was in good condition when I went.
There is now a small bicycle shop/coffee shop at the Royalton trail head parking lot, at the intersection of Rt 7 and 867. It is only open on weekends for now, they sell and rent both mountain and road bikes, as there are many great road routes (867, 7, 825) in this part of Eastern Kentucky. You can get parts, accessories and minor repairs as well as a good selection of healthy foods, drinks (coffee), and snacks for the trail.
I usually ride on roads, so this was my first time on a gravel path. I had read all of the reviews before the ride. The path was smoother than I expected especially since it had suffered extensive flooding in August 2014. Some of the repairs were still rough but nothing serious. I only saw 2 dogs running loose; a dog of about 3 pounds and a weiner dog. All others were penned up or tied up. The trail is crossed by several ATV trails, but no sign of ATV use on the trail. For the reviewer that said there was, it was probably from the Park Rangers that patrol the trail until 8 pm everyday.
For the reviewer who said there was only one attraction. Did you miss the old WPA building, the stairs that lead up to an old cemetery, The Narrows, the wet weather waterfall, and the ravine?
The trail now starts one mile west of the Royalton trail head. The state has awarded a contract to begin construction of the next nine miles of the trail. It is slated to be open in May 2015.
It was a beautiful ride, and I will be going again.
We rode this trail today. We parked at the public parking lot next to the Marathon station at the eastern end of the trail because there is no trailhead here. Turn right off of Route 23 onto Route 1428 towards Hagerhill, Ky. And the Marathon is on the right. The trail starts just up the road on the left. The trail itself is crushed stone and runs 18 miles with not much to see except for a beautiful tunnel about 14 miles to the west. Aside from that, the trail goes through the areas between roads and some secluded areas. There are numerous problems along with a lot of potential for this trail. First, there is only one defined trailhead and to get there you have to travel to the middle of nowhere. Next, there are too many safety gates that are installed that are too large (wide) and in bizarre places along the trail. I would estimate that half or more of these gates are unneeded and an impediment to bikers enjoying free riding. Lastly, the trail is poorly cared for as the growth on the sides has been allowed to encroach onto the riding ares of the trail at various points, making side by side riding difficult. This trail could be beautiful but is not currently inviting or well cared for and has only one major attraction. There are several sections of mild incline with the payoff on the way back and down. Please take care of the trail and consider how to attract riders to enjoy it. A few rest ares along the trail would also help.
Drove down from Huntington, WV yesterday and rode 18 miles on the trail. It was one of the nicest trails I have been on in a long time. The scenery is gorgeous, the wild life (including the dogs :)) is cute. Met several riders on the way and had great conversations, even the residents of the area were happy to see us.
One can tell that the trail is fairly new and I can tell you that with time it will get better. Sure the gravel is soft, but with use and time it will get packed down. Even the wood treatment smell on the bridges and tunnel will go away.
I loved my trip down to do the trail and i can't wait to get back.
I’ve ridden this trail many times and will ride it many more. The trail is actually very well maintained and the “ditch” a previous poster mentioned has already been taken care of. I will admit the dogs were a minor nuisance throughout the winter months but recently they have placed signs along the trail and placed a park ranger out there during daylight hours. For me, dogs are not an issue at all during the warmer months because there is more traffic on the trail and well dogs don't feel like chasing you when it's hot.
To be perfectly honest, it seems some of these eastern, KY folks are just too hard to satisfy. You have the longest rail trail in Kentucky right in your backyard and you want to complain because gravels are bumpy and there is one little indentation across the trail. Yes, I’ve ridden the entire trail and I can promise you this was the only little problem area on the trail and it didn't last long before it was repaired. That’s pretty impressive. I have ridden many trails and this is by far one of the best maintained and I’d be beyond proud of it if it were in my hometown. There is no fee to ride this trail. There is no one standing there waiting to take your money before you can ride. People should be grateful. It’s a beautiful trail through a beautiful area and I’ll keep recommending it to anyone and everyone.
My grandson and I rode 2.2 miles from the Royalton trailhead and returned, vibrated to pieces! The trail would be wonderful if the gravel surface got smoothed after the freeze-thaw ravages of winter. The scenery in great if you have a really good set of shocks on your bike - we don't. There is one erosion-caused ditch across the trail at about 1.2 miles that is deep enough to be hazardous.
I was expecting the freezing and thawing to do a lot of damage to the trail, but it looks like the 100 year-old railroad base is holding up just fine so far.
I rode about 8 miles out from the east end this evening (just short of the Swamp Branch trailhead) and turned around at the New Bethel church at Riceville. The surface is just a little soft, but nothing that would take the fun out of a ride that sure took the edge off the cabin fever the bad weather has brought with it!
There's a small wash out at Collista that was caused by a culvert that's stopped up, but it's small enough to ride right over.
I guess most folks are fair-weather riders. The only tracks I've seen for the last month have been mine.
I heard last week that another mile has been completed on the Royalton-Evanston section.
I really appreciate the nice compliment (?) that you have so kindly (and condescindingly) paid to us po folks back here in Eastern KY.
"Considering where this trail is located in the hills of eastern Kentucky, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the job they did on building this trail."
I live here.
I can get on my bike and be riding on the trail in 5 minutes from my home.
some porta-potties on the trail heads would be nice, and there are a few dogs along the trail that are a little intimidating at first.
The worst dog problem I've had is with a big German Shepherd around the Denver area. His name is Buster, and he's a big sweetheart. He follows me across a couple of the highway crossings, and I'm worried that he's going to get hit by a car.
I stopped and talked to Buster's owner, so now I just snap him up to the chain on his dog house and go on with my ride. There are a couple more dogs that will bark and chase, but if you stop and confront them they will go back home.
A little more parking would be nice, but the Marathon station on the east end of the trail has an overflow parking area, and they have always made it available to the folks that use the trail. I've ridden the trail one time from the Royalton end and the folks there at the country store were as nice as they could be.
I cannot imagine a better thing to have here in my community.
If I lived and owned property adjoining the trail I would hate it, but I don't. Many of the folks along the trail are my life-long friends, and I treat the rest of the folks I see on the trail the same as my friends. A lot of these folks have had thefts and trespassing problems directly associated with the trail. Please be aware of that fact when you are on the trail.
I consider myself fortunate to have this trail right outside my back door.
I'm looking forward to the Evanston section being opened this summer!!
This trail is in great shape and the bridges are beautifully built. It can be a nice ride, but the dogs on this trail have been a major issue for me. On a good day it's great, but on a bad day it's terrible. I rode with a friend once and was forced to turn around and go home when a German Shepherd chased us for a solid mile or more. We had hoped it would eventually get tired and go home, but after watching it attack another dog we decided it was probably best to just get out of there.
There is also a home that has three dogs and I've yet to make it by that place without getting chased. A slow rider would definitely get their tires nipped by those guys. They've never chased me any further than the area they seem familiar with, but it's still annoying to deal with. I have heard of people bringing pellet guns on this trail, but that's definitely not my style.
I've had much better luck riding in the warmer months, but after dealing with five aggressive dogs in one ride, I probably will not return to this trail.
We rode the trail in August 2013. It was beautiful and the bridges were wonderful. It will be even nicer in the fall when you can see the colors and really see the rock formations! The dogs were very well behaved, but I will bring an air horn next trip, just in case. Thanks to the General store in Royalton for allowing us to use the restrooms and having diet Root Beer!! This was the only bathroom we found on the trail. Our only suggestions would be more signage to the parking area, especially off Rt 23; a port-a-potty would be nice at the parking area and more info on the KY state parks website about parking (that it is not at the beginning but rather in the middle) and food choices along the way (that there are none until the end). Great ride - we will be going back. PS thanks to the engineer that helped getting us started, your design is wonderful.
Rode this trail early August 2013 with my son. We began at the Royalton Trailhead to take advantage of the large gravel parking lot. There was no convenient parking at the Hagerhill end. The trail is in pretty good shape considering it only opened in June. The gravel is still a little thick and slow in some places, but I'm sure after some time it will become more firm and hard packed. The many bridges are beautifully built and smell like fresh cut lumber. The tunnel is a nice cool break from the heat and just really neat to see and ride through. Perfect photo opportunity!! This trail is not as flat as many of the rail trails I've ridden, a few of the gradual inclines rise up for a couple miles at a time. Little bit challenging but lots of fun!! Take plenty to drink and some energy bars and enjoy!
Considering where this trail is located in the hills of eastern Kentucky, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the job they did on building this trail. It truly is first rate in terms of the trail itself as well as the treated lumber bridge remodeling, to the signage along the length of the trail. The trailhead (although I didn't park there) has plenty of space for parking. Information about the trail is nicely displayed here. There is also a tunnel on the trail which adds a nice touch. They are to be commended for a job well done!
My concern with this trail is the fact that much of it borders the backyards of numerous residences and commercial businesses and seems that it might be viewed by locals as an encroachment on their property and privacy. I don't know how they will take to it being there over time. There are already some signs of abuse by ATVs (only minor so far), which are clearly prohibited from using the trail. I would be interested in seeing the condition of the trail say a year or two from now. I hope my concerns are premature and unjustified. I hope the effort and expense that went into the trail with be appreciated by local residents, as this will add recreation value to their property.
I only had time to take a little over 15 miles of the trail (30.7 miles up and back). I started about 3 miles from the Paintesville end and road to the western end and back. There were several other bikers on the trail that Saturday, even though there was a threat of rain all day. In fact, it started pouring down rain about 2 minutes before I made it back to my car. I didn't get too wet, and I am glad it didn't start toward the other end! There were still several other bikers on the trail when I got back to my car, so they probably got drenched. Oh well, that's part of the fun!
Enjoyable ride even in the heat of summer solstice, opened june 15 2013, 18.2 mi. Mostly follows country roads but hidden or private with quiet around you. Good surface condition, crushed gravel (reminded us of the Katy Trail), well rolled except in spots toward the Hagerhill end. (we ride hardcase tire touring bikes) Fun for mountain bikes as well. From the Hagerhill end its a slight steady incline most of the way to the Gun creek tunnel, then flat or varied to the Royalton trailhead. Highlights: great unique long reinforced tunnel, Gun Creek tunnel is really refreshing, some deep hollows toward Royalton are true Appalachian temperate rainforest, the best are the 24 tresles over small creeks and valleys all scenic and provide varience, many deer, birds, Shetland ponies, llamas and one woodchuck noted. More open toward Hagerhill, canopy toward Royalton. Mid point at Swamp Branch trailhead 8.8 mi, but there is nothing there. Hagerhill trailhead has no parking itself but is close to US23 on 1428, the Marathon gas station about 300 feet away allowed us to park in a large adjacent gravel lot. Bathrooms, food, water there and at Royalton. Would recommend starting at Hagerhill toward Royalton eat lunch then downhill return. Enjoy.
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