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The Kokosing Gap Trail delights visitors with its rich railroad history, which is on display throughout the paved route. Once the corridor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the rail-trail now connects the towns of Mount Vernon, Gambier, Howard, and Danville, each just a few short miles apart. Enjoy a landscape of ravines and farmland as you cross the Kokosing River twice along railroad bridges more than 250 feet long, and appreciate a moment’s respite from summer sun while traveling through the Howard Tunnel. Also stop to marvel at an old locomotive and a bright-red wood caboose, both of which were fully restored with funds raised in the local community. The trail has a smooth asphalt surface and park benches about every 0.5 mile.
Starting at the trailhead in Mount Vernon, the first part of the trip takes you along the sunken valley of the Kokosing River. You’ll head east, passing one of several overlooks of the river and the surrounding valley, and cross two former railroad trestles. The bridges have been meticulously restored and are well worth a stop to admire the handiwork.
Shortly after crossing the first bridge, you’ll reach the Brown Family Environmental Center at Kenyon College. A visitor center and a butterfly garden beckon you to take a break and come in for a self-guided tour through the garden. Where the trail intersects busy OH 229 and enters Gambier, pay close attention for a safe crossing. After passing the campus of Kenyon College, find the Gambier trailhead and its impeccably restored train cars. In early morning and twilight hours, vintage-like streetlamps shed light on your journey near the Gambier trailhead.
Howard, like the rest of the towns along the Kokosing Gap Trail, provides notable diversions. The trailhead has a parking lot, restroom, and a playground donated by the Rotary Club. Just after an arched stone passage under US 36, an incredible historical mill towers over the trail. Another bridge provides views of a smaller tributary that flows into the Kokosing River, and the trail soon opens up again onto farm fields and pastures. After about a mile more, you are back among trees, with periodic glimpses through the gaps in the forest of farm fields in the distance. Enjoy a quiet final 3.5 miles until the trail’s end in Danville.
For a longer ride, you can easily extend your journey on other trails. From its west end in Mount Vernon, you can connect with the Heart of Ohio Trail via the Downtown Connector Trail. And on its east end, there’s a short gap across Danville, but then you can pick up the Mohican Valley Trail. These trails, in addition to the Kokosing Gap, are a crucial link in the Ohio to Erie Trail through Knox County. The planned 320-mile route (which includes both trail and on-road segments) will eventually span Ohio from the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland to the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
All of the towns along the route provide trailheads with parking and seasonal facilities. See the link above or use TrailLink.com to learn more.
The Mount Vernon trailhead is on Mount Vernon Ave. From I-71, take Exit 131, and head east on US 36/OH 37. In 3.7 miles, turn left to remain on US 36, and go 21.9 miles. Turn right onto Columbus Road/County Road 80, and in 0.8 mile, turn right onto Parrot Road/CR 83. In 0.6 mile, turn left onto S. Main St., which in 0.7 mile veers right to become Mount Vernon Avenue. In 0.9 mile the trailhead is on the right (south) after Cougar Dr.
To reach the Danville trailhead: From I-71, take Exit 151, and head east on OH 95, which eventually becomes Sandusky St. and then Mount Vernon Ave. In 10.5 miles, turn left onto Montgomery Road, and go 2.8 miles. Turn right onto Old Mansfield Road, and in 0.3 mile, turn left onto Lower Fredericktown Amity Road/County Road 66, which becomes Danville Amity Road/CR 14 after crossing OH 3. In 12 miles, turn right onto S. Richards St. In 0.5 mile the trailhead will be on the right.
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