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The Mendota Trail stretches the entire length of the former Southern Railroad corridor between Bristol and Mendota. As of September 2023, the 12.5-mile rail-trail is now complete and open to the public. Trail access is available at the Mendota Trailhead (across from 2421 Mendota Rd), in the community of Benhams (7720 Rich Valley Rd, Bristol, near mile marker 5.3), and at the Bristol Trailhead (by 3460 Island Rd).
Starting from the Bristol Trailhead, the first 0.4-mile asphalt section is fully ADA accessible with accompanying new ramp and steps. The remainder of the route is a combination of cinder railroad bed, gravel, crushed stone, dirt, and grass. Cyclists, walkers, and runners can use the trail to wander into lush and tranquil natural areas, which includes multiple creek crossings and is partly bordered by a river.
Continuing from the Bristol Trailhead, the route meanders north through the woods and crosses Reedy Creek Road. Slightly north of the Benhams Trailhead, the rail-trail curves slightly southwest and crosses Wolf Run Road three times as well as Gum Hill Road. Just before crossing Little Wolf Run Road, the route begins to head north again and comes to its northwest endpoint in Mendota.
As it winds through the woods and the occasional meadow or field, the rail-trail also has a number of river and creek crosses. It has a total of seventeen restored trestles, including several that cross a creek at the bottom of a gorge. A VDOT swinging bridge runs parallel to the trail bridge that crosses the North Fork of the Holston River at mile marker 11.5.
The trail is owned and maintained by a private nonprofit organization, the Mendota Trail Conservancy, Inc. Be advised that cell service is absent or very limited over much of the trail due to its remoteness. Dogs are welcome, though they must remain leashed.
For those driving, parking is available at the northern trailhead (across from 2421 Mendota Rd, Mendota), midway along the route (7720 Rich Valley Rd, Bristol), and at the southern trailhead (3460 Island Rd, Bristol).
Visit the TrailLink map for step-by-step directions.
TrailLink is a free service provided by Rails-to-Trails conservancy
(a non-profit) and we need your support!