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The Moonville Rail Trail is planned to be a 16-mile route that utilizes the former Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad that began service in the 1850s. This railroad provided only industrial service, never carrying passengers because of its proximity to the Red Diamond Dynamite plant.
Currently, 8 miles of unpaved trail, usable for horses or walkers and hikers, are available from Zaleski to Mineral. Future plans call for the trail to extend approximately 8 miles to the east and link with the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway in Athens. To the west, the trail will eventually extend to the Jackson County line.
The trail runs from the western end in Zaleski up to the historic Hope Schoolhouse on an unimproved surface. East of the schoolhouse on Wheelabout Road, several bridges are missing from the corridor over the Raccoon Creek, but trail users can use the lightly-traveled, gravel Shea Road to continue east towards the Moonville Tunnel. From the tunnel trailhead and parking, the remainder of the trail east to Mineral has a crushed limestone surface, with new creek bridges installed in 2021.
This in-progress rail-trail will take visitors through beautiful southeast Ohio forest lands including Zaleski State Forest; the communities of Zaleski and Mineral; past New Marshfield School, which ceased operation in 2004, after more than 100 years of continuous use; and Lake Hope wetland areas. The corridor holds water on both sides of the trail creating a wetland area that is home to numerous species of flora and fauna.
Additional points of interest along this trail are the two unique and historic tunnels. King Switch Tunnel is a 120-foot structure carved through the rock and lined by a series of 12x12 wooden beams. The Moonville Tunnel is brick lined and thought by some to be haunted.
To reach parking and trail access at Lake Hope School, take State Route 278 to Lake Hope Dam. Turn east on Wheelabout Road and continue approximately 0.5 mile to the school.
Parking is also available at the Moonville Tunnel trailhead, located midway along the trail off of Hope-Moonville Road (CR-18).
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