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The North Coast Inland Trail is a series of trails across multiple northern Ohio counties that, as they expand and connect, are emerging as an impressive long-distance trail between Cleveland and Toledo. Within Huron County, the trail was built in two sections, with an on-road route bridging the gap in the trail between Collins and Wakeman. The other two segments of the North Coast Inland Trail are located in Lorain County and Sandusky and Ottawa counties.
The first section of the Huron County trail travels from the east side of Bellevue to the county seat of Norwalk. This crushed-stone path is well maintained, but the loose stone can make it tough at times for skinny tires and some wheelchairs. The views consist of classic Midwestern farm fields stretching to the horizon. Much of this route runs alongside an active rail corridor, creating excellent train-watching opportunities.
The agriculture landscape continues to the town of Monroeville, where a fabulously restored train depot (dating back to 1863) awaits. The depot and surrounding area host drinking water, a picnic shelter, restrooms, and—if you’re lucky—some great company from a local volunteer!
About 3 miles after leaving the depot, you arrive at a beautiful historical bridge over the East Branch of the Huron River. The 1871 stone double-arch bridge is a sight to behold, and wonderfully built observation platforms allow a great view of it. Moving a few short miles along the tree-lined trail brings you into the city of Norwalk and the terminus of this section.
It’s about a 3-mile gap before the next section of trail begins. You can reach it by taking surface streets through Norwalk, but only if you’re comfortable riding in traffic. The crushed-stone path picks up east of Norwalk and stretches just over 5 miles. Pleasant vistas of more farmland are plentiful along this section, though the tree cover is also heavier, which offers a good respite if riding on a sunny day.
In Collins, a horse trailer parking lot is adjacent to the trail. This section of trail ends at Derussey Road; there is no formal parking or a trailhead here, so plan on backtracking a short distance to Collins, or continue along a series of rural roads to reach the next segment of trail in Wakeman, an asphalt pathway which heads out east to the county line along the side of Highway 20.
To reach the westernmost trailhead (located just outside of Bellevue): From the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/I-90), take Exit 110 toward OH 4 (Sandusky/Bellevue) and go south. Travel 4.8 miles and take a left onto Beckstein Road. Go 0.9 mile, and turn left onto US 20 E. Go 1 mile, and take a right onto Sand Hill Road; the trailhead will be on the left in 0.3 mile. The end of the trail is 2.7 miles west.
To reach the Monroeville trailhead: From the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/I-90), take Exit 110 toward OH 4 (Sandusky/Bellevue) and go south 0.4 mile. Take a left onto Harris Road. After 0.7 mile, take a right onto OH 99 S. Travel 7.3 miles through the town of Monroeville; the train depot trailhead will be on the right shortly after passing Monroe St.
To reach the Collins trailhead at the east end of the trail: From the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/I-90), take Exit 118 for US 250 S and continue south 2.3 miles. In the town of Milan, take a left onto Williams St. and then in 0.2 mile a right onto S. Main St./OH 601 S. Travel 4.7 miles and then take a left onto US 20 E. Go 2.6 miles and take a left onto Heartland Center Road. Go another 0.7 mile, and the trailhead is on the right. The end of the trail is 1.3 miles east.
My husband and I rode an 8 mile section from the trailhead parking lot by the intersection of route 60 and route 20, by the old historic bridge there. The path crosses route 60, which jogs towards Vermilion, and passes a nice pond and small park area with covered benches, a work out station and a portable restroom. Wakeman has a pub, a coffee shop and an East of Chicago Pizza right uptown near the Gazebo at the park for refueling.
We came off the Lorain county section of the trail and entered into Huron County near Wakeman. We biked the section along Route 20. Very nice asphalt paved trail separated by a grassy section between the trail and the road. In Wakeman we turned around and headed back to Elyria.
Trail services in Wakeman we found a service station/convenience store for cold water to purchase.
I had initially intended to ride the entire Huron County portion of the NCIT in one day but unfortunately I got a late start and was forced to break this cross county ride into two separate rides.
In both cases I started my ride in Norwalk, Ohio from the N. West Street trailhead. I decided that I would ride east first and then return. There is a 3.2 mile on-road stretch in Norwalk east of the trailhead on N. West Street starting at State Street and continuing until you reach the Clinton portion of the trail starting at Laylin Road. Leaving Norwalk this on-road section of the trail was well marked and motorists are informed to share the road. However, except for one small portion where there are bike lanes you are riding on the road in traffic with no berm. My impression was that these roads were not exceptionally busy but that could have been due to the time of day I was riding. Since I have never been very comfortable riding on roads that I am unfamiliar with when I reached the end of the actual trail east of Collins, Ohio I chose not to continue with the on-road route to Wakeman when I reached Derussey Road. In addition, I was concerned that returning from Wakeman late in the day would put me on the roads in Norwalk right about the time the sun would be at a difficult angle where drivers would be looking into the sun as they and I were headed west. The map posted here on TrailLink.com for this portion of the NCIT does not show the on-road portions of the trail as part of the trail. The Firelands Rails to Trails Group that manages the Huron County portion of the trail views these on-road segments as part of a complete trail in their county.
The off-road trail surface is composed of crushed limestone. Inside the city of Norwalk it is packed down pretty well and any type of bike tire would be able to navigate the trail easily. East of Laylin Road the surface gets much softer. I have 2 inch Schwalbe Marathon Plus Touring tires and I could feel the increase in rolling resistance so be warned that this might not be a trail friendly to bikes with thinner tires. Firelands Rails to Trails considers the trail scenery west of Collins as some of the best on the entire NCIT, but for me I felt as though I was riding through a green tunnel most of the time. I suppose that in early Spring and late Fall when there aren't as many leaves on the trees and brush that the views of the scenery are much better.
A week later when I returned to Norwalk to complete remainder of the Huron County portion of the NCIT I rode from Norwalk to Bellevue, Ohio. The this portion of the North Coast Inland Trail travels west through Monroeville and on to Bellevue while paralleling an active Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad rail line. Once you get to Bellevue, if you take an on-road route through town, you can connect with the Sandusky and Ottawa Counties portion of the NCIT. I had intended to ride to the to the start of this next county segment but the on-road segment through Bellevue was not signed or acknowledged at the end of the Huron County NCIT section so I decided to turn around. If you intend on riding the entire NCIT check out the connecting on-road sections on a map before you go.
Again, the trail between Norwalk and Bellevue is a crushed limestone surface that was somewhat soft. It appeared that shortly before my ride additional stone had been recently laid down on the trail. Wider tires would help on this surface, but perhaps after some time this newly laid stone will compact and the surface will feel a little less soft.
Riding this trail section reminded of the Katy Trail in Missouri. Perhaps it was the trail surface and the corn and soybean fields that surround the trail. Perhaps it was the farming towns that these trails run through and mileage between them that is similar as well.
I would like to see the Firelands Rails to Trails Group, who have done a great job of promoting and maintaining the Huron County portion of the NCIT, to continue to push to purchase, develop, and maintain more of the missing portions of the trail so that on-road riding is eliminated almost completely. I also hope that some day the trail will be paved as well. Sometime in the future I will have to take a couple of days and ride the entire 100 mile plus North Coast Inland Trail in one ride.
Started ride in Collins and rode east to end point. I then rode west to Bellevue. There is a 4 mile road ride between the trails. I used my phone gps to assist me. Trail is well marked every 1/2 mile. Trail is well maintained. But no skinny tires. My favorite parts are the road portion and bridges over Huron river.
Today my gf and I rode this trail. We started at Norwalk and headed west to Bellevue.i would recommend this route.I was very surprised with how well the trail was maintained and planed. the views are spectacular..stop and check out the old trains in Bellevue very interesting part of railroad history.
Even on a great Saturday afternoon, this trail was uncrowded and an enjoyable ride, although since it is unpaved it is more effort than the section in Oberlin. We started at the end in Norwalk. About 20 miles round trip. Note that the Mcdonalds sign you see as you are approaching Bellevue is NOT as easy to get to as it appears, and we turned around and returned. Convenient stop (probably best to drive though) either before or after your ride is H&B's Hop for food/ice cream. (33 E Seminary St, Norwalk, Ohio 44857-2119). We wished there had been a sign at the end in Bellevue telling us how much of a road ride we had before returning to a dedicated path, in case we had wanted to continue.
This is a flat, crushed gravel trail, not much coasting, be prepared to pedal. It is beautiful through the cornfields and farms. Only did the trail ride no road biking, trail ride was just over 9 mi, one way. We felt that was enough considering its a round trip adventure. Peaceful, and scenery abundant. It was a cloudy day, which made it a very comfy ride, but there is potential for being out in the sun for a good portion of the ride. Take plenty of water as there are no stops to refill and no bathrooms, access to little towns you could probably ride into, McDonald's at the end of the trail. It was a lovely ride. Thanks trail link for helping us find it!
The nearly 10 mile Norwalk to Bellevue segment is a neat little section of rail trail. Most of it is flat and straight, though there are a few slopes and gradual curves to keep things interesting, while the adjacent landscape varies from woods to wide open fields to the backyards of the village of Monroeville. The trail itself is mostly a nice finely crushed limestone surface, however some of the older parts of it in the Norwalk and Monroeville areas still have a slightly rougher dirt/gravel surface.
The trail crosses several meandering streams using refurbished railroad bridges, the most notable of which being the two that cross the Huron River. One is an double arched stone bridge over the Huron River's east branch near Norwalk, which features an adjacent scenic overlook deck offering trail users a view of the river below and the bridge itself. The other is a concrete decked bridge over the Huron River's west branch in Monroeville, which opened in 2012 as the centerpiece of a new section of trail that completed what had been a long standing gap.
The trail is well signed, there are mile markers every half mile and each road and stream crossing is labelled. A few of the trailheads have information boards and there are plenty of benches along the way. The trail is also birdwatcher friendly and has some bird habitat boxes in the open areas. The trail features several preserved railroad relics as well, such as the Monroeville depot and some whistle posts, land line markers and other railroad signage. The entire Bellevue to Norwalk section also parallels the still active Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway.
The only on trail restroom facility is a pota-pot at the Northwest street trailhead in Norwalk, the nearest food options are in downtown Norwalk and Monroeville, and the closest bike shop is on Main Street in downtown Norwalk. Overall this is a nice trail for an enjoyable walk, run or ride.
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