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From I-65 take Exit 361 and head west 4 miles on Sandlin Road/SR 100 toward Elkmont. The trailhead is on the left, marked by a restored depot and railcar. You can also park at one midway section along Upper Fort Hampton Road (CR 49), near the Elkmont-Mayers Post Office, and at two other locations near the south end: along (Hays Mill Road/CR 80 near where Hays Mill and Carey roads converge) and off Huber Road (CR 82).
Limestone County Parks & Recreation
310 West Washington Street
Athens, AL 35611
Having missed my run due to travel, I found this location on my way back from Nashville. It was so convenient to the interstate that I could change clothes, take a quick run and my hubby could get in his walk and we were back on the road. The shaded trail was perfect even when a quick rain blew in and we were hitting the trail in the heat of the day.
Look forward to trying the full route on the next trip...
This is a follow-up review from the one I wrote in 2012. I wrote then that there were many horses and basically no bikers. I'm happy to report that has changed. On my ride on a beautiful mid-September Sunday 2015, there were fewer horses, and bikers were fairly numerous, a very pleasant change. Good to see fellow bikers out there. Most of the horses still seem fairly skittish of bikers though, so I'd suggest going pretty much as slow as you can go when encountering horses. Do that and there should be no problem with them. The horse hockey seemed to be less than before.
I'm also happy to report that the barking dogs issue I mentioned before is no longer an issue. The house (at the northern trailhead) is no longer occupied or even habitable, so there are no dogs anymore. You can go to the restroom in peace.
It's really about as pleasant a trail as you could ask for. I stretched out the ride by several miles by riding a loop on some lightly-traveled roads that are actually marked with signs as a bike route. At the northern terminus I took a loop of Pettusville Rd./Spence Cave Rd./Pettusville Rd./Robinson Rd./Veto Rd., which was very nice, though there is a substantial hill or two to go up at one point. You get rewarded for that though when you get on Robinson Rd. and it very quickly starts going downhill and there's a maybe half-mile section that's gently curvy and goes through a forested section. It's a fun and slightly scary ride because you can FLY, if you want to. Here's a look at it on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/udKqb6ngRKE2
If I lived closer, I'd use this really nice trail a lot for both biking and walking. The folks there are lucky to have it.
We stayed at Mill Creek Rv rode out first day towards Tennessee. At end we rode some of the back roads on payment too! Went back by campground and then rode into Elkmont and back. Second day we took bikes to Elkmont and parked at caboose and rode towards Athens to end and back. Second day was almost 12 miles round trip. Leaves were falling and only saw two walkers and one biker and no horses today. Don't have mountain bikes but had no trouble it was hard packed. Little up and down hills so got a good work out!!!!! Ate at new goat cheese place and got ruben turkey sandwich which was good. Did not tour factory. Groupon had a coupon but we were tired.
A nice ride to take lunch. Tables and covered area and restroom are at each end. Nice parking looked safe and very open.
Found this trail by happenstance. This trail was very nice. Easy, shaded and several things to see. It is a great family trail. Stopped at the Belle Chevre Cheese Shop and Tasting Room in Elkmont for lunch.
...and bike rental!
Read more at: http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2013/04/post_10.html
I've biked the Richard Martin (RM) about ten times, and I won't return because of the horses.
I don't know what I'm doing that unnerves the horses, to the point that some want to jump off the trail - even when I'm stopped waiting for them to pass, but I'm convinced that the situation is too dangerous for me to continue to use the RM.
I would like to see is horse-free hours on the trail (something like 6am - 10am and 4pm - 8pm, with perhaps bike-free hours from 10am - 4pm) to enable an increase in safety.
As some have noted, the horses vastly out number the bikers, and perhaps all other users.
The RM is far and away the best cross country ride near Huntsville, as far as I know. At half the length, the RM is the closest I've found to my favorite trail, the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Maryland. On the NCRT I have never experienced the level horse (or horseback rider) anxiety that I've encountered on the RM. The NCRT seemed wider than the RM, so that may have alleviated the anxiety issue.
Visited the trail based on the reviews. Was not difficult to find, as Elkmont is a one stop sign town and the trail runs straight through downtown. We started in the middle of the trail and went north. The trail is crushed stone but well packed and smooth. On this day the trail was wet from showers and muddy in places but not enough to require fenders. Most of the trail is under the trees canopies which made it cooler in the summer. The very North end the trail gets primitive, dirt road like, with a historical church, newly built picnic area and restrooms awaiting your arrival. They were well maintained. We saw a few riders, a couple horses and local with two dogs. Not much traffic for such a nice trail. The South leg from the mid-point is almost straight as an arrow. You can see a long distance down the trail and the gradual incline seems to go on and on and on. The South parking lot is impressive with a huge parking lot, nice restrooms and a pavillion. An enjoyable experience. Worth the trip and worth a return visit. The only negative is finding the restroom at Elkmont. There was no sign on the door and not located where indicated on the trail map. I did not feel so bad when another biker could not find the restroom and asked us.
I biked this trail on the last Sunday in April 2012. Not sure if it was meant originally to be primarily a horse trail, but that certainly seems to be the case now. I biked the 20 mile round trip and encountered many horses/riders, but made it nearly all the way without meeting a single other biker. Finally there was a father riding with his young daughter, out for probably just a brief ride. So if you have biked other rail-trails and expect to encounter numerous bikers like you have on those trails, you should not expect that here. You might be the only one.
As further evidence that bikers are scarce on the trail, most of the horses I passed were skittish of me. After the first time, I rode as slowly as possible past horses, so as not to alarm them. I mentioned to one lady that the horses didn't seem accustomed to bikes. She said, "They're getting better. But we're happy to have you here."
* Even though it's mainly an equestrian trail, you definitely CAN ride the entire length on a bike quite comfortably. And you should. Let's get more bikers out there! :)
* As you might expect, there's 'horse hockey' (as Col. Potter on M*A*S*H used to say) and plenty of it. Though I had no trouble dodging it, you'd have to put that down as a negative. Unless you're unusually fond of it. I'm not, particularly.
* It's not paved (would be awesome if it were), but the packed-gravel surface is fine. I don't mountain bike because I don't care for having my teeth rattled and my head moving around like a Bobby Bonilla bobblehead. I was fine on this trail. The roughest, rockiest surface is a brief stretch after you come out of the woods going on to the Northern trailhead. But it's short and you could actually ride that stretch on the road that runs parallel to the trail at that particular point.
* 20 miles of continuous riding on a paved trail would take, at least at my usual speed, a couple of hours. You'll probably naturally go slower on this trail, so it will take significantly longer. My trip actually lasted five hours, what with lots of stops for photo-taking and restroom breaks and such. So you can definitely make a whole afternoon of it, if you're of a mind to.
* At the northern trailhead right beside the little church which now serves as the terminus point (and has restrooms), there is a small house with a fenced-in (thankfully) yard in which there are about a dozen dogs. They will bark loudly and continuously at you as long as you're around. Unfortunately, the men's restroom is closest to the house (very close, in fact), and so I got a real earful. Though, thankfully, that's all. Maybe they should put one of those electronic gizmos near the church that supposedly stops dogs from barking. If those really work.
* Heavily shaded virtually the entire length, the major exception being the town of Elkmont. Even that isn't very long.
* Very decent restrooms at both trailheads, and also in the depot in Elkmont (though the restroom there has no sign on the door. It's on the south end of the depot.) More than ample parking at both trailheads, and Elkmont. They obviously made space for horse trailers. Convenience store in Elkmont. Stroll over to it, maybe buy yourself an RC Cola and a Moon Pie, and enjoy while sitting on a bench at the depot. There are two nice little rain shelters on the trail, one on the south leg, and one on the north leg.
* I've posted photos beginning at the southern trailhead, Coffman-Mitchell Park, which is mile marker 0. There are photos at every mile marker, as well as particular points of interest. The mile markers on the trail are quite nice and clear (I've been on other trails where they were confusing) and posted not just every mile, but every half-mile. Very nice.
* Though I see others have commented about an uphill grade at some point, I honestly never noticed anything like that. To me, the whole trail was nice and flat (brief, minor exception near the Northern trailhead.)
* Good for Richard Martin for pushing to get this trail built. Maybe one day it will be extended south to Athens, and north into Tennessee. Mr. Martin, I salute you!
My husband and I, over the last several months, have parked at both ends and walked to the middle and back as well as parked in the middle and walked to one end or the other and back. The north end is my favorite-far less people, lovely views and fewer horses. If you are walking back and forth, park at the TN end and walk to Elkmont and return, there is a 2 mile long slope that goes downhill toward TN that's nice when you are reaching the double digits in miles.
We recently walked from the north end to the south end and back on one day. It took about 8 hours, though I was pretty wiped out at the end! Each time we have walked it, the end-to-end distance on our GPS has been 11.2 miles. End-to-end and back was just over 22.4 miles. Not sure if their distance or ours is off!
There are restrooms and water at each end as well as near the half-way at Elkmont in the form of a small gas station store. We like to get a cold drink there and sit out by the old caboose and rest a bit before heading on our way.
In all the times we have walked it, foot traffic has been very light, but people do seem to love to ride horses along the trail on weekends and it's often a game of dodge once a group has passed you, to avoid the piles they leave behind. In all, it's a great stamina-building trail. When we first started walking it this time last year, we were half dead after walking just from Elmont to the southern end! The trees along the trail area a real bonus any time of year. They keep off the cold winds in winter and provide cool shade in the warmer months. This trail is a wonderful addition to the area.
This was my first time running this trail and I wanted to get at least 7 miles in so I chose south. It was very shaded and was nice to not be so hot. Like the other person, I did encounter the pack of dogs after I crossed the road. Only one was aggressive and nipped at me. The owner finally came and got it. I would probably turn around next time where you have to cross the road.
Funny what the person said about up hill both ways. I run a lot and don't get that feeling very much. I was sure the run back would be easier because it seemed I was running uphill the whole time. Once I turned around it seem the same. LOL I will try north next.
Biked the entire trail from Elkmont to the starting point at Piney Chapel Road (0.0) and then backtracked on the trail to the northern terminus at Veto (10.2) with the return south on the trail to Elkmont. There are two nice restroom buildings at both ends. The trail appears to be travelled more from Piney Chapel Road (0.0) to Elkmont (about 5.5 mile point). Parking in Elkmont is to be preferred as there are local businesses that can handle most supply needs though one can park at either terminus. The trail appears to be better maintained from Elkmont south as it is from Elkmont north. There are two main attractive points on the trail: the sight of the Civil War battle at Sulphur Creek (4.0) and the covered bridge north of Elkmont (8.0). The trail surface is firmer, oddly enough, on the west side tire rut the entire way. The east side tire mark in the gravel has several wash out areas, especially north of Elkmont to the bridge (8.0). There is a church building located in the middle of the trail at the northern terminus with the 10.2 marker sign just north of the building. The building was locked so there was no looking inside. There is a blue caboose outside an rv park around 9.0 which is available for a look. There is a red caboose next to the depot in Elkmont for the same purpose. All in all, it was a pleasant ride. I would not recommend doing the 20.4 distance without some prior distance conditioning on a trail bike.
It was the first time for me and my best friend to ride the trail we went south to see the trussel and the site of the battle i have to say i had a nice time over all im sure we will ride it again we had encounters with a pack of dogs,3 horses and several piles of poo.. and its the first time i have seen a trail go up hill both ways i guess my dad wasnt lying about a road that does that....lol
We started in Elkmont, with my son and I riding. We went south, crossing an earthen trestle that replaced the wooden burned by Confederate troops after Battle of Sulpher Creek Trestle. We only went about 2 miles before turning around, but it was beautiful scenery, with very gentle sloping grades. We plan on going back!
I walked the southern half of this trail (Athens to Elkmont 5.5 miles). Very easy walking, mostly covered by trees, flat, not too far from adjacent country roads. Well maintained trail. At about the 2.5 mile point is a historical marker that explains that you are crossing what was a site of the Sulpher Creek Trestle Civil War battle. Pretty dense woods along the trail so the scenery is limited but it is quiet and I spooked a couple of deer. The general store/gas station in Elkmont was open (Thursday) so I was able to replenish water and food there.
I forgot to mention it in my prior review, but the trail is almost completely covered by the trees. The only portion of the trail that isn't covered is where it crosses the roads, and the last one half mile of the trail at the north end coming into Veto. My wife also told me after I wrote my previous review that the little convenience store wasn't open while we were there. It was a Sunday morning so I'm not sure if it opended up later in the day or not? My advice is to plan ahead and do as we do and take plenty of fluids and snacks with you.
My wife and I rode rode the trail today for the first time with another couple who hadn't been on it in a couple of years. We started our ride near the center of the trail in Elkmont. There's not much there, but there is a small convenience store and a volunteer fire deptartment close by. Luckily for us our friends new that the north end of the trail going towards Veto is mostly a downhill ride while heading north because it may have caused some problems had we saved that climb back into Elkmont until the end of the ride. The climb isn't too bad, but it does have a nearly constant uphill grade. The trail is in pretty good condition and the bridges are nice and in good condition too. The riding surface is still a combination of dirt and gravel, but the biggest obstacle by far is the horse dung along the trail. However, it's not so dense that it's unavoidable. There are plenty of birds along the trail, and we also encountered four horses, a couple of dogs, two snakes, a wild turkey, and at least one insect with some very large teeth who decided to take a bite out of my neck! Please exercise some caution and courtesy when approaching the horses and their riders. Only one dog posed an issue on the north end of the trail, but I think he was more bark than bite. It still wouldn't be a bad idea to carry some dog repellent or pepper spray. The facilities at the trailheads are nice, but be careful of spiders in the restrooms(which are also unlit). While at the Veto trailhead an older gentleman who was driving past stopped and opened the chapel for us, rang the bell, and told us the story of how it was being used for a hay barn and was relocated to it's current location at a price of $1.1 million dollars. A nice addition to our ride for sure. The south end of the trail is much more flat with only slight inclines from time to time. There are also several benches along the south end of the trail built by the Boy Scouts of America. All in all this is a very nice trail and we'll be back time and time again to ride it!
Quiet and natural setting during the entire ride. Lots of birds...we even enountered a owl flying over the trail as we passed one of the owl houses along the trail. There are a few bridges along the way and places to stop for a picnic lunch, which I recommend as there are no easy places to purchase lunh on the route. Not much in Elkmont was open on the weekday we rode the trail. We rode on hybrids but would have preferred our mountain bikes as the gravel was course in some areas, mainly the southern 1-2 miles of the trail.
My husband and I have discovered and become addicted to the Richard Martin Trail. We first learned of it at a bike shop in Huntsville, AL and since then have become regular trail riders. It's been so much fun to rediscover bicycling for the sheer fun of it and the health benefits are already proving well worth the cost of 2 bikes. We live in Pulaski, Tennessee and are hoping that one day the trail will extend farther north into Prospect, Tennessee. This would cut our drive time in half and provide an economic boost to this community. There is a pizza/ice cream eatery in Prospect that would perhaps re-open as trail traffic increased. How wonderful would that be... In the meantime it's great being able to ride without negotiating car traffic in shady, peaceful surroundings. We are grateful.
Trailheads are now complete at the Piney Chapel (trail has been extended south from Hays Mill to Piney Chapel Rd) and Veto, AL ends. Both trailheads now have parking and restrooms. The Piney Chapel trailhead has a pavillion for picknicking. The Veto trailhead inlcudes the restored historic Veto Methodist church. The only convienience store is still in Elkmont. Come on out and enjoy the 11 miles of trail covered in trees including two scenic covered bridges!
I recently had arthroscopic knee surgery and after the first 2 weeks, I began walking the Trail. I walked from the parking lot near the Mill Creek RV Park south to mile 2.5 and back the first trip, then the next trip was from the RV park north about 1.5 miles to where the gravel stops and back, then the next trip was from downtown Elkmont to mile 2.5 and then back.There are some dogs that became aggressive at the farm near Mile 2.0 but several whacks with my trusty cane pole put them back in their yard.I then had completed the northern part of the Trail. A few days later, I started at downtown Elkmont and walked down to Hays Mill Road and back in one trip. As sbuc says, you can imagine trains and soldiers on that stretch.So I have walked all of the present trail. There is work going on south of Hays Mill Road down to Piney Chapel Road for an extension of the present trail.Many thanks to Richard Martin and the other people of vision who had this trail created.As gas prices go up, people need to get outside and exercise and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Just finished walking the 3.35 mile section of trail from Elkmont to the southern terminus at Hays Mill. The trail is in fine condition and the wildflowers are hitting their stride. As usual it was a superb walk and the historical site at Sulfur Trestle is always reason to pause during the walk. With a little imagination you can almost see a train coming from Nashville loaded with Union troops and supplies....
"Spectacular beauty, lovely hikers and deer on trail too. Many photos to share and will be going back every week the bridges are wonderful and it is shaded."
"Some of the reviews posted are a little old. The trail is now covered with a compacted gravel surface north from Elkmont for a few miles. It is still hard to find the continuation of the trail as it appears vehicles have been on the trail, so it looks like a driveway. There were a lot of horses too. There are two new looking bridges as well. I rode the road to the river and the old bridge makes a neat photo. The trail basically stops at Veto."
"We visited the Limestone Trail while were visiting family in Athens. We walked approximately 12 miles on it one day and 3 miles another day.
The new bridges are very pretty and this is a well-maintained, beautiful trail. We highly recommend it!"
"Two new bridges are in place making the trail a continuous link now from Veto at the north end to Hays Mill, approximately 8.8 miles in length. The southern terminus is currently under construction extending the trail an additional 2.2 miles through some beautiful marsh areas. This is a beautiful walk or ride through Limestone County. Any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org."
"I mountain biked the trail from Elkmont north. It is a nice ride through the woods. A mile or so into the trail a railroad trestle is gone and you have to hike down and cross a small creek and then back up the other side and it's steep. The further we rode towards Tennessee the less the trail has been used.
The trail follows the road going to Veto and there is road access at several points along the ride. We were not able to complete the trail but intend to return. The beginning of the trail is not marked, if you follow where the train station is you can tell where the trail is across the paved road. The trail also goes from the train station south about two miles. It is difficult to tell where it starts.
At one time there were signs and gates but now they are gone and the grass was cut better on this part of the trail. It's an easier ride than the north part. It's a shame more people don't know about this trail and it's not marked better."
I ride horses on the trail and love it. I heard through a friend that the southern section would be completed soon. I would like more information about the schedule for the expansion of the trail.
"I would like to get the directions to this trail. I live in Decatur, AL. I would get to Athens by either I-65 or Hwy 31 going north.
Thanks for any info.
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