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Seamlessly spanning the 35.5-mile distance between the Ohio communities of Bellefontaine and Springfield, the Simon Kenton Trail presents visitors with ample opportunities for recreation and wildlife sighting throughout its entire length. In reality, though, the uninterrupted trail—named for the famous frontiersman who once lived nearby—is composed of two very distinct experiences with the metaphorical dividing lining at Urbana. North of the city, the trail is chipseal and rural; from Urbana southward, you’ll experience a busier, paved pathway.
The trail’s north end begins in Bellefontaine, a small city where Ohio’s highest point can be found. Those accustomed to mountains may be left unimpressed by Ohio’s flat peak, and like all rail-trails, the Simon Kenton Trail slopes only gradually, as the corridor once had to accommodate the needs of the many freight and passenger trains that ran through here. In fact, the 16 miles from Bellefontaine to Urbana run immediately adjacent to a still-active rail line.
On this northern 16-mile stretch, farmland reaches out as far as the eye can see. Even those accustomed to long rail-trail treks will likely work up a sweat in the direct Ohio sun. Amenities are limited, so be prepared with ample amounts of water. The small town of West Liberty offers an opportunity for a rest or bite to eat; turn left onto Runkle Street to access the charming community’s downtown.
Entering Urbana, the trail’s surface turns to smooth pavement and trees begin to envelop the corridor, providing much welcomed shade. Near the center of town, the Depot Coffee House, in a restored train station adjacent to the trail, serves a wide selection of refreshments, as well as a publicly available parking lot, restrooms, drinking fountains, and a fix-it station for quick bike repairs. From here, a spur trail heads northwest to provide access to local parks and the city’s YMCA.
Proceeding south from Urbana, you’ll be pedaling on a gradual downhill slope. As you approach Springfield, homes, businesses, and schools begin to line the route, though the corridor’s surrounding tree cover is maintained for nearly the entire length. The larger population is noticeable here, as this section sees much heavier traffic than the northern portion. Nearing the city center, you’ll cross Buck Creek, where you can pick up the scenic Buck Creek Trail on the far side of the bridge. The trail spans just over 6 miles and heads both east and west along the eponymous waterway.
The Simon Kenton Trail ends in downtown Springfield in front of the Heritage Center, a gorgeous building that once served as both city hall and a marketplace and is now home to a charming café and the Clark County Historical Society. Stop in at the end of your trek to view both the impressive architecture and vast collection. From here, the Little Miami Scenic Trail is just a block away; turn left at South Center Street to reach it. Spanning almost 80 miles, the trail provides access to the artistic community of Yellow Springs, the trail hub of Xenia, and the suburbs of Cincinnati.
To reach the northern endpoint in Bellefontaine from I-75, take Exit 110. Head east on US 33, and go 11.6 miles. Turn right to remain on US 33, and go 12.9 miles to the exit for County Road 37. Turn right onto CR 37, and in 0.1 mile, turn left onto CR 130. In 4.8 miles, turn right onto Troy Road, and go 1 mile. Turn left onto Plumvalley St., and in 0.3 mile, turn right onto Carter Ave. The trailhead is located on the right, 0.2 mile ahead.
To reach the halfway point in Urbana from I-75, take Exit 82. Head 24.8 miles east on US 36 into downtown Urbana. A large trailhead and parking lot are located adjacent to the Depot Coffee House between Glenn Ave. and Washington St.
The southern endpoint is located at the Heritage Center in downtown Springfield, but parking there is limited. Instead, park at the trailhead on Villa Road north of downtown. To reach the trailhead, take I-70 to Exit 52B. Head north on US 68, and go 7 miles to the exit for OH 334. Turn right onto OH 334, stay in the right lane, and in 0.2 mile take the first ramp onto OH 72, heading south. After 1 mile, turn left onto Villa Road. Parking is located on the right after 0.3 mile.
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