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In 1875, the Bowling Green Railroad Company operated its first train from its namesake city in Ohio south to Tontogany on rails made from the wood of the local slippery elm tree. The trees were ubiquitous in the Great Black Swamp of northwest Ohio, which was a barrier for the development of farmland and roads in the area due to the expense of draining it. Selling the slippery elm wood to the railroad produced an opportunity to finance the draining. With this lucrative partnership in place, a corridor was cleared for the railroad and farmland was gained. By 1890, the route had been extended to North Baltimore, providing access to a rich gas and oil belt in southern Wood County. For 103 years, the railroad operated along this corridor, until eventually discontinuing service in 1978.
Today, the 13-mile Slippery Elm Trail follows the route of the former rail corridor, running south from Bowling Green through the small town of Rudolph and ending in North Baltimore. Its half-marathon length is ideal for runners in training, and the smooth, flat surface is a joy for cyclists and in-line skaters. Between Rudolph and the southern endpoint, expansive agricultural landscapes impart the quiet charm visitors have come to expect from this area of the country.
Start in Bowling Green, taking time to explore this vibrant college town, which is brimming with great little shops, restaurants, and cafés. The Sand Ridge Road trailhead is on the south end of town; from there, you’ll head south on the paved trail. At 0.5 mile, pass through the Black Swamp Preserve, where restrooms are available.
After 1 mile, the trail ducks under US 6. When you emerge on the other side, the urban surroundings melt away and the countryside takes over. With a keen eye, you may catch sight of red-tailed hawks, white-tailed deer, red squirrels, or the many birds found here. Be sure to take note of the unique terrain: as far as the eye can see, the land here—as in much of northern Ohio—is as flat as a pancake, thanks to the glaciers that moved south through Ohio, leveling everything in their path. This area used to be the Great Black Swamp, leaving behind the rich, fertile farmland that now yields corn, soybeans, and livestock.
In Portage, you’ll find a bike repair station, water fountain, and portable restrooms. Continuing south, admire the native plants and pollinator gardens that line the route. If you’re here in July, keep your eyes open for blackberries and mulberries, which you are free to pick if you’re lucky enough to find them!
Approaching the small, charming community of Rudolph, you’ll pass the Rudolph Savanna, a beautiful natural oasis, where you’ll find wildflowers, tall prairie grasses, and sand dunes. On your way through town, you’ll encounter arguably one of the best signs you will ever see on a rail-trail: “Welcome to Rudolph, the Deerest Little Village in Wood County.” There are restrooms and a trailhead in the village.
After Rudolph, you’re about halfway along the trail. The southern half is extremely rural and quiet. At Freyman Road, you can take a side excursion by turning right onto the country road and pedaling 0.5 mile to Cricket Frog Cove, a wildlife habitat with hiking trails.
From Freyman Road, it’s 3.5 miles to the trail’s end in North Baltimore, where you’ll find a small park, drinking water, and restrooms.
Access the northern trailhead in Bowling Green by taking I-75 to Exit 179. Head 2.2 miles west on US 6, and turn right onto Rudolph Road/County Road 133. Go 0.7 mile, and turn right onto Sand Ridge Road. Trail access and parking is located 0.9 mile ahead on the right at the Montessori School of Bowling Green.
To reach the southern trailhead in North Baltimore, take I-75 S to Exit 168. Turn left onto Insley Road, and in 0.3 mile, turn right onto Eagleville Road, which becomes E. Broadway St. Go 1.2 miles; the parking lot is on the right just after Beecher St. From I-75 N, take Exit 168, and turn right onto Grant Road. In 0.1 mile turn right onto Eagleville Road, and follow the directions above. This trailhead has parking and restroom facilities.
I rode the Slippery Elm trail Sunday for the first time. It is an enjoyable trail with a fair amount of variety. I especially enjoyed the cool shade in the forested sections. The trailhead in North Baltimore is very nice with paved parking and clean restrooms. They have covered a lot of cracks in the pavement with a sealant that has made the surface a bit rough in places but otherwise it is in good condition.
Everyone was so nice on this trail! That, to me, just enhances the experience even more! I am a novice rider and my husband an experienced rider. This was perfect for us! We were in town for a tournament at the university and brought our bikes. Easy, ample parking at the trail head past Wal-Mart.
My family and I are a bit biased, we live less than a half mile from the Slippery Elm, and bike, run and walk it frequently. But we've ridden bucket-list trails in many places around the US, and they often fall short of our humble Slippery-Elm in many ways.
This trail is wide, flat, and smooth. It is well maintained by the county parks, and local volunteers. It is calm, peaceful, quaint, charming, and beautiful. It can be ridden at a relaxed pace to observe the scenery and wildlife, or rocketed along and a fast pace. Road racers however will find the sections very short, but that can make for great interval training.
My wife and I ride a tandem, and pull our two boys in a tag-along. The whole family loves to ride this trail. My wife says that I claim each section is my favorite, and a short ride often goes several miles extra, because "the next section is my favorite". The trail ranges from woods to swamps and prairies, to fields, and if observed carefully they all are interesting and beautiful.
Mid-day can get very hot on this trail, as long sections are in the open, but morning and evening are usually nice. Pay attention to the wind and plan your ride around it! We like to plan our trips to go out into the head-wind, and then ride a tail-wind home.
The Montessori school does not allow parking weekdays while school is in session. Drive to wal-Mart to park. Trail is only 1/4 mi from parking lot. Pleasant paved path. Trail ends in North Baltimore and has men's and women's restrooms along with places to sit. Many benches along entire route. Mile markers also.
This trail is great for my family of five, school age, very easy going riders! It is paved and quite a few parts are shaded. My kids have nicknamed it the pizza path because we like to start in North Baltimore and ride to Bowling Green for Myle's Pizza. It's a great reward to get my 2nd grader moving! The scenery is very pretty and stop signs for crossing roads are clearly marked. Benches and restrooms along the way as well.
When the wind is blowing out of the southwest or west (as it does many times in Northwest Ohio), this trail is a great option as it mainly runs North-South and you do not have to ride into the wind. In Northwest Ohio we do not have hills - we have wind. The trail runs from Bowling Green to North Baltimore. Parking at the Bowling Green trail head is great during non-school days/hours at a local elementary school parking lot. Restroom facility is a port-a-potty (crude). There are shaded areas on the trail but most is open and you can see for miles in all directions. Before the mid-point there is a little village named "Rudolf." The sign on the trail at the entry of the village reads "it's the dearest little town in Wood County." (Rural Ohio humor). At North Baltimore there are great restroom facilities at the trail head and just about a mile into the town on the main drag there is a Subway and a great ice cream stop (Daily Queen). Great trail - especially during windy days.
Rode from Bowling Green to North Baltimore , parked at the black swamp preserve , sparkling new bathrooms, thank you, the trail was very well maintained, lightly used when we went through, nice combo of shade and sun, water and sunscreen a must, had lunch at the Crossroads cafe and then napped under a tree at a near by park, very lite traffic at cross overs, lots of birds...and .... A bald eagle on the ground in the middle of the field,,,, awesome.....people were very friendly the whole way through, love mid west America .....
This is the best trail ever. Smooth, flat, lined with trees for most of it. Perfect for inlines!
We ride this trail several times a year. We enjoy starting in North Baltimore and riding to BG, We always go into town eat at Panera Bread and then back to North Baltimore. The ride ends up being 28 miles, we just call it 30 miles. Great trail. Trail keppers good job.
My wife and I rode tandems with another couple from Bowling Green (BG) to North Baltimore (NB) and thoroughly enjoyed the trail. The pavement was excellent.
There was a permanent restroom building at the NB end and porta-potties at the town of Rudolph and the Portage Rd access. There is a WalMart a 1/4 mile from the Gypsy Lane Rd access.
We started at the Gypsy Lane Rd access in BG as there are 15 parking spaces for trail users. I checked the Sand Ridge Rd access and there is a sign in the school parking lot stating that they do not allow trail users to park there. It suggested the Gypsy Lane Rd area instead.
Well worth stopping by and going for a ride if you're in the area ... or even passing through.
"Nice trail! We drove up on a Sunday in July. Usually my husband and I get into fights about where the trailhead could be but not this one!
This trail is in awesome shape. It's well marked with signs, mileage markers and direction markers. There's a nice, clean restroom at the trailhead in N. Baltimore. Obviously the community takes great pride in their trail.
Not a lot of shade on the trail so be prepared. This trail was definitely worth the 2 hour drive up from Columbus. "
"I've biked this trail a couple of times. I'm impressed with it's quality. The pavement is smooth, which makes it great for touring bikes and in-line skaters. The trail has plenty of historical and information signs. It also highlights the region's geographical distinction--The Great Black Swamp. This swamp once covered most of NW Ohio but has been drained and converted into fertile farmland. However, the trail goes through some swamp area. The trail is tree-lined and provides plenty of shade. The facilities at North Baltimore are great! All-in-all, this trail is a good one for those looking for a safe place to bike, walk or skate."
"It is true. This is a great trail. It's very flat. You can enjoy the view while riding. There are lots of pretty trees and fields on the landscape. The many benches were appreciated. The town of Rudolph has good tasting water in the water fountain at a first class ""trail station"" made to look like a place you would wait for a train. Restrooms and parking are best at the south end of trail in North Baltimore.
We would suggest the ""Park Rangers"" get bicycles. We did not like to see motor vehicles the Rangers use actually on the trail (between their donut breaks?).
It's a lovely trail, don't miss it. Also, the Toledo Zoo is only half an hour north by car."
"This is a really nice trail to ride. When you get to North Baltimore go to the ice cream stand in town. They have the best chicken sandwiches around. The trail is in good shape, and there is a lot of countryside to see."
"This is a very nice trail and the wide, paved surface is well maintained. The trail is well patrolled by the Wood County Park rangers who are friendly and knowledgeable.
This section of the state is known as the Maumee Lake Glacial Plains but the region of the trail is called the Great Black Swamp. The terrain and the trail are very flat and mostly agricultural but there are sections of large woods and swamps. Wild life is abundant especially early or late in the day. In the spring thousands of frogs will sing you a lovely chorus. Much of the trail is shaded and the trees help break the wind.
Each city or village on the trail (Bowling Green, Portage, Rudolph and North Baltimore) has provided nice facilities (restrooms, benches and water fountains). There are also numerous benches along the trail.
Parking facilities are good and are located in each town with two different spots along the trail in Bowling Green. There are no commercial establishments along the trail, but drinks and snacks are within a short ride in each town.
I have ridden this trail many times and would recommend it for any age or experience level."
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