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Nestled into the recreational playground of northeastern Tennessee, a homespun pathway connects two charming towns in the Appalachian foothills. The Tweetsie Trail links Johnson City, home to East Tennessee State University, and quaint Elizabethton, one of Tennessee’s oldest towns and host to attractions like the Sabine Hill State Historic Site and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, both located just off the trail. Views along the route include picturesque pastures, hardwoods that put on autumnal color shows, and photo-worthy overlooks of Happy Valley.
The rail-trail follows a railroad corridor that once snaked through the mountains and crossed into North Carolina. It’s been nearly two decades since trains rumbled down the narrow tracks and emitted the high-pitched whistles that gave the rail line—and later the Tweetsie Trail—its affectionate moniker. And it’s fitting that the route of the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad—once known as the “Railroad with a Heart” for its above-and-beyond service and heart-shaped ticket punches—is now the home of a beloved community amenity.
At mile-marker zero on the east end of Johnson City, the journey forward begins with a look back. Trail goers are greeted with a broad “Tweetsie Trail” sign arching overhead on metal scaffolding designed to resemble a railroad trestle. At their feet, a segment of the original track, dating back to the early 1880s, lies inlaid in the trail. Continuing down its firm, crushed-stone surface, the trail is bedecked with interpretative signage about the local history, geology and ecology. At either end, the trail goes through two urban communities with access to many restaurants and shops (including bike rentals in Johnson City).
On the west end of the trail, parking is available at the Johnson City trailhead at Alabama and Legion Streets. Additional trail parking is offered a half-mile northwest of the trailhead at the TVA Credit Union Ballpark (510 Bert St., Johnson City) and at the parking lot kitty-corner from the ballpark at Legion Street and East State of Franklin Road.
On the east end of the trail, parking is available in Elizabethton at Lion’s Field (off Elk Avenue) and at the trailhead at Stateline Road and Blue Ridge Drive.
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