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The Richard Martin Trail (a.k.a., Limestone Rail-Trail) is best accessed mid-route from a trailhead in the town of Elkmont, where you'll find parking, good signage, a historic depot (used for community activities), a refurbished railcar, a place to eat and antiques to buy. You'll likely encounter horses along the trail, which is a favorite among equestrians. If you intend to bike the route, take a mountain bike or hybrid, as the rough terrain will give you—and your tires—a workout. Also be sure to bring food and drink, as Elkmont is the only place to purchase refreshments along the trail.
From town the trail heads both north and south. The 4.5 miles to the north boasts cotton fields, historic homesteads and several bridges. Over the first mile, the trail merges with local roads before establishing its independence. The trail, a National Recreation Trail, ends at the Alabama-Tennessee border.
The 6.1 miles of trail to the south offer different terrain, views and history. As you pass through pristine wetlands, you'll soon reach a slight incline, 1 mile south of Elkmont, where a trestle once spanned Sulphur Creek, the site of Alabama's bloodiest Civil War conflict. A plaque commemorates the 1864 Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle, during which a Tennessee & Alabama Central Railroad supply train moving Union Army troops and goods from Nashville to Atlanta came under attack. More than 200 soldiers were killed during the ensuing firefight.
Until it was abandoned in 1986, the line brought in mail and supplies to area communities and brought out cotton, a mainstay of the local economy. The trail is named for local advocate Richard Martin, who continues to rally for the improvement and extension of the trail.
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
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