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Bicycling in Kentucky is a another mixed blessing. While the rest of the nation surges ahead with Rail Trail routes, some of which extend for hundreds of miles and link the various towns like a cobweb, Kentucky ranks dead last. Its extensive network of abandoned rail lines rusts away.
However, Kentucky is also blessed with hundreds of quiet country lanes, winding past antebellum stone walls, whitewashed board fences, and long rows of century old trees arching over the roads. A circle of state parks rings the Blue Grass, a convenient one day pedal from Lexington.
Those parks contain lodges, restaurants, campgrounds and major scenic or historical attractions. So on any weekend March through November, a cyclist could set out Saturday morning, spend that night in comfort, and pedal back Sunday, often by an alternate route.
And neighboring states, especially Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, have superb long distance Rail Trails with trailheads just off interstates. So like skiing and white water rafting, it’s possible to put together a major bicycling season using trails within a one day drive of Lexington.

Our favorite long distance biking trails are as follows :

l. The Montour Trail. Coraopolis, Pa. This old railroad route winds from the Ohio River out through isolated forested valleys, along quaint 1920s looking towns, and up and down challenging hills, featuring long tunnels, high bridges and historic sites along the way. It is unbelievable that you could spend two days peddling out to Clairton on the Monongahela River, immerse yourself in woods and streams with fishing and swimming holes, and never be more than 30 minutes from the center of Pittsburgh. Connects with the Panhandle Trail partway out and the Allegheny Passage Trail at Clairton. These connect to the entire West Virginia Trail Network, and to the Chesapeake & Ohio Trail down to Washington, D.C., so little Coraopolis (Pa.) is suddenly a gateway to a whole world of biking. All things considered, the Montour Trail is our favorite.

2. The Greenbriar Trail. Southeastern West Virginia. Winds through one of the most scenic valleys in the Appalachians. State park lodges and bed and breakfasts let you pedal the entire route in very civilized fashion. Lush forest wilderness and breathtaking high suspension bridges. The actual trail hugs the Greenbriar River, so is more or less level, but the hills soar skyward on both sides.

3. Great Allegheny Passsage. George Washington's Trail, since he personally surveyed it when in his 20s. Classic American vistas of 1770s stone bridges, farmhouses, huge barns, walls, old inns and taverns, many of which are still in operation. Campgrounds, bed and breakfasts and ma & pa motels along the way. Pittsburgh to the West and Washington DC to the East mark the beginning and end. The heart of the trail connects McKeesport, Pa. to Cumberland, Md., but the Montour Trail to the West and C & O Trail to the East complete the package. Tunnels, high arched bridges. locks and gatehouses. Requires about 10 days.

4. The Virginia Creeper Trail. Follows the New River from Virginia's Mt. Rogers into West Virginia. Camping is plentiful, and a few motels help, but no bed and breakfasts. Except for the river, which during the day is full of rafting groups and canoeists, this is an isolated trail, winding through forested hills and crossing few roads or towns. Accessible at both ends by interstates. Best pedalled heading downriver (North). Mt. Rogers offers camping and cabins for the night before you start the trip.

5. The Panhandle Trail. Intersects with the Montour Trail at McDonald. Connects Carnegie, Pa., adjacent to Pittsburgh, with Wierton, West Virginia. A two or three day run with frequent ups and downs, but overall is a steady downhill cruise heading South. If you try it beginning at Wheeling and heading North prepare for lots of long uphills. Still under construction but can be run in segments with detours in between.

6. Miami Trail. When finished, this will extend 375 miles from Cincinnati to Cleveland and require about a week to pedal. It's already done for 72 miles out of Cincinnati along the Miami River. It's a peaceful midwest experience, with no spectacular scenery but villages, small towns and rural landscapes. Campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, inns and motels are available along the way, about 30 minutes apart. The best right of way in the nation : two bike lanes wide, paved,

7. Kentucky Lake Trail. Runs North - South through the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. Intended as a national park, this 100 mile long by five mile wide finger of land got caught in the federal defunding so is stuck in the recreation area slot. Fairly level with slight rises and drops, the trail is rarely out of sight of Kentucky Lake, eighth largest in the U.S. (behind the Great Lakes, Lake Champlaigne and the Great Salt Lake). Semiwilderness camping is available all along the trail, but there are no lodges.

8. The Natchez Trace. For a century, boatmen hauled cargo in unpowered flatboats down the Ohio and Mississippi from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. But with no power, they had no way to come back upriver. So they would dismantle the boats, sell the lumber, and hike or ride horses back overland to the North, using the Natchez Trace, Sheltowee Trace and Mingo Trace, old Native American trails which when strung together took them all the way to Pittsburgh. The 444 mile Natchez Trace has been restored as a cycling road linking Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville. It is a very enjoyable ride, level or gently rolling, bordered by forest, meadows, farmfields, lakes and rivers. Periodically there are visitor centers, lodging or restaurants. Camping is possible at suitable intervals for a cycling pace. This could be a 4-7 day trip depending on your pace.
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