End of the Eastern Trail at Bug Light

[Eds. note: We recently came across another version of this article listing the Eastern Trail is one of ten best national rail-trails, and thought we should highlight this recognition once again. To read about the other nine, read the full article here.]

By Cindy Barks,  published January 14, 2020

It might be the ultimate example of repurposing: Since the 1960s, thousands of miles of old abandoned railroad lines have been converted into recreational trails.

Owing to their scenic locales and gentle grades, the Rails-to-Trails routes are perfect for an epic bike ride or a leisurely stroll. The routes offer dizzying variety: They run along the East and West Coasts, past mountains, across rivers and forests, and through bustling urban landscapes.

After hiking and biking rail-trails all over the country, I’ve found that not only do the routes provide an opportunity for exercise in splendid outdoor settings, but they also take me back to the heyday of train travel. I often imagine passengers gawking at gorgeous seaside and mountain scenes to the rhythmic sway and lonesome whistle of the train.

Today, every state in the nation has a roster of rail-trails. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, there are more than 2,100 rail trails in the United States, totaling 24,215 miles.

And hundreds more are in the works. Among them is the mammoth Great American Rail-Trail, which will run 3,700 miles from Washington State to Washington, D.C. Once complete, the trail will allow users to literally walk or bike across America on a seamless, scenic trail. The Great American Rail-Trail is currently more than half complete, with about 1,700 miles left to fill in.

Meanwhile, rail-trails are beloved amenities in communities all over the country. Here are 10 of the best.

3. Eastern Trail, Maine

Lighthouses, lobster rolls, and white-pine forests: These are just a few of the wonderful things you can experience along southern Maine’s Eastern Trail.

Running roughly from South Portland to Kennebunk and parallel to Maine’s Atlantic Coast, the 29-mile Eastern Trail takes in the charming towns of Saco, Biddeford, Scarborough, and Old Orchard Beach.

Nearly 22 miles of the trail follow off-road sections, but some sections feature on-road bike lanes.

Tip: Start your ride or hike at the northern end at the Bug Light Park Lighthouse (Portland Breakwater Light) in South Portland, where plenty of parking is available.

You can read the full article online here.