Are you one of those people dream of doing great things and making a name for themselves? Well, here’s an idea, try biking across the U.S on a new, 4,000-mile path that lets you bike from coast to coast on a seamless trail.
Picture yourself pedaling across the entire country on a safe, seamless and scenic pathway that gives you the incomparable experience of exploring America’s heritage, its potential, its beauty and bounty, its people and places by trail.
A road trip may be the classical way to traverse the United States, but professional cyclists and biking enthusiasts will eventually be able to make the cross-country trip on their bike once a newly created trail system is completed.
And soon it’s going to be easier than ever as the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has announced a one-of-a-kind cross-country, multi-use trail called the Great American Rail-Trail which will connect more than 3,700 miles of repurposed train routes and multi-use trails, all separate from vehicle traffic, across 12 states from Washington, D.C., to Washington State. 
These states include Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The trail is expected to connect with Several existing biking trails, including the Capital Crescent Trail, the Hennepin Canal Parkway, the Casper Rail Trail, and Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, allowing bikers to hop on from wherever.
According to RTC President, Ryan Chao, “The Great American Rail-Trail will be a national treasure. It presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create—together—an enduring gift to the nation that will bring joy for generations to come.” 
When completed, the trail will directly serve nearly 50 million people within 50 miles of the route, making it easily accessible to many Americans.
Creating the biking dream
RTC has spent more than 18 months analyzing current biking trails and collaborating with local trail partners and state agencies to create the plan, including analyzing which of over 34,000 miles of nationwide trails would be the most suitable.
The planned route is expected to keep bikers separate from vehicle traffic. While the full route for the trail won’t be released until spring 2019, the 12 gateway trails have been revealed that will make the whole project possible. 
“At RTC, we’ve known the potential of a coast-to-coast rail-trail for decades,” says former RTC president, Keith Laughlin. “But before we committed to bringing this vision to life, we wanted to be certain it was viable.”
“With open trails comprising more than 50% of the potential route, combined with strong local and state enthusiasm, we are now confident that the Great American Rail-Trail can be completed. RTC is ready to lead the effort to connect the trail across communities, counties and state lines to create a seamless off-road biking and walking journey for the country.”
The Great American Rail-Trail project itself will take years to complete as it is still only 52% done. The route is yet to connect over 125 existing trails with another 90 “trail gaps,” or sections that will need to be developed to create a continuous path.
RTC says that it will probably take at least another few decades to complete the full route because it needs to work across state lines and jurisdictions to make sure the existing trail network is well-aligned across the country.
However, segments of the Great American Rail-Trail will be opened to the public as they are completed each year, making it easier to travel throughout the country on bikes in the meantime. 
A passion for biking
The Great American Rail-Trail isn’t the first attempt at creating an alternative cross-country route for cyclists. Other countries have also created similar pathways for bikers and hikers alike, such as The Grand Sentier de la Côte Bleue in Southern France, The Route of the Parks of Patagonia in Chile  , and the world’s longest multi-use trail network, The Great Trail, spanning 15,000 miles in Canada.
The Great American Rail-Trail bears some similarities to the U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) system which is a national network of public bike travel routes with over 13,500 rideable miles. But where the USBR provides low-traffic routes for cyclists, the Great American Rail-Trail will be built along out-of-use train tracks and car-free pathways.
“The scale and scope of this project are unprecedented,” says Kevin Mills, RTC’s senior vice president of policy, “That’s what makes this exciting and scary.” 
The idea behind this is to alleviate the stress of cyclists sharing the road with cars. The Great American Rail-Trail will also be accessible to pedestrians and joggers who will also benefit enormously from the project.
So, if you, for whatever reason, are eager to get on your bike and ride for as long as your legs can keep pumping, there are no shortage of trails in existence for you to push yourself to the limit in the meantime.
- Afar: https://www.afar.com/magazine/if-youve-dreamed-of-a-cross-country-bike-trip-this-4000-mile-trail-could-make
- Rails To Trails: https://www.railstotrails.org/greatamericanrailtrail/
- Lonely Planet: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2019/02/12/great-american-rail-trail/
- Martha Stewart: https://www.marthastewart.com/1539357/4000-mile-trail-bike-coast-to-coast
- The Great Trail https://thegreattrail.ca/
- Wired: https://www.wired.com/story/bike-cross-country-old-rails-get-you-there/
- Travel and Leisure: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/blue-coast-trail-marseille-martigues-france
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