Explore and experience history, heritage, beautiful nature, birds and more.
When it comes to trails, Limestone County leads the way. There are numerous choices in the area for getting from point A to point B (and points C, D and E, as well), with a whole alphabet soup of things to see and do during the excursion. In fact, there seems to be a trail for nearly every interest, where the destinations are the reason for the journey. Here is a quick look at 10 of them:
1. Limestone County Canoe and Kayak Trail
The scenery doesn’t get much better than what you will find on this 22-mile waterway. Begin at Elkmont near the Tennessee state line and then float leisurely down the Elk River, passing bluffs, forests and meadows along the way. The water is dam-controlled, allowing for paddling opportunities even during the drier summer months.
2. Noah Bike & Vintage Car Trail
This 89-mile circular route cuts through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, providing plenty of hilly scenery. The trail extends from downtown Athens to near the Tennessee border and back again, passing charming family farms, historic cemeteries and several quaint small towns. It is popular with both bike riders and motorcyclists as well as antique and sports car enthusiasts who like to drive with the top down.
3. Athens Historic Volksmarch
A Volksmarch is an organized 5K or 10K hike, in which participants proceed at their own pace – stopping whenever they would like – by either following a map or trail markings. Instead of a competition, it’s all about fun, scenery and history. The Athens Volksmarch travels along tree-lined streets and by 200-year-old houses through the city’s three historic districts.
4. Glory Road Historic Churches Trail
You will be shouting “Hallelujahâ€ after taking this driving tour featuring 35 historic and community churches throughout Limestone County. In addition to serving up a sampling of the architectural history of the area, many of the churches still conduct Sunday services and invite visitors to stop in and join them.
5. North Alabama Birding Trail
Of the 50 sites on this trail, seven are located in Limestone County. A highlight is the Beaverdam Peninsula Tower, which, in the fall, provides an elevated view of hundreds of cranes and geese. In addition, look for ospreys at Decatur Hospitality Nature Park, loons at Round Island Recreation Area, sandpipers at the Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area, herons and egrets at Arrowhead Landing, owls at the Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk, and warblers at White Springs Dike.
6. African-American Heritage Trail
There are numerous stories to discover along the African-American Heritage Trail, which puts a spotlight on the contributions that have been made in music, art, science, law, literature and military service. The trail travels through several historic African American communities, including Trinity, Fort Henderson, Lucy’s Branch, Little Elk and Beulah Land.
7. Singing River Trail of North Alabama
This long distance trail is still in the planning phase. The goal is to link Athens with the cities of Decatur, Madison and Huntsville as part of a 70-mile hiking and biking corridor. Work is expected to begin on the first stage by early 2021.
8. Richard Martin Rails-to-Trails
Athens native Richard Martin worked for more than two decades to turn this 10.3-mile trail into a reality. It also starts near the Tennessee line in the town of Veto, ending at Coffman Park just north of downtown Athens. Walkers, bikers and horseback riders can enjoy this scenic trail, which was built along the old L&N Railroad connection from Birmingham to Louisville.
9. Swan Creek Greenway Trail
The easiest way to explore nature in Athens is by taking the Swan Creek Greenway, a mostly shaded 2.3-mile trail that runs alongside its namesake waterway. The trail is paved with crushed stone, providing a smooth path for walkers, runners and cyclists as well as parents pushing a baby stroller. Herons and other birds can often be spotted along the river’s edge.
If you’d like to learn more about the Athens/Limestone County area, check out the latest edition of Livability Athens/Limestone County, AL.