Towpath Trail

National Road Bikeway

This trail moves from street level, through rock and below ground, to 60 feet above a valley floor. [Scroll past 'Specs & Facts' to continue reading.]

Southern Tunnel Entrance

Latest Update: 10/23/15 by Bonobo Chimpanzo - Tunnel Closed Until Spring 2016

I would like to advise folks that the big tunnel, the biggest selling point of this trail, is closed. You can get right up to the south entrance but you cannot even get to where you can see the north entrance--the one with the stairs...

Tunnel Closed Until Spring 2016 - 10/23/15 by Bonobo Chimpanzo

...There is a sign some time before warning that the trail is closed until an estimated date in April of 2016. It doesn't say for maintenance, construction or give any reason. It also makes clear that if people progress anyway that they will be arrested. At the bottom of the sign it says "by order of the Saint Clairsville police."

This was a disappointment to me though the trail was still worth riding on--from both ends. I was more disappointed because I had just come from the Great Guernsey Trail which also has a section in the middle that is closed although I knew about that closure ahead of time. There is shorter, newer tunnel under SR 70 that you can still ride through on The NRB trail.

New & Old Tunnel Work - 12/16/13 by OB

From, "...The tunnel [under I-70] is 250 feet long by 16 feet high with a lit interior. It will be completed in spring when warm weather allows for paving of the interior...

"...Next year, work will begin on the north portal of [the] older tunnel. This project will include drainage, lining and a void above the tunnel will be filled. The cost will be $425,000, with 80 percent paid for by an ODOT enhancement grant. On completion, the tunnel should be stable for decades."

Trail Specs & Facts:

Location: Belmont County, OH

Class: A3

Length: 2.5 miles / asphalt

Condition: Good

Facilities: Water fountain & benches at the gazebo. Portable toilets may be available.

Parking: Station Street (See trail map for more options.)

Worth Noting: The tunnel is closed periodically for repairs and/or maintenance work.

Map: National Road Bikeway

Elevation: North to south

More Trails in this Region: SE OH Trails List

The trail manages to keep a level plane by burrowing through a hillside by way of an impressive 522' tunnel and skimming over a valley with a 342' over-street bridge. There's a great view from the wooden decked bridge.

The tunnel is simply magnificent. Originally constructed in 1902, it has been rehabbed a few times since. It's lighted and holds an impressive 42' high ceiling. A few puddles lie here and there on the trail surface inside. They are formed by trickling ground water that seeps through the upper structure from the earth that rests on top, some 80' above the trail surface. There's definitely a cave-like feel when you ride through and a noticeable temperature change as well.

Another lighted tunnel was constructed in 2014 along the trail. It's spans 250' underneath I-70 and lies a mere .6 mile south of the National Road tunnel along the bikeway.

You can get a bird's eye view of the trail by climbing a series of stairways that reach a viewing platform atop the National Road tunnel at its northern entrance.

The restoration of the existing railroad bridge and tunnel certainly make this bikeway a very interesting ride, but the trail designers didn't stop there. They decided to create their own unique centerpiece. They built a gazebo on the trail. Not alongside the trail, but right in the middle of it! It may sound odd, and frankly, I'm not sure I like it. But I have to give them credit for trying something very different.

The gazebo is nicely done and beautifully landscaped. There are benches, flowers, and a walkway that circles the structure. There's also a separate nature trail nearby.

Gazebo on the Trail

Since the gazebo is directly in the path of trail users, it forces them to take notice. And my guess is this was part of the designers plan, making it a focal point. Had it been placed off to one side, it would most likely have served as mere decoration.

What may be at the heart of this trail's appeal is the overall plan and design of the bikeway. This project wasn't a "hey, let's put down some asphalt and call it a bike trail." It encompassed not only restoration of historic structures, but integration of a new structure and trail into the local community.

In the past, this trail was reported as being 4 or more miles long. That distance included on-road bike lanes that connect nearby neighborhoods to the trail. The trail itself is 2.5 miles in length.

Sometimes the reported lengths of Ohio trails are inflated. Perhaps the thinking is that if a trail seems too short, people may not be as inclined to check it out. No worries when it comes to the National Road Bikeway. It's definitely a worthwhile visit!

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