The Muhlenberg County Rail-Trail combines the past and present as cyclists ride along old coal rail line that once connected Central City and Greenville in southwestern Kentucky.
Completed in 2002, the Muhlenberg County Rail-Trail is Kentucky's most extensive rails-to-trails conversion, and one of 1,600 in the country. This 6-mile asphalt trail leisurely rolls through hard scrabble coal towns, rural hamlets, picturesque wetlands, and hardwood forests.
The trail runs along old rail line that dates back to the 19th century, when the railroad was transporting coal from nearby mines. As need for coal waned, so did need for rail lines, so the line was abandoned before the Rail to Trail Conservancy stepped in to convert it to the scenic fitness path it is today.
Extremely popular with locals and visitors alike, the route is frequented by runners, cyclists, dog walkers, and even equestrians.
What Makes It Great
For the most part, the trail parallels U.S. 62 as it meanders through the woods, by marshlands, and through small towns. Benches along the way encourage folks to slow down, take a breather, and enjoy the surroundings. Lovers of railroad history will be interested in the old signal towers, mile markers, trestles, and whistle signs that dot the trail. The real gem however, is the antique caboose donated by the Paducah and Louisville Railway, the old owners of the right of way. The caboose is now used as a railroad museum, located right near the Central City trailhead.
The trail is also a bird watcher’s haven. Be on the lookout for belted kingfishers, several different species of woodpeckers and sparrows, blue jays, bluebirds, robins, cardinals, and others. There are several bigger birds as well, including red-shouldered hawks, great blue herons, and turkey vultures. A birding guide produced by the local Boy Scouts troop helps identify most of the species. It’s hard not to enjoy a ride when accompanied by the cheerful songs of birds as you glide along the path.
Be sure to stop at the lovely platform overlooking the water midway through the trail. Visitors often get to see the beavers hard at work doing their beaverly business.
Who is Going to Love It
With no serious hills, it’s perfect for beginning riders, young ones, or anyone out for quick spin or a leisurely cruise.
The three towns that the trail runs through, Central City, Powderly, and Greenville also just happen to offer a ton of fun things to do, all easily accessible by bike. Greenville proudly hosts the world’s largest wholesale gemstone dealer called the House of Onyx. One of Kentucky’s largest flea markets is nearby at Luke’s Town & Country Flea Market. Powderly’s Paradise Park is a replica of a classic 1920’s coal-mining town and also features the birthplace home of the country-music legend Merle Travis. The park does free Friday night concerts featuring local musicians. The Everly Brothers call Central City home, and there is a country music museum that is worth a visit.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There is parking on both the north and south ends of the trail. The southern trailhead parking is on US 62 just north of Greenville's town center. Up north, park on W 3rd St. or at the convention center.
It’s almost entirely flat, save for the north end where the trail leaves the old rail bed and mildly climbs for a short bit.
Time to Complete: (30 minutes, one way)
Distance: (6 miles)
Seasonality: (All seasons)
Spring is nice with wildflowers in bloom, summers and can be hot and humid, autumn brings cooler temps and epic fall colors. It’s possible to ride in winter, but snow and ice is possible.
Dog Friendly: (Yes)
GPS Coordinates: (South parking: 37.219073, -87.174008)