With the completion of the trail tunnel under Rt. 62 near Brinkhaven, the west end of the Holmes County Trail has officially been connected to the Mohican Valley Trail in Knox County.
That's the good news. The bad news is that this western most section of the Holmes County Trail is still unfinished and has yet to be constructed.
Though unfinished, Doug Cornett reports that the trail administrator says this section is open to the public over to Glenmont.
This section was also home to another railroad tunnel in the past. Plans to cut the tunnel anew have apparently changed, due to spring water that seeps into the eastern portion of the remaining rock cut, causing drainage concerns.
From Rt. 62 the trail will extend northeastward through Holmes County and into Fredericksburg, roughly 30 miles away by trail.
Check the Holmes County Trail web site for the latest updates.
The trail is a work in progress. Asphalt was laid in 2010 to level off most of the 15-miles of finshished trail. Previously, the point where the two side-by-side trails had met in the middle created a small bump or curb, due to the differing surface heights. Apparently this also created a safety issue, so additonal asphalt was laid to level both adjoining surfaces. Most of the finished trail is now level.
The remainder of the trail from Killbuck to Brinkhaven is closed at this time. This unfinished section is currently the missing link to connecting finished trail to Knox County.
We rode the 15-mile section of finished trail that now extends from Killbuck to Clay Street in Fredericksburg. Much of this segment consists of two trails constructed side-by-side. The chip-and-seal lane is specifically for horse & buggy use, while the asphalt lane is for bikes. The two trails take up about 16 feet at their widest points.
The methods of travel have been made clearer by the posting of signs alongside each trail that depict a bike or horse and buggy.
During an earlier visit, the buggy side appeared to be a towpath-like crushed stone. But once the stone dust was washed away by rain, the hard chip-and-seal fully revealed itself. And now that the trail has aged a bit, the worn center track from the horses hooves demonstrate how the surface also acts as a protective coating for the asphalt base. This side-by-side trail configuration is not only unique among Ohio trails, it's practical as well.
Future plans are to extend the trail to Orrville where it could eventually be connected to the Sippo Valley Trail, via Dalton, or the Towpath in Clinton. As the Holmes County Trail is part of the Ohio-to-Erie Trail project, at least one of these connections will certainly become reality.
Killbuck To Fredericksburg
We started out from Hipp Station in Millersburg. This is an official trailhead with parking, water, restrooms and picnic area. The facility also houses the Holmes County Trail office and a bike shop. Trailside vending machines at the station offer sports drinks.
Heading south from the station, we passed under Rt. 39 heading away from downtown Millersburg. The bikeway bends to avoid a large parking area before resuming the route along the old rail corridor.
Before leaving the adjacent business district of south Millersburg along the east side of the trail, you may want to take advantage of the food and conveniences there. The trail connects with the Walmart parking lot making it a breeze to cycle to area stores or restaurants.
The trail bed here has been built up with sandstone, slate and slag to elevate it from low lying ground. This provided a proper base for the first asphalt section that was put down in '05 and extended north to Sterling Road, just south of Fredericksburg.
Continuing south toward Killbuck we encountered the asphalt segment that was paved in autumn '07. Here the two trails connect seamlessly in the middle. But as you near Killbuck the surface narrows considerably and becomes essentially a single asphalt trail.
There's no question that tandem trails with mixed surfaces are quite wide, and therefore, expensive to build. It's likely that the original configuration was abandoned here due to cost concerns. But dual trail traffic is still encouraged along the narrow trail.
This finished section ends in Killbuck at the old yellow train depot near the intersection of Elm and Main Streets. The weathered sign on the depot still reads "Columbus 67 mi," "Hudson 66 mi." The yellow building is the landmark to look for if you're searcing for the trail in Killbuck.
The trail will eventually continue westward to Glenmont. But at this time it's pretty much an impassable, forsaken stretch. But if you're interested in what it's like, check out Day 3 of the 2004 Ohio-to-Erie adventure.
In June '09, an important final section of the corridor was obtained for trail use. The segment extends west of Killbuck to Rt. 52, roughly 2 1/2 miles along the old rail corridor. This is the last missing piece of the puzzle that will allow virtually all of the bikeway -- with a couple brief detours -- to follow the original railway route.
After the return ride from Killbuck to Millersburg, we turned our attention north and headed toward Fredericksburg in Wayne County.
This segment alternates between all-asphalt to a combination surface as it moves northward.
The trail heads out of town and works its way through the countryside. I should mention that this rural trail passes through its share of woods and brush. And further on toward Holmesville it passes through wide open fields on either side. But what is unique about the Holmes County Trail is the large wetland it traverses. In fact, you may want to ride early in the day during warm weather months. I would think mosquitoes could be an issue, though we've had no problems during late afternoon rides.
As you near Rt. 83, you get a glimpse of the lighted tunnel under the roadway. This is an important landmark, not just for being the first completed bikeway tunnel on the trail, but it marks the point where a restroom and food stop is nearby. Take the asphalt spur to the right, just before you enter the southside of the tunnel, and ride uphill to the Rt. 83 Restaurant just a few yards out of sight of the trail.
The trail continues on to Benton Street in Holmesville where you'll encounter a short detour along streets between completed trail sections. Follow this map, or for those who prefer written directions: turn left on Benton, right on Market, then right again on Jackson. Detour ride time is about 5 minutes with the trail picking up again on your left.
Finding enough room for tandem trails can be a challenge, particularly when private property and public roads squeeze along both sides of a former railway. The Holmes County Trail utilizes an adjacent lane to accommodate buggies and keep them alongside the trail in one short section. This creates another new look and feel as the two are not always on the same plane.
Easy access is available where the split section begins and ends enabling a smooth transition from public lane back to the trail.
Another innovation can be seen in the trail bollard design. They are noticeably shorter than their standard counterparts, eliminating the risk of catching your handlebar as you ride through. A wider space is provided for buggies as well.
We reached Sterling Road just inside Wayne County, where the Holmes County Trail officially ends. Here, just outside of town, a single asphalt trail section carries on to Clay Street in Fredericksburg.
Now in Wayne County, the rules of the game are changed as a sign warns that horses are not welcome on their trail. This is a bit puzzling since buggies frequent Fredericksburg along with the other communities along the Holmes County corridor.
But politics, economics and other factors often enter into the business of trail building as each jurisdiction crafts its own trail and rules. Unfortunately, what is allowed on one trail, may be forbidden on another just down the line, as this junction demonstrates.
A similar scenario plays out in Killbuck where the surface narrows from tandem trails to one asphalt bikeway. The key difference being that horses are still allowed.
Tough economic times call for difficult decisions. The cost of constructing and maintaining two side-by-side trails, along with the wear and tear of horses hooves on the surface, all point to more capital investment and higher maintenance costs.
The older asphalt sections are holding up well with only a few raised bumps where cracks can be seen in the tarmac. Some wear from the horse traffic has resulted in several holes in the chip-and-seal topcoat and the asphalt near Rt. 83. (Most of these may have been remedied during the leveling project in 2010.) At the time of this review these areas are few and easily repairable. But they clearly demonstrate the maintenance issues.
Many trail projects have lofty goals, but the Holmes County Trail may be among the more ambitious with its tandem trail format. Essentially, this doubles the amount of trail surface that's put down and horse travel increases the wear rate on at least half of that surface.
But the original goals of this multi-use corridor should not be forgotten or abandoned. Providing a safe lane of travel for buggies, bikes and pedestrian benefits everyone in the community.
As for the finished section from Killbuck to Fredericksburg, it's smooth enough to rollerblade!
Brinkhaven To Glenmont
[Note: This section is open, but unfinished and rough in spots..]
This trail section is about 8 miles long. We started out from the Bridge of Dreams Trailhead in Brinkhaven, along the eastern end of the Mohican Valley Trail. Turn right onto the trail (head away from the bridge) to ride east into Holmes County.
The finished surface soon comes to an end after you pass through the tunnel at Rt. 62 and ride into Holmes County.
Follow the double track as it leads you along the former railroad corridor. The trail is mostly a cinder surface here, with some preliminary grading work completed.
An interesting section of trail resides just over the next filled in rail tunnel. You climb a short, steep hill up to street level, cross the road and plunge back down into a cool, cave-like stream bed where run-off water flows around you after a rain. You feel like you're riding in a cavern rather than on a former railway, as you pick your way along around the water and soft ground.
On a previous visit we encountered small black mounds alongside the trail further along toward Glenmont. At first they appeared here and there, then became more numerous and took on different shapes and sizes. At first glance it looked like small piles of dirt or cinders. But as the piles became more widespread, we stopped to get a closer look. The mounds were ant hills! Apparently the conditions were perfect for these insects to do their work along this mile or so stretch of trail. Some of the mounds looked like shallow graves, while others were smaller and round.
As you near County Road 25 in Glenmont, you may notice signs of 4-wheelers sharing the corridor. Beyond County Road 25, also known as Clinton Street, the trail is closed, mainly due to unsafe bridges and a breach in the trail just prior to Killbuck. To read an account of this section, check out Day 3 of my 2004 Ohio-to-Erie ride.
A word of caution about exploring the Holmes County Trail: The unfinished section from Brinkhaven to Glenmont may be open, but that doe not make it family friendly. And the Glenmont to Killbuck segment is officially closed at this time. As this can change over time as trail construction continues, determine which part of the trail you wish to ride and then contact the overseers to get more details on that particular section.
Note that the Holmes County Trail connects with another short segment that extends the trail .8 miles to Clay Street in Fredericksburg. This gives the bikeway the A1 class listing below.
Length: Approx. 30 miles / asphalt when complete. Currently 16 finished miles between Fredericksburg and Killbuck. The remaining 14 miles between Brinkhaven and Glenmont are in development or planning at this time.
Condition: Finished Sections - Very Good to Excellent
Facilities: Restrooms, water and drink machines at Hipp Station in Millersburg. Restrooms & water at the Rt. 83 Restaurant. Take asphalt spur -- no sign. Primitive toilet & picnic tables at Brinkhaven trailhead along with a well pump (not operational during our last visit!). There are only two water stops on the trail at this time (Rt. 83 & Hipp Station in Millersburg). Take extra water or plan on riding into the towns along the trail to refill.
Food: Fast food places in the Walmart parking lot in Millersburg. (The trail connects with the lot.) More choices along nearby Washington Street. Food & ice cream at the the Rt. 83 Restaurant near Holmesville. A couple of places in town in Killbuck. An ice cream and pizza place in Fredericksburg (not open until 2pm on Sunday on our last visit.)
Parking: Parking at Hipp Station in Millersburg, the trailhead lot behind the Rt. 83 Restaurant near Holmesville (see map). Also, parking at the Bridge of Dreams over the Mohican River in Brinkhaven off Rt. 62. But this southern most segment of the trail (beyond where the Mohican Trail ends) is now closed.
Bike Shop: At the Hipp Station trailhead in Millersburg.
Brinkhaven Glenmont Killbuck Millersburg Holmesville Fredericksburg
(30.2)mi (22.4mi) 15.9mi 9.6mi 4.7mi 0mi