The Richland B & O Trail traverses 18.5 miles of former rail corridor from Butler to Mansfield, Ohio in Richland County. [Scroll past 'Trail Facts' to continue reading.]
Location: Richland County, OH
Length: 18.5 miles / asphalt
Facilities: In parks at both ends of the trail, and trailside in Bellville and Butler.
Parking: A centrally located lot in Lexington, OH. (See trail map for more options.)
Worth Noting: The B&O Trail was the first in its area to become a bollard-free trail. Learn more about the trail bollard hazard.
Elevation Map: Riding from North to South
More Trails in this Region: NE OH Trails List
The B & O is primarily a rural rail-trail with short sections through two small towns -- Lexington & Bellville -- and endpoints in Butler and Mansfield, OH.
It offers some changes in scenery along its route: From open farmlands, woods and river crossings to short sections alongside a factory and a former grain station.
The trail takes a northwesterly route out of Butler passing a local campground which is largely out of view, due to the greenbelt of trees and brush that line the trail. But if you look closely after the river bridge crossing, a very short asphalt spur on your left reveals a path to the camping area and the River Trail Crossing Campground.
In Bellville the trail passes within a block or so of the heart of this small town while crossing Main Street (Route 13). Use caution when crossing, particularly when riding southeast. The structure of a nearby bridge partially obscures your view of approaching traffic.
A rest station with restrooms, water, picnic table and bike fix-it stand is available here. As are nearby food and ice cream establishments.
Leaving Bellville, the trail again crosses the Clear Fork Mohican River and passes through a cool wooded spot as it bends northward toward Lexington. You'll cross Rt. 97 and then encounter one more crossroad before passing directly underneath the I-71 bridges, a short distance from the I-71 / Rt. 97 interchange.
Just before the bikeway passes under Main Street (Rt. 42) in Lexington, you'll see the Y-not bike shop on your left at the old at-grade street crossing. The shop is near the mid-point of this bikeway which could prove handy, should you have a mechanical or need a tire or tube. Rentals are also available in season.
The bikeway continues on with brush and tree cover as you head north passing a small lake, before skirting the perimeter of a wetland further north.
After entering Mansfield by crossing Millsboro Road, the trail begins a slight descent as it passes under a few city street bridges and near Kingwood Center (no access from the bikeway) before ending at North Lake Park.
At the Park Avenue bridge underpass, there's a paved ramp up to street level. Take the ramp and you'll find the closest trailside food stops along the northern portion of the bikeway.
You'll find mile markers, an occasional bench and a number of parking areas scattered along the way. The rest stations in Bellville and Lexington provide restrooms, water fountains and parking.
The bikeway is mostly flat with a few turns here and there. Elevation gain is minimal but noticeable coming out of North Lake Park, where you're climbing a slight grade. Heading south from Lexington the trail maintains a gradual descent all the way to Butler. But winds have to be favorable to realize this benefit.
There are approximately 18 road crossings, two of which are county highways. Brush is not always cut back throughout the summer season, another reason for caution at all road crossings along this bikeway.
Unfortunately, the B&O Trail has seen its share of tragedies. The most recent of which, was a fatal bollard crash in 2012. After surveying local residents and riders, it was discovered that the bollards had done more harm, resulting in yet another death years earlier, 2 known serious injuries and numerous collisions.
Thankfully, important safety improvements have been made since that time. In 2014, all center bollards (those placed directly in the middle of the trail surface) were removed from the B&O.
Update: Several flexible posts have been installed on the center of the trail in the Bellville area in late 2019. Do flexible posts pose any danger to trail users? Learn more.
In addition, 2 other trail managing groups within the region also removed their solid center trail bollards. Yet another Ohio bikeway constructed their trail, the Tallgrass Trail, using no bollards at all.
Unfortunately, the bollard hazard remains in place on many Ohio trails and elsewhere. For if those communities are not yet aware of this danger, or have not experienced a tragedy themselves, they are none the wiser. Learn more about this ongoing danger on many trails.