Towpath Trail

The North Coast Inland Trail


When completed, the North Coast Inland Trail will extend from Lorain to Toledo, OH, a ~105-mile span. Currently, much of this corridor is well-defined. However, work continues to fill the gaps along the route.

Early on in the initial planning process for the NCIT project, it was reported that the trail would span the state from east to west, connecting Indiana with Pennsylvania by trail. But in recent years, no further mention has been made of this wider scope, thereby dropping the trail out of the "cross-state bikeway" category.

So for the moment, that leaves the Ohio-to-Erie Trail as the only cross-state trail project in Ohio. [Scroll past 'Specs & Facts' to continue reading.]

Lorain, OH
North Coast Inland Trail in Lorain, OH

Latest Update: 9/15/17 by Josh Wyrick - Trail Construction in Bellevue

An ODOT project is now underway to extend the Sandusky County portion of the North Coast Inland Trail by 2.5 miles in Bellevue. The new trail is being constructed within the right of ways of CR 177 and US 20, extending from the trail's current end point at CR 177 on the west edge of Bellevue to the intersection of US 20 and SR 18 downtown.

This will be a 10 foot wide paved path, with 1.8 miles of it being asphalt and the remaining 0.7 miles being concrete. A signed street route will direct through NCIT traffic from downtown Bellevue to the Huron County portion of the NCIT on the east side of town.

This project has been in the works for several years now, and was made possible by grants the City of Bellevue received from both the State and Federal levels.


Ottawa County, Elmore & Genoa Cooperating - 5/12/17 by OB

From portclintonnewsherald.com, "Ottawa County, Elmore and Genoa each entered into agreement Thursday as they continue to move forward on efforts to extend bike paths between the two villages, connecting the North Coast Inland Trail from Lucas to Sandusky County.

"The agreement, signed by officials from both villages and president of the Ottawa County commissioners Mark Stahl, lays out the construction and maintenance responsibilities of each jurisdiction."

[A grant application has been submitted for the bike path extension project. If approved, the funds will be available in 2019.]

Trail Construction in Wakeman - 4/5/17 by Joshua Wyrick

Huron County, OH - An ODOT project is currently underway that will connect Wakeman and Kipton with a new section of the North Coast Inland Trail.

The new paved bikeway will be built within US 20 right of way from the Lorain County line to the edge of Wakeman, where it will enter Red Cap Park and end at State Route 60.

Further details about this project and other trail developments can be found in the latest Firelands Rails to Trails newsletter. (See detailed maps of the Huron County NCIT.)

Sandusky County Expansion Plans - 3/3/17 by OB

From the news-messenger.com, "...At a recent board meeting, Sandusky County Commissioners lent their support of the project that would expand the bike path to several county destinations including the Rutherford B. Hayes Library and Museums, Terra State Community College, Christy Farm Nature Preserve and White Star Park in Gibsonburg."

Trail Proposed Between Genoa & Elmore - 1/14/17 by OB

From portclintonnewsherald.com, "Officials from several area villages and organizations are looking to add a missing piece [to the NCIT], connecting Genoa to Elmore, to a bike trail that is already nearly 100 miles long.

"...The time between applying for the grant and receiving the funds is a 'long-term process,' Amos said, so if they applied this year and were awarded the grant, funds would not arrive until 2019."

NCIT to Connect to Lake Erie - 10/4/16 by OB

From Cleveland.com, "By the summer of 2018, hikers and bikers will be able to travel from Kipton, in the southwestern corner of Lorain County, to Lake Erie in Lorain near the Spitzer Marina, thanks to a new, 11,000-foot trail.

"...The new trail will be built in 2018 and is expected to be available for use by the summer of that year."

Bridge Completed in Huron County - 9/7/16 by Josh Wyrick

The Bruce L. Chapin Bridge over the Vermilion River in Wakeman is now open for use. The bridge offers stunning views of the river 60 feet below and provides a safe alternative to the parallel US 20 bridge for bike and pedestrian use.

Completed in 1872 by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, this beautiful double arch sandstone bridge is the newest addition to the North Coast Inland Trail system after the completion of a railing retrofit project by FRTTI & LCMP with funding help from a state grant.

Lorain County Extends Trail - 1/3/16 by Josh Wyrick

This past fall Lorain County Metroparks extended the North Coast Inland Trail in the Kipton area by completeing a 1.3 mile segment from Baird Rd to the Lorain/Huron County line at Green Rd.

The new trail's surface is currently gravel, with plans to pave it in the future.

Norwalk Trail Opening - 7/26/15 by Josh Wyrick

The extension of the North Coast Inland Trail across Norwalk has been completed and the grand opening will be Friday July 31st at 6:30 pm.

The new section consists of a new 0.7 mile trail segment between N. West and Baker streets and a 2.2 mile signed bike route across city streets to the eastern edge of Norwalk.

Trail Expansion Into Norwalk - 4/21/15 by Josh Wyrick

Good news, Firelands Rails to Trails has acquired an easement to build a new section of trail in Norwalk between North West and Baker streets, an extension that will greatly improve the people of Norwalk's access to the NCIT. The City of Norwalk will also be signing and painting a road route to guide though trail traffic across town using city streets.

Trail Progress in Bellevue - 10/27/14 by Josh Wyrick

From cityofbellevue.com, "For some time we had tried to convince landowners to allow the continuation of the bike trail into Bellevue from where it currently ends without success. At the end of 2012, the administration decided to take the strategy of bringing the trail into town on U.S. Route 20. Grants were applied for in the first half of 2013. In the second half of the year, the City was notified that the grants were approved...

"As grants go, certain steps and requirements have to be made before the funds are paid out. The current step is engineering/drawings of the trail. The drawings will be finalized by the first quarter of 2015.

"If this goes as planned, we would then wait on the funds to be distributed in the second half of 2015 and, hopefully, the trail will be completed by fall of 2015."

Incidents in Sandusky County - 9/8/14 by Ohio Bikeways

A recent spike in incidents along the trail is unlike anything seen in recent years, according to thenews-messenger.com. Here are the 3 occurrences that were reported:

On July 11, 2014 a sexual assault was reported near South Ohio 19. A 17-year-old girl told rangers she was rollerblading when a man allegedly approached her from behind on his bicycle and grabbed her inappropriately...

On July 24, 2014, a woman posted a message on Facebook warning other women after she was frightened on the trail. "I was approached by a man [...]. Had I not had my mace with me I believe he would have attacked me..."

On Sept. 2014, a man was charged with multiple misdemeanors including persistent disorderly conduct while intoxicated, having an open container and resisting arrest. The man was dumping out contents from a liquor bottle and cursing at park rangers when he was arrested...



Lorain County

A modest 2.8-mile rail-trail, formerly known only as the Oberlin Bike Path, was the starting point for NCIT development in Lorain County. The trail was expanded westward and has been completed to the Huron County line, just west of Kipton, OH. Only the last 1.3-mile section has yet to be paved.

Heading northeast from Oberlin, finished trail reaches the westside of Elyria. At this point, the rail-trail ends for good, as the next objective is to close a 3-mile gap over to completed trail in the Black River Reservation to the north.

Once on the park trail system, it's a paved ride north to Colorado Avenue, with a final 3-mile gap to Spitzer Marina at Lake Erie in Lorain, the planned eastern terminus for the NCIT.

Oberlin Depot
Depot in Oberlin, OH

The rail-trail portion of the bikeway cuts a straight line as it passes farm fields and wooded areas.

Near Main Street in Oberlin, the trail now passes directly alongside the old train depot building. This is a good spot for a food stop as restaurants are right along Main Street.

Heading west, the trail moves alongside a golf course and passes a spur for the Oberlin Recreation Complex.

At Pyle-South Amherst Road there's a break in the trail that's remedied by a short roadside ride along a marked bike lane before dedicated trail resumes.

After crossing Rt. 511 in Kipton you'll come upon Community Park. This convenient green space is sandwiched between the bikeway and a nearby parallel road and provides ample parking, water, a portable toilet and picnic tables.

The trail continues another 2 miles west from Kipton before ending at the Huron County line at Green Road (aka County Line Rd on some maps). However, the final 1.3 miles are not paved, and there is no parking at this terminus, so plan on using the Kipton trailhead for parking in this area.

We should also mention that a Lorain County bike route, Back Roads & Beaches, uses a portion of the trail along its route. You'll see the signs west of the Oberlin trail section.

Signage on the trail is excellent. Not only were the crossroads and the rec center spur marked, but additional signage included maps and safety tips delivered in clever and inexpensive ways.

Mile Marker
Dual-Purpose Mile Marker

Mile markers are placed every 1/2 mile and show the distance to each endpoint of the trail in both directions! A creative use of the old mile marker method.

Trail Specs & Facts:

Location: Lorain County, OH

Class: C3, A3++

Length: 20.2 miles / asphalt (not including spurs); 1.3 mile / gravel

Condition: Varies from Fair to Very Good

Facilities: In Oberlin, facilities available at trailside fast food restaurant.

Parking: See trail map for options.

Worth Noting: Road riding the gap between trails in not recommended in Elyria (not bike-friendly). No word yet on the road route into Lorain on Colorado Avenue.

Map: North Coast Inland Trail - all counties

Lorain Co. Elevation: North to Southwest

Completion Progress: Lorain County has two ~3-mile gaps to close before the NCIT is completed within the county. And another 1.3-mile section at the Huron County line (west end) has yet to be paved.

More Trails in this Region: NE OH Trails List


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Huron County

The Huron County portion of the North Coast Inland Trail continues to grow, with a 10.3-mile completed segment now stretching from the eastside of Bellevue to Norwalk.

Another completed segment spans 5.2-miles, passing through Collins, OH. At this time, all completed segments have a stone or crushed stone surface.

That leaves 3 gaps in the trail, totalling ~12 miles. Not all of these remaining miles will be trail, however. Where the original rail corridor is no longer intact in the cities of Norwalk and Bellevue, road routes or bike lanes have made the final connections.

In Bellevue, the gap is ~6 miles. In Norwalk, the distance is 3.4 miles. No word on how bike-friendly these may be. Ride at your own risk.

Josh Wyrick, from Firelands Rail to Trails, reported that the Bruce L. Chapin Bridge over the Vermilion River is now open (9/2016) on the trail in Wakeman. However, no finished trail there yet.

The latest news from Josh: An ODOT project is currently underway that will connect Wakeman and Kipton with a new section of the North Coast Inland Trail. The new paved bikeway will be built within US 20 right of way from the Lorain County line to the edge of Wakeman, where it will enter Red Cap Park and end at State Route 60.

Projected completion for this section is November 2017. When finished, Wakeman will be linked to the 15-miles of completed trail in Lorain County.

I believe this will be the first segment of paved trail within Huron County.

Wakeman Bridge
Vermillion River Bridge in Wakeman, OH    Photo by Josh Wyrick

The following review covers the 3.3-mile section between Monroeville and Norwalk.

Heading east from Peru Center Road in Monroeville, the rail-trail parallels an active rail line that moves alongside. There's a small gully and/or brush line that separates the two much of the way.

All sections are smooth and well graded. While some appear newer, with only a smattering of vegetation growth through the middle of the aggregate.

As with other sections of the NCIT, flat and straight is the general rule between Monroeville and Norwalk, though there is a noticeable dip just before the old rail yard on the outskirts of Norwalk.

Railway Bridge
Rail line alongside NCIT

But flat and straight doesn't mean mundane. The scenery changes frequently along the way from an open field with an unobstructed view, to partial or full tree and brush cover. Some tall trees lend character to the ride here.

The bikeway makes good use of its abandoned rail corridor by utilizing existing over-street bridges, including a scenic crossing over a small gorge at the east branch of the Huron River.

Trail Specs & Facts:

Location: Huron County, OH

Class: C3

Length: 15.5 miles / stone or crushed stone

Condition: Good

Facilities: N/A

Parking: Monroeville, OH lot. (See trail map for more options.)

Worth Noting: To bridge the gap between trail sections in Bellevue, a ~6-mile road ride is required.

Map: North Coast Inland Trail - all counties

Huron Co. Elevation: Mostly flat

Completion Progress: Huron County has 2 gaps to close along the NCIT. The Wakeman to Kipton section is currently being developed, and will connect with trail in Lorain County. Upon completion, that leaves the Wakeman west to Collins, OH gap to close.

More Trails in this Region: NE OH Trails List


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Sandusky County

The NCIT in Sandusky County offers 21.6 miles of completed, paved trail. 2 gaps remain along the route. One at Fremont and the other at Bellevue.

The 3.4-mile gap through Fremont is a marked bike route along city streets. Beware, the stretch along Rt. 20 (W. State St.) has been an issue for some cyclists, as it's a major business route through the heart of the city.

The trail also has a ~6-mile gap in Bellevue. Update: 9/15/17 Josh Wyrick reports that trail construction is currently underway to extend the Sandusky portion of the trail 2.5 miles into Bellevue, closing a nice chunk of this gap. When construction is completed, a ~3.5 mile gap will remain between completed trail sections.

Trail Sign
NCIT in Sandusky County, OH

This review covers the Sandusky County Segment from Fremont to Clyde. This bikeway was constructed in 1997. The path utilizes an abandoned rail corridor that parallels active rail lines that lay 30-40 yards to the north. A natural barrier of vegetation often separate the two.

Utility poles share the corridor along one side, and 'Adopt-a-Trail' signs can be found all along the route.

Like its eastern counterpart, the Lorain County section, this bikeway travels in a straight line. There are some curves to break the monotony as you approach the city of Clyde. The scenery along the trail also changes a bit from thick vegetation and trees, to more sparsely bordered sections that reveal crop fields and an occasional orchard.

The final section of trail into Fremont from the southeast is elevated and required 2 bridge restorations within a short distance. No expense was spared on construction as the bridge decks feature solid concrete with curbs and fencing. The Sandusky River Bridge also offers a downtown connector on the west bank.

Sandusky River
Sandusky River Bridge in Fremont, OH

The former rail bed rises along a ridge where it crosses the river and moves into town. The trail comes to an end at Hayes Street near Park Avenue.

From here a 3.4-mile signed road route guides cyclists through Fremont over to the Walter Avenue trailhead where the trail picks up again. Keep in mind that this road route includes a busy stretch along W. State Street, a Rt. 20 business route. As always on the road, ride at your own risk!

Continuing northwest on the trail from Fremont's westside, the bikeway travels another 11.8 miles through Lindsey, then over to Elmore in Ottawa County.

Trail Specs & Facts:

Location: Sandusky County

Class: A3++

Length: 21.6 miles / asphalt

Condition: N/A

Facilities: In towns along the route.

Parking: Walsh Park in Fremont, OH. (See trail map for more options.)

Worth Noting: The road route through Fremont includes a section on W. State Street, the Rt. 20 business route through the city. Needless to say, this a concern for bicyclists seeking bike-friendly connecting routes. The road connector in Bellevue is ~6-miles long. As always, road riding is at your own risk.

Map: North Coast Inland Trail - all counties

Sandusky Co. Elevation: East to west

Completion Progress: The NCIT is complete in Sandusky County, though there are road routes to navigate between trail sections in Fremont and Sandusky.

More Trails in this Region: NW OH Trails List


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Ottawa County

In 2008, trail construction between Fremont and Elmore extended the NCIT into Ottawa County, with roughly 3-miles of the bikeway now residing there.

You might wonder, where does the trail go from here? Good question. Years ago, when the proposed route of the NCIT was first made public, it was suggested that the route would include the Cannonball Trail in Lucas County and a route to the Indiana state line. Also, Pennsylvania was said to be the objective for the eastern span of the trail.

Fast forward to 2017, and the overall scope of the trail has shortened considerably. It now appears that the eastern terminus will be at Lake Erie, in Lorain, OH. And the western end is supposed to be in Lucas County, most likely near Toledo, OH. Altogether, this route is roughly 105-miles long.

The next objective heading northwest is Genoa in Ottawa County, as the trail continues to inch closer to Toledo.

Lindsey, OH
Trailside Park in Lindsey, OH  Photo by Robert Soper

Trail Specs & Facts:

Location: Ottawa County

Class: C3, A3++

Length: 1.9 miles / asphalt; +1 mile gravel

Condition: N/A

Facilities: Trailside at Walter Ory Park in Elmore.

Parking: Walter Ory Park in Elmore.

Worth Noting: Where the bikeway ends, just beyond Elmore in Ottawa County, is the current western terminus for the NCIT.

Map: North Coast Inland Trail - all counties

Ottawa Co. Elevation: The 3-mile completed segment is mostly flat.

Completion Progress: Only 2.9 miles complete at this time. The next destination along the route in Ottawa County is Genoa. This segment is still in the planning stage.

More Trails in this Region: NW OH Trails List

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