The Panhandle Trail has a close neighbor in Newark, Ohio that follows the Licking River. For the sake of identification, we'll call it the Panhandle River Trail. [Scroll past 'Specs & Facts' to continue reading.]
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Trail Specs & Facts:
Location: Licking County, OH
Length: 9.9 miles & 1.6 miles / asphalt
Facilities: No facilities or water on the trail. Use the fast food establishment at the Dayton Rd crossing.
Parking: Licking Valley & Marne Rds (See trail map for more options.)
Worth Noting: There are 45.8 miles of paved trail in Licking County.
Elevation: Mostly flat
More Trails in this Region: SE OH Trails List
Let's start with the main attraction, the 10-mile Panhandle that opened in 1997. The trail leaves Newark's eastside and passes through Hanover heading due east.
Thanks to the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, the Newark area boasts a well-developed network of trails. They are mostly well-connected, too. With the exception of 2 small gaps where road riding is required (1.5 & .2 miles), you can ride to various points within the city, as well as the Newark OSU Campus, Hanover, Granville, Alexandria and Johnstown -- all by trail!
You can visit the nearby Blackhand Gorge Trail to add yet another trail to your ride list.
The Panhandle closely parallels an existing, working rail line. In fact, there is only a 4-5' high chain link fence separating the two. This side-by-side configuration is commonly known as a rail-with-trail and has become increasingly popular. It takes advantage of rail corridors that may have infrequent or slow-moving rail service, or perhaps multiple lines -- some of which are no longer in use -- allowing a trail to share the right-of-way.
Starting on the city's eastside at N. Morris, just off E. Main, the bikeway extends eastward to Felumlee Road (Twp. Rd. 193), east of Hanover, Ohio. The trail passes the Licking Valley Road and Marne Road intersection, which is within 1.2 miles of the Blackhand Gorge Trail. Here you'll find the closest connecting road route between the two trails.
A bit further east you pass Nashport Road (Route 146), which you can also use to connect with the Blackhand via Toboso Road. However, these road routes are not known for being bike friendly. Depending on the time of day, you may encounter little traffic and relative calm, but don't let that fool you. Trucks are common here. Cyclists are urged to use caution, especially crossing Rt. 16. Road ride at your own risk.
Much of the Panhandle is tree and brush-lined with a chain link fence and railroad track running along the south side of the trail.
In past years, the N. Morris Street parking lot had seen its share of broken glass and debris. But since we've rarely seen anyone park there, it's safe to say the lot is not popular with locals.
The trail passes fairly close to the former Longaberger Basket Company headquarters. The sight of this building will definitely get your attention. It's constructed to look like a giant picnic basket, complete with large handles towering over this 7 story structure. It's quite a sight!
Heading toward Hanover the sound of crickets filled the air. It was only mid-afternoon, but late in the season these guys really belt out their song. A few rock walls, as well as a cut-through with an overhead bridge get your attention as you ride toward the trail's current endpoint at Felumlee Road.
We stopped when we heard a popping sound and looked over the brush to see golfers surprisingly close by. The sound was actually a tee shot from an adjacent golf course.
A problem with runoff from rain water washing onto the trail has been an issue in a few places over the years. A fairly thick layer of dried mud covered the trail at Dayton Road.
The Panhandle has a split personality, of sorts. The western section that runs through town has the feel of riding through city outskirts where local kids use the path. The eastern section of the trail has a much more remote and secluded feel where it passes through woods as it skirts by the small community of Hanover.
Panhandle River Trail
This bikeway is just west of the Panhandle Trail. It spans 1.6 miles north along the north fork of the Licking River from Miller and Ohio Streets, past Everett Park and over to Manning Street in Newark.
The section along Everett Park is lined with lamp posts, as you start your ride along the river.
Some people were fishing in the river the day we rode past. The bikeway provides a picturesque view of the river and its banks here.
The west end of the Panhandle Trail lies only a couple of blocks to the east on Main Street at Morris. Turn north on Morris, then make a quick right onto the Panhandle.