Converting rails to trails in cities is a trend that we are pretty keen on. Here are five elevated urban trails (including the brand spankin' new one in Chicago!) that help us get outside to enjoy the outdoors and see our favorite cities from new heights. Healthy living at its finest, we say.
1. The 606 in Chicago
Continuing the Chicago tradition for innovative parks and urban trails, the 606 is a path, park and alternative transportation corridor connecting hip neighborhoods Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. (You probably recognize some of these names from our bike bags!)
Length: 2.7 miles
Year opened: June 6, 2015
Origin Story: The 606 began life as the Bloomingdale train line, built in the late 1800's to move goods from outlying rail ports to the busy Chicago river to help spur industry after the Great Chicago Fire. For nearly a century, the rail line served small manufacturers on the city's northwest side until the mid 1990's, when the few trains that still used the line were rerouted.
2. The Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis
The Stone Arch Bridge is the only bridge of its kind over the Mississippi River. The bridge consists of 23 arches and spans the river below St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, MN.
Length: 0.40 miles
Year opened: 1980
Origin Story: This one-of-a-kind bridge was built by railroad baron James J. Hill in 1883 through 1965, and is still seen as a symbol of the railroad age. In 1980, the bridge was converted to active transportation for pedestrians and bicyclists with great view of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls, earning it a spot on our list of urban trails.
3. The Promenade Plantée in Paris
The Promenade Plantée is an extensive green belt three stories above ground, resplendent with parks and gardens of fragrant flowers and sweeping views of the surrounding architecture. While not the oldest of the urban trails in this post, this park is credited for kicking off the trend to converting aerial rails to trails in cities around the world.
Length: 2.9 miles
Year Opened: 1993
Origin Story: Like the elevated urban trails that followed, the Promenade Plantée is built on the former tracks of the Vincennes railway line that ceased operation in late 1969. The area surrounding the Bastille station was renovated in the 1980's and the Promenade Plantée park was developed as part of this project. This park enjoyed status as the only aerial urban park until the High Line came along (see #5).
4. West Toronto Railpath
The West Toronto Railpath is a multi-use trail that goes from The Junction neighborhood toward downtown Toronto. Part of the area's many urban trails, this project features historical rail bridges and public art pieces by artist John Dickson, all situated among indigenous planting.
Length: 4.0 miles (when completed)
Year Opened: Phase 1 completed in 2009
Origin Story: This railway was used by the Canadian Pacific Railway for many years, starting in 1883. The line was acquired by the City of Toronto in 2003 and plans to convert the railway into a park were soon underway.
5. The High Line in New York City
Probably the most well known of all elevated urban trails, the High Line is a gorgeous example of modern landscape architecture, combining native plants and grasses with view of the Hudson River and vistas of downtown architecture. Wandering along its urban trails and experiencing all the park features is a must-do for all visitors to NYC.
Length: 1.45 miles
Year Opened: First phase opened in 2009, the second in 2011 and the third and final stage in 2014.
Origin Story: The High Line originally opened to trains in 1934 as part of the city's West Side Improvement Project. The last train travelled along the tracks in 1980, carrying a load of frozen turkeys. The trail sat in disuse for about the next 20 years until the Friends of the High Line was formed to preserve the structure and revive it for modern use.
Did we miss your favorite park or do you have a memory to share about any of these? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!