I have a fascination with trains and railroads in general. Though this is more of trail then a park, I just had to share with you.
Much of America was once covered and crisscrossed by railroads. Many of the best trails and parks have been formed from abandoned rail lines which are in a lot of places across the country. The Dawkins Line Rail Trail State Park is one such abandoned ‘rails to trails’ Park in Eastern Kentucky. This part of Kentucky is very beautiful and I found as I drove through the area that there are places here that were very hilly as you are getting into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Dawkins Rail Trail is the longest rail trail in Kentucky. Along with your journey on this Trail, you will probably see several abandoned coal structures. The mines have long been closed but their remains still stand. I thought it was interesting to see how people once lived and worked in the area.
Most recently this Rail Trail was a coal-hauling line owned by the R.J. Corman Equipment Company. The railroad corridor was originally constructed in the early 1900s by the Dawkins Lumber Company which is where the trail’s name came from. This railroad was originally constructed to transport timber. The rail-trail passes historical coal structures and traverses a tunnel and 24 scenic trestles. It is also the site of a national forest and state park. Among the unique features of this area, in fact, is the elk viewing.
The first 18-mile leg of the trail, from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County, was opened to hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. Currently, the Dawkins Line Rail Trail is 18 miles long. An additional 18 miles will be added in the second phase of the trail work. When completed, the path will be 36 miles. This trail, built on top of rails from an out-of-use rail bed, is typical of ‘rails to trails’ parks across the United States. The trail isn’t totally level but the grades are gradual and not difficult to climb. The trail surface is finely crushed limestone that has been compacted. This is a true multi-use trail and does get a fair bit of horse traffic which can rough up the surface.
The trailhead of the Dawkins Line Rail Trails Park is located, on the on SE Licking River Road and Little Road in Royalton Kentucky. Royalton is located about 100 miles SE of Lexington, Ky. From Lexington, KY. Follow I-64 east to exit 98 and take the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, SE. At exit 75 get off on KY-7 till it forks at KY-867. Follow KY-867 to KY-1635 and follow that into Royalton.
Paintsville Lake State Park is the closest State Park to the Trail. The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is closest to Paintsville Lake State Park at Collista, KY. Collista, KY. Is 6 miles south of the Paintsville Lake State Park following US-23. Paintsville Lake State Park has 32 modern sites with restrooms, showers, laundry and sewer hookups, This campground also has a waterfront, picnic tables, two playgrounds and other recreation. If you prefer a primitive walk-in campsite, there are 10 available. A full-service marina is located near the campground, offering rental houseboats, pontoons and fishing boats.
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!Paintsville, Kentucky there are 3 free campsites within 35 miles of Paintsville, Kentucky.
—-Hiking & Biking & Horseback Riding—-
The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is rated as easy, and is an excellent trail for the first time or the first time in a long time riders. Traveling from Royalton to Hagerhill, trail users will experience an elevation drop of several hundred feet, making it a great trip for all experience levels. The trail is open to hikers, bikers and horseback riding. Four rustic trailheads, several benches, and kiosks are located along this first section. Bike rentals are available from Pro Fitness, with locations in Prestonsburg and Royalton.
—-Things To Do—-
Several famous musicians were from or made their home along U.S. Route 23, a 144-mile highway that runs through eastern Kentucky, passing seven counties. In 1994, the state legislature declared the road “The Country Music Highway,” and Paintsville houses the U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum. The venue pays homage to stars including Crystal Gayle, Dwight Yoakam, Loretta Lynn, Billy Ray Cyrus and the Judds. Local bluegrass musicians perform on most Thursday nights.