New Rail Trail: Athens, Englewood, and McMinn
McMinn County’s New Rail Trail
An abandoned rail line in McMinn County was recently redeveloped as the Eureka Trail, a 4.3-mile (8.6-mile round trip) hard-packed gravel trail between the communities of Athens and Englewood.
Collaboratively managed by the governments of Athens, Englewood, and McMinn County, the trail is used for walking, running, bicycling, and horseback riding. It’s named for the Eureka Cotton Mill, which once operated near the Englewood trailhead.
The primary access point is the Athens trailhead on Highway 307. There is ample parking, including a designated horse trailer parking lot for equestrians.
As would be expected of a former railway, the trail is fairly level, with only gentle inclines. Much of the trail is shady as it passes through a mixture of forest and farmland. After crossing the highway near the trailhead, there are two country road crossings along the way. At one point, the trail passes a wooded area damaged by a tornado a few years ago. The square white marker posts left over from the days of the railroad have been preserved. A series of mileage signs scattered along the way are labeled “Find it! Eureka Trail,” with each one featuring something to look for, such as “Find chirping crickets,” “Find wildflowers,” etc. It’s a good possibility you may spot a variety of wildlife along the way.
The trail ends at Highway 39, aka New Englewood Road. There is limited parking available here if you wish to start on this end or make it a one-way trip. Plans are for the trail to eventually extend another mile and a half into downtown Englewood.
Additionally, a half-mile triangular-shaped segment at the Athens trailhead is designated as the Health Triangle. In partnership with the State of Tennessee’s Project Diabetes, it features a series of pedestrian billboards which provide information about diabetes, obesity, good food choices, and high blood pressure symptoms, etc. This section is designed for people who may wish to get started walking for health reasons without going too far out on the trail.
If you live in or are visiting the McMinn County area and are looking for a peaceful place to enjoy the outdoors, the Eureka Trail is certainly worth checking out.
Athens Trailhead: GPS – 35.455987,-84.571383 or search Eureka Rail Trail on Google Maps.
Englewood Trailhead: GPS – 35.425892,-84.519254.
Article by Bob Butters