Major Investment in Moonville Trail Connectivity Opens New Biking Options
by Aimee Delach
King’s Hollow Tunnel
When I first moved to Athens in 2017, I heard tell that west of town there was a rail trail that led to <drumroll> a haunted railway tunnel! While many swear to the veracity of the latter part, the bit about the trail going all the way there was . . . not quite accurate. While a bridge was installed a few years ago allowing access to the Moonville Tunnel, the trail itself had suffered from the long-ago removal of several bridges crossing Hewett Fork and Raccoon Creek, meaning that whether you started from Mineral, or King’s Hollow Road, or the Moonville Tunnel itself, within a few hundred yards you encountered a missing span, so a trip of any great length was going to involve getting (at least) your feet wet. All that changed this year, when a grant from the Ohio Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Economic Development Pilot Program enabled the rebuilding of seven bridges along the nearly four-mile stretch from Mineral to the Moonville Tunnel. Update your Lizard Maps, kids, and load up your bikes, because the Moonville Rail Trail is ready and waiting!
parking map for Moonville Rail Trail in Mineral, Ohio
For our exploration of the trail, we parked in Mineral along State Route 356 where the trail crosses the road, between Biddyville Road and Mud Lick Run, where there is room for a number of cars (see below for the map of the parking location in the town of Mineral). The trail there also appears to continue a ways to the east (perhaps some intrepid explorer can see how far that is passable and let us know) but we headed west. As part of the trail restoration project, the entire length has been smoothed and regraded with stone dust, making an easy travel surface for hybrid and gravel bikes. The first of the new bridges, across Hewett Fork, opens the way to King’s Hollow Tunnel, which, though less notorious than Moonville, is the longer and more architecturally interesting of the two.
One of 7 new bridges on the Moonville Rail Trail
The trail then crosses Rockcamp Road and continues through the southern edge of Zaleski State Forest, covering some of the most remote and roadless, continuously forested terrain in our region. Six of the new bridges cross various stream sections on this length. The trail goes past several scenic wetlands (probably originally borrow pits from the rail bed building), and
passes quite close to both the Zaleski backpacking trail, as well as bridle trails in the area. Once through the Moonville Tunnel and over the bridge installed a few years ago, you come to Hope-Moonville Road. Past here there are two still unfinished bridge spans, but these are easily circumvented by following the gravel road about 1 mile– turn right from the trail and follow Hope-Moonville Road until it crosses the trail again. The surface at this point has not been upgraded and is grassy, but passable, and the trail runs, with no further stream crossings, all the way to the village of Zaleski.
Wetland along a newly opened section of the Moonville Rail Trail
The seven new bridges on the Moonville Rail Trail have fulfilled the trail’s promise as a great
new anchor for bicycle recreation in Vinton County. In addition to being a lovely stretch of trail, the newly completed section serves as a connector in an area that is already a gravel grinder’s
paradise. The trail is open to “muscle-powered” recreation; that is, feet, bikes, and horses.
Alas, the Midnight at Moonville Festival, which was scheduled for Saturday, October 9, was canceled due to the Delta variant surge– they didn’t feel they could
Midnight at Moonville 2018
safely operate the shuttles from the parking area. So the Athens Bicycle Club is doing our own event on the trail, a group ride from Mineral to Zaleski, departing in early evening and returning after dark on Saturday, October 23, 2021. Link to Night Train to Moonville Ride on Facebook