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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Swan Creek Greenway National Recreation Trail, Athens, Alabama

The Swan Creek Greenway Trail is a 2.3 mile long shaded trail that parallels Swan Creek, offering pedestrians views of gentle rapids, ample wildlife, and lush timberlands. The trail also connects many recreational facilities open to the public. Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2012.


Map of Alabama

photo of wood bridge

The trail crosses Swan Creek on a restored covered bridge

The Swan Creek Greenway Trail is owned and maintained by the City of Athens as an outdoor park and trail. The wooded trail parallels Swan Creek for approximately 2.3 miles, offering scenic views of small rapids and numerous pools along the tributary.

The greenway either runs through lands owned by the City or in easements purchased by the City. A swath of mixed timberland is preserved along the creek and the trail. Many species of wildlife indigenous to northern Alabama, including deer, squirrel, chipmunk, and foxes, along with numerous types of fowl and fish, can be viewed and enjoyed by nature enthusiasts and casual pedestrians alike. Among the various types of fish in Swan Creek are the slackwater darter, a listed endangered species.

The trail connects with numerous recreational facilities at the City's Sportsplex and Swan Creek Park. The Sportplex is a complex of facilities including baseball fields, soccer fields, a Frisbee golf course, a swimming pool and a playground. Swan Creek Park, located adjacent to the high school, offers a playground, tennis courts, and a pavilion with picnic tables, grills and public restrooms. An archery practice range is located in the vicinity of the pavilion. The trail also connects with a loop trail that circles the high school and its athletic complex. With all of these recreational facilities, the Swan Creek Greenway Trail offers the public numerous opportunities to enjoy health benefits and family fun.

photo of long boardwalk through trees

The trail crosses a large wetland area via wooden bridge close to the
athletic facilities of the high school


The trail has two trailheads: one on US 72 to the south and one at the City's Sportsplex to the north. Beginning at the northern trailhead, the trail meanders through an open greenspace that makes up a portion of the Frisbee golf course. The trail then crosses Swan Creek on a restored covered bridge. After paralleling Swan Creek for approximately 1/3 of a mile, the trail turns west toward the high school, where it crosses a large wetland area on an elevated boardwalk for a full 1/10 of a mile.

After passing the high school, athletic facilities and Swan Creek Park, the trail re-enters the timberland area along Swan Creek and parallels the tributary to the south trailhead. It is along this 1.2 mile stretch that one experiences the soothing sound and beautiful sight of numerous rapids as the creek cuts its way through its limestone bed.

The trail crosses under the Forrest Street bridge over Swan Creek, where it will soon connect with a pedestrian and bicycle path being developed to serve neighborhoods to the east along Forrest Street and Lindsay Lane. About 1/4 of a mile to the south of Forrest Street, the trail crosses Big Spring, the headwaters of which mark were the City of Athens was founded and served as its water supply for many years.

photo of trail along creek

The shaded trail paralleling Swan Creek


General maintenance is handled by the Parks and Recreation Department, while larger maintenance issues are occasionally dealt with by the Public Works Department. The greenway trail is open to the public 24 hours a day for the entire year. The portion of the greenway trail adjacent to the high school campus and athletic complex, as well as the loop trail around the high school, are illuminated at night. The entire trail was designed in accordance with the guidelines for accessible trails. The majority of the trail is dense grade crushed rock, with some segments consisting of concrete, asphalt, and elevated boardwalk.


Directions to Trail:

From Interstate 65, take US 72 west (Exit 351) 1/2 mile to trailhead on the right, or US 31 south (Exit 354) 3/4 of a mile to the Sportsplex trailhead.

For more information:

City of Athens Parks and Recreation Department
600 Elm St. W, Athens, AL 35611
Phone number: (256) 233-2224



trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database. Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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