Power lines along trails

Examples of electric transmission lines in shared utility corridors with trails, railtrails, and greenways.

by Stuart Macdonald, Trail Consultant, American Trails

Trails are often built in utility corridors of all kinds, from underground pipelines to electric power lines overhead. There may be hundreds of trails across the country that follow power line corridors. Over the years some articles have raised concerns about electro magnetic fields (EMF) emanating from power lines. However, research seems to find that trails along electric lines are safe.

While it easy to take a photo showing huge structures towering over trails, when you are actually hiking or riding along the corridor the poles or towers are not so obtrusive. In urban areas these utility corridors are often essential connectors because they are wide swaths through built-up area. In rural areas the dirt maintenance roads have been made available to bicyclists, OHV riders, and snowmobilers through formal public use agreements. The photos show a variety of examples of trails along power lines

Photos in this Collection

On the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway south of Ocala, Florida

On the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway south of Ocala, Florida

Trail shares corridor with power lines and irrigation canal in Phoenix, Arizona

Power lines along Highline Canal Trail south of Denver, Colorado

Power lines along Highline Canal Trail south of Denver, Colorado

Mowed grass trail through park in Bettendorf, Iowa

Dirt trail follows transmission lines in Salt Lake City at Parleys Canyon

Trail through green belt includes transmission lines along Bechtel Blvd. in Denver, Colorado

Rails with trails project includes power lines in Burlington, Washington

Power poles line trail in active railroad corridor, Burlington, Washington

Cherry Creek Trail in winter paralleled by power lines; Denver, Colorado

Transmission structures are close to Cherry Creek Trail through park land in Denver, Colorado

Transmission structures are close to Cherry Creek Trail through park land in Denver, Colorado

No barriers or fences on transmission structures along Cherry Creek Trail; Denver, Colorado

High tension lines and trail through open space along Van Bibber Creek Trail; Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado

Power substation is next to bikeway on the Van Bibber Creek Trail; Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado

Trail along Platte River close to major power lines in Adams County north of Denver, Colorado

Platte Greenway runs close to coal-fired power plant on north side of Denver, Colorado

About the Author

Stuart Macdonald spent 19 years as Colorado's State Trails Coordinator. He is the editor of American Trails Magazine. During 1998-99, he represented State Trail Administrators on the national committee that proposed regulations for accessible trails. He chaired the National Recreational Trails Committee, which advised the Federal Highway Administration in the first years of the Recreational Trails Program. Stuart grew up in San Diego and his main outdoor interest besides trails is surfing. He has a BA in English from San Francisco State and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Utah State.

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