Richard Martin National Recreation Trail, Limestone County, Alabama

The 10.2 mile trail offers a back-to-nature getaway for thousands of local residents and tourists to enjoy the great variety of opportunities created by the trail.

National Recreation Trail

Designated in 2010

• View more details for this trail
in the NRT Database

• Learn about the NRT Program.

The trail is named after Richard Martin, who led a 25-year effort with volunteers and various community organizations to establish the continuous 10.2 mile, rails-to-trails bicycle, equestrian, and pedestrian trail in Limestone County, Alabama.

The Richard Martin Trail accesses outstanding natural, cultural, and historic resources. Natural features include beautiful wetlands and flora and fauna that are indigenous to the Tennessee Valley.

The trail winds its way past the site of the Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle. A historic site on the trail marks the bloodiest Civil War battle on Alabama soil. Over 200 men were killed on September 25, 1864 at this Fort site during these hard times. Walkers can retrace the same steps as such civil war heroes as General Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Confederates Army and General William T. Sherman of the Union Army.

There are many events which take place all during the year that everyone, including underserved individuals, may participate in. Hikers, bikers, joggers, bird watchers, horseback riders, as well as naturalists, students, and historians are just some of the groups who enjoy activities along the trail. The trail is also accessible to wheelchairs so that everyone can enjoy the wonder and beauty of this trail.

Events on the Trail

  • March - Sassafras Tea Day. This is an early wildflower walk with a taste testing treat of fresh brewed sassafras tea from sassafras trees on the Trail.
  • April the dogwoods and redbuds are in full bloom.
  • May - Horse and Buggy Day for all area equestrians.
  • June - National Trail Day
  • August the jewel weed is in full bloom and attracts hundreds of hummingbirds and butterflies. This is a joy for people of all ages.
  • October brings the beautiful fall colors. Although the Trail is a non-motorized trail, there is a Fall Walk and Ride each year at which time senior citizens are driven down the Trail in busses to enjoy the fall colors at their peak.

Elkmont Caboose; photo by Rob Grant

Elkmont Caboose; photo by Rob Grant

Art and Activities

Rock piling by walkers; If you pass the way of the rock pile, you are supposed to put a rock on top of the rock pile.

Springtime on the Trail; a print that depicts a Tiger Swallow Butterfly and a white dogwood in full bloom with an Eastern Bluebird on it and redbud trees with wildflowers, yellow stare grass, mountain phlox and foam flowers growing on the ground. It was painted by Larry Chandler, world famous wildlife artist, depicting a couple walking down the trail with walking sticks.

For bird watchers the trail will also allow access to wetlands where hundreds of varieties of birds nest and feed in this area. On this trail you will see species such as Eastern Blue Birds and Great Blue Herons

Throughout construction of the Trail, the Boy Scouts of America have been involved. Eagle Scouts have done various projects to earn their badges.

Prison labor helps maintain the trail, and according to the trail managers, "they love it."

Given the growing emphasis on the health benefits of outdoor recreation, please note if there is a health partner— an organization, hospital, or health agency— that could get involved to assist with development, operation, and/or promotion of the trail.

Directions and facilities:

The trailheads are located on Piney Chapel Road just north of Athens and Veto, Alabama at the Tennessee state line. Newly constructed at the Piney Chapel trailhead, is a pavilion with restrooms, parking lot for vehicles/horse trailers, and hitching posts. Also at the Veto trailhead, is the restoration of a 1800’s community church and new restroom facilities. The trail hours are daylight to sunset.

For more information:

Limestone County Parks & Recreation
310 West Washington Street, Athens, Alabama 35611
Phone: (256) 216-3425


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