Among the state's most useful and most popular rail trails is the T.J. Evans Trail, 14 lovely miles connecting Newark to Johnstown that compose the healthiest section of Licking County's growing trail network.

[Trail map]

Even to a thin-tired track bike, the terrain and pavement of those 20-odd miles posed few problems. (Uneven spots were brightly marked with yellow paint.)

Essentially a microcosm of rural Ohio, the T.J. Evans shoots through dense creekside forests, occasional stone outcroppings, small towns and working farmland. Literally. In one spot, you've got pastures on your left and right sides, with cows giving you their blank trademark stare.

Many sections also interact with Raccoon Creek, a small stream that runs east to feed the Licking River. Several bridges -- including a beautiful white number near Cherry Valley Road -- offer excellent views of rushing water between winding, secretive banks.

Here are some great shots of the trail by Alive photographer Dan Sohner.

View larger image If you're unable to do the entire 14-plus miles, the most picturesque stretch appears here, just east of the giant metal grain elevators of the Granville Milling Co. You might even see deer standing just feet from the trail, grabbing lunch and posing for sun-dappled photographs.

View larger image This historic steel bridge lies just east of Cherry Valley Road on a trail spur that heads to the Newark YMCA. It's one of the prettiest spots in Licking County's growing trail system.

View larger image This commemorative statue embodies what you'll likely feel breezing along the flat stretch that parallels State Rte. 37.

View larger image A biker flies by on one of the strong steel bridges that overlook Raccoon Creek. It's a great place to stop, rest and take in the view.