National Trails System

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Map of the system with trail logos US National Trails System, 50th Anniversary map.jpg
Map of the system with trail logos
Each national scenic and historic trail has a rounded triangle logo used to mark its route and significant points. Natl Hist Trail route signs.JPG
Each national scenic and historic trail has a rounded triangle logo used to mark its route and significant points.

The National Trails System is a series of trails in the United States designated "to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation". [2] There are four types of trails: the national scenic trails, national historic trails, national recreation trails, and connecting or side trails. The national trails provide opportunities for hiking and historic education, as well as horseback riding, biking, camping, scenic driving, water sports, and other activities. The National Trails System consists of 11 national scenic trails, 21 national historic trails, over 1,300 national recreation trails, and seven connecting and side trails, as well as one national geologic trail, with a total length of more than 91,000 mi (150,000 km). The scenic and historic trails are in every state, and Virginia and Wyoming have the most running through them, with six.


In response to a call by President Lyndon B. Johnson to have a cooperative program to build public trails for "the forgotten outdoorsmen of today" in both urban and backcountry areas, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation released a report in 1966 entitled Trails for America. [3] The study made recommendations for a network of national scenic trails, park and forest trails, and metropolitan area trails to provide recreational opportunities, with evaluations of several possible trails, both scenic and historic. [3] [4] The program for long-distance natural trails was created on October 2, 1968, by the National Trails System Act, which also designated two national scenic trails, the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and requested that an additional fourteen trail routes be studied for possible inclusion. [2] Sponsored by Senators Henry M. Jackson and Gaylord Nelson and Representative Roy A. Taylor, [5] part of the bill's impetus was threats of development along the Appalachian Trail, which was at risk of losing its wilderness character, [4] and the Land and Water Conservation Fund was used to acquire lands. [5] In 1978, as a result of the study of trails that were most significant for their historic associations, national historic trails were created as a new category with four trails designated that year. Since 1968, over forty trail routes have been studied for inclusion in the system. [6]

The scenic and historic trails are congressionally established long-distance trails, administered by the National Park Service (NPS), United States Forest Service (USFS), and/or Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These agencies may acquire lands to protect key rights of way, sites, resources and viewsheds, though the trails do not have fixed boundaries. [4] [5] They work in cooperation with each other, states, local governments, land trusts, and private landowners to coordinate and protect lands and structures along these trails, enabling them to be accessible to the public. [7] These partnerships between the agency administrators and local site managers are vital for resource protection and the visitor experience. [5] The Federal Interagency Council on the National Trails System promotes collaboration and standardization in trail development and protection. [7] [8] National recreation trails and connecting and side trails do not require congressional action, but are recognized by actions of the secretary of the interior or the secretary of agriculture. The national trails are supported by volunteers at private non-profit organizations that work with the federal agencies under the Partnership for the National Trails System and other trail type-specific advocacy groups. [7] [4]

For fiscal year 2021, the 24 trails administered by the NPS received a budget of $15.4 million. [9]

National Scenic Trails

The eleven national scenic trails were established to provide outdoor recreation opportunities and to conserve portions of the natural landscape with significant scenic, natural, cultural, or historic importance. [10] These trails are continuous non-motorized long-distance trails that can be backpacked from end-to-end or hiked for short segments, except for Natchez Trace NST, which consists of five shorter, disconnected trail segments. [11] The Trails for America report said, "Each National Scenic Trail should stand out in its own right as a recreation resource of superlative quality and of physical challenge." [12] Most notably, the national scenic trail system provides access to the crest of the Appalachian Mountains in the east via the Appalachian Trail, of the Rocky Mountains in the west on the Continental Divide Trail, and of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges on the Pacific Crest Trail, which make up the Triple Crown of Hiking. Other places of note include the southern wetlands and Gulf Coast on the Florida Trail, the North Woods on the North Country Trail, the variety of southwestern mountains and ecosystems on the Arizona Trail, and the remote high-mountain landscape near the Canadian border on the Pacific Northwest Trail.

They have a total length of approximately 17,800 mi (28,650 km). Due to the extent of construction of route realignments, segment alternatives, and measurement methods, some sources vary in their distances reported and values may be rounded. [5]

Six trails are official units of the NPS, managed like its other areas, as long, linear parks. [4] [13] Five trails are overseen by the U.S. Forest Service.

In 2022 Arlette Laan, whose trail name was "Apple Pie", became the first woman known to have completely hiked all eleven national scenic trails. [14]

National Scenic Trails
NameImageStates on routeAgencyYear est. [15] Length [15] Description
Appalachian Appalachian Trail- Totts Gap to Mount Minsi (20) (10355280153).jpg Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, MaineNPS19682,189 mi (3,520 km)Spanning the Appalachian Mountains from Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, this trail dating to the 1920s sees around a thousand thru-hikers each year, along with millions of short-term visitors. Major parks on the route include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (pictured), and White Mountain National Forest. [16]
Arizona Montezuma Pass Overlook, elevation 2100 meters - panoramio.jpg ArizonaUSFS2009800 mi (1,290 km)Extending the entire length of the state from Coronado National Memorial (pictured) near the Mexican border to Utah, this trail covers the variety of Arizona's deserts, mountains, and canyons. Four scenic regions have distinct landscapes and biotic communities: the sky islands with Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest, the Sonoran uplands of Tonto National Forest, the volcano field crossing the San Francisco Peaks, and the plateaus divided by the Grand Canyon. [17]
Continental Divide Highline Trail 2017 09.jpg Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New MexicoUSFS19783,200 mi (5,150 km)With a route from Mexico to Canada, the Continental Divide separates the nation's rivers between those that flow into the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Mostly following the crest of the Rocky Mountains, its major sites include El Malpais National Monument; Gila Wilderness; Wind River Range; and Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks (pictured). [18]
Florida Cig-FRESP08 043 - Flickr - USDAgov.jpg FloridaUSFS19831,500 mi (2,410 km)The Florida Trail runs from the swamplands of Big Cypress National Preserve to the beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore, going around Lake Okeechobee and through Ocala, Osceola, and Apalachicola National Forests and many state forests and parks. [19]
Ice Age Fall Colors from Lapham peak tower.jpg WisconsinNPS19801,000 mi (1,610 km)This trail traces Wisconsin's terminal moraine of the glacier covering much of North America in the last ice age. When it receded about 10,000 years ago, it left behind kettles, potholes, eskers, kames, drumlins, and glacial erratics, six sites of which are part of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve (Kettle Moraine State Forest pictured). [20]
Natchez Trace Natchez Trace Trail.jpg Tennessee, MississippiNPS198364 mi (100 km)The Natchez Trace was used for centuries by Native Americans who followed animal migration paths as trade routes. It became a major road for settlers to the South in the 1800s and 1810s before falling out of use, and it is now preserved as the Natchez Trace Parkway. The full intended length has not been developed and the trail consists of five disconnected sections – from three to twenty-six miles long – through forests and prairies next to the 444 km (276 mi) parkway. [11]
New England Ragged Mountain CT.jpg Massachusetts, ConnecticutNPS2009215 mi (350 km)This footpath incorporates the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, Metacomet Trail (Ragged Mountain pictured), and Mattabesett Trail from Long Island Sound to the New Hampshire border. It crosses the mountains of the Metacomet Ridge, connecting small towns, farms, and forests with lakes and traprock ridges. [21]
North Country Grand Sable Dunes 1.jpg North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, VermontNPS19804,800 mi (7,720 km)This trail reaches from Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota to a junction with the Appalachian Trail in Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. Along its route, the trail passes through eight states and more than 150 parcels of land protected at the federal, state, or local levels. [22] [23]
Pacific Crest Kendall Katwalk Trail.jpg California, Oregon, WashingtonUSFS19682,650 mi (4,260 km)The PCT follows the passes and crests of the San Bernardino Mountains, Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and several other ranges from the Mexican to Canadian borders. It passes through 7 national parks, including Yosemite, Crater Lake, and North Cascades, and 25 national forests, for a route crossing deserts, glaciated mountains, pristine forests and lakes, and volcanic peaks. More than half is in federal wilderness areas (Alpine Lakes Wilderness pictured). [24] [25]
Pacific Northwest Ozette trail boardwalk - panoramio.jpg Montana, Idaho, WashingtonUSFS20091,200 mi (1,930 km)Connecting the Continental Divide at Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Olympic National Park, this trail showcases the Rocky Mountains, Okanogan Highlands, North Cascades, Puget Sound (including a ferry ride), and the Olympic Peninsula (Olympic National Park pictured). [26]
Potomac Heritage 2019-09-07 15 13 52 View northeast towards the Great Falls of the Potomac River from Overlook 1 about 100 feet downstream of the falls within Great Falls Park in Great Falls, Fairfax County, Virginia.jpg Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, VirginiaNPS1983710 mi (1,140 km)The Potomac River is a corridor connecting the country's capital with historic trade and transportation routes to the ocean and inland. This network of trails incorporates the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and Great Allegheny Passage in the Allegheny Mountains, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath (Great Falls pictured), the Mount Vernon Trail to George Washington's estate, cycling routes to the mouth of the river, and several other trails. [27]

National Historic Trails

The 21 national historic trails are designated to protect the courses of significant overland or water routes that reflect the history of the nation. [15] They represent the earliest European travels in the country in Chesapeake Bay and on Spanish royal roads; the nation's struggle for independence on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail and Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route; westward migrations on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails, which traverse some of the same route; and the development of continental commerce on the Santa Fe Trail, Old Spanish Trail, and Pony Express. They also memorialize the forced displacement and hardships of the Native Americans on the Trail of Tears and Nez Perce National Historic Trail.

Their routes follow the nationally significant, documented historical journeys of notable individuals or groups but are not necessarily meant to be continuously traversed today; they are largely networks of partner sites along marked auto routes rather than the exact non-motorized trails as originally used. [5] Interpretative sites are often at other areas of the National Park System along the trails, as well as locally operated museums and sites. [28] The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Wyoming is on the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails and has exhibits on Western emigration. [29] Nine are administered by the NPS National Trails Office in Santa Fe and Salt Lake City. [30]

National historic trails were authorized under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 (Pub. L. Tooltip Public Law (United States)  95–625), amending the National Trails System Act of 1968. They have a total length of approximately 40,000 mi (64,370 km); many trails include several branches making them much longer than a single end-to-end distance.

National Historic Trails
NameImageStates on routeAgencyYear est. [15] Length [15] Description
Ala Kahakai ALKA trailsection.jpg HawaiiNPS2000175 mi (280 km)Trail segments on the west and south shores of Hawaiʻi island protect the ancient ala loa (long trail) used by Native Hawaiians for generations. This natural and cultural landscape crosses lava flows of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and sandy beaches with anchialine pools. Archaeological sites include Kaloko-Honokōhau (wetlands and fishponds) and Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Parks (place of refuge) and Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site (Kamehameha I's temple). [31]
Butterfield Overland Fort Chadbourne museum.jpg Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, CaliforniaNPS20233,292 mi (5,300 km)The Butterfield Overland Mail Company operated a stagecoach route between 1858 and 1861 to transport mail and passengers along a southern route between St. Louis and Memphis and San Francisco. Founded by John Butterfield, the route had nine divisions traversed by higher-speed wagons until the Civil War broke out. [32]
California Donner Memorial State Park - Flickr - Joe Parks.jpg Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, California, OregonNPS19925,600 mi (9,010 km)The 1841 Bartleson–Bidwell Party, 1844 Stephens–Townsend–Murphy Party, and 1846 Donner Party (Donner Pass pictured) were among the few early overland emigrants to northern California, but the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848 sparked the massive California Gold Rush. Some 140,000 "Forty-Niners" made the trip over the next five years via the overland emigrant trail starting in Missouri, going along the Platte River, around the Great Salt Lake, and over the Sierra Nevada (the same number came by sea). Several branching cutoffs and routes to the mines and supporting cities developed, the most popular being the Carson Trail to Sutter's Fort, Sacramento. While the population explosion led to California's statehood, it also resulted in the genocide of the state's Native Americans. [33]
Captain John Smith Chesapeake Chesapeake Bay Map 1612.tif Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, District of ColumbiaNPS20063,000 mi (4,830 km)This is a water trail based on the routes John Smith, a founder of the Jamestown settlement, took to survey Chesapeake Bay in 1607–1609. On Smith's explorations he mapped (pictured) the Bay's tributaries and communities of Native Americans he met. The trail today includes a network of historical and natural partner sites, including maritime museums, wildlife refuges, state and local parks, and interpretive buoys, in addition to water trails for canoeing and kayaking. [34]
Chilkoot Dyea Alaska.jpg AlaskaNPS202216.5 mi (30 km)Originally used as a trade route between the coast and the interior by Tlingit people, the Chilkoot Trail was a main access route to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. Between 1896 and 1899 around 22,000 prospectors made their way from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett Lake, British Columbia, carrying one ton of gear across Chilkoot Pass. It is part of the Skagway unit of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and continues as Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site in B.C. Together, they form parts of Klondike Gold Rush International Historical Park. Thousands of visitors now hike on the route each year, from the coastal rainforest to high alpine mountains. [35]
El Camino Real de los Tejas Mission Espada Chapel1.JPG Texas, LouisianaNPS20042,600 mi (4,180 km)The Royal Road of the Tejas is the group of roads through Spanish Texas established by its first governors in the 1680s and 1690s. The Spanish initially attempted trade and proselytization at Mission Tejas in Eastern Texas and Los Adaes, Louisiana, before moving the capital to San Antonio and building a series of missions (Mission Espada pictured) in the early 18th century. Mexican and American ranchers settled along the corridor toward the Rio Grande, including the Old San Antonio Road, through Texas independence and annexation in 1845. [36]
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Ysleta Del Sur church.jpg New Mexico, TexasNPS, BLM2000404 mi (650 km)The Royal Road of the Interior was first routed by Juan de Oñate in 1598 to colonize the northern part of New Spain. It was used for hundreds of years for trade and communication between Mexico City and Santa Fe, mostly following the Rio Grande north of El Paso, including the Jornada del Muerto and Bajada Mesa sections. The Spanish developed the region with missions like the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario and Ysleta Mission (pictured), governed from the Palace of the Governors, later used by the Mexican and US administrations. Other historic sites include El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Mesilla Plaza, the Gutiérrez Hubbell House, and Fort Craig and Fort Selden used by the U.S. Army in the 1860s. [37] [38]
Iditarod My Public Lands Roadtrip- Iditarod National Historic Trail in Alaska (19125108399).jpg AlaskaBLM19782,350 mi (3,780 km)This route from Seward to Nome was used by some prospectors to reach the Nome Gold Rush in the early 1900s, connecting trails long used by Alaska Natives. In the 1925 serum run, a relay of mushers and their sled dogs brought an antitoxin to Nome to stop a diphtheria outbreak, but the trail fell into disuse as planes replaced sleds for shipping. In commemoration of this history the 1,000 mi (1,600 km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has been held annually since 1973. The only winter trail in the system, the designated trail includes the race route and 1,400 mi (2,300 km) of trails connecting nearby communities for snowmobiling, sledding, and skiing. [39]
Juan Bautista de Anza Carmel Mission 180.jpg Arizona, CaliforniaNPS19901,200 mi (1,930 km) Juan Bautista de Anza led a 240-person expedition in 1775–1776 to colonize Las Californias , going from the Tubac Presidio near Tucson to San Francisco Bay, where he sited the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asís. Anza visited Missions San Gabriel Arcángel, San Luis Obispo, San Antonio, and San Carlos Borromeo (pictured), and his route became El Camino Real, which now has 21 missions. A full-length auto trail and several recreation trails connect these Hispanic heritage sites and other places they went through including Casa Grande Ruins and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. [40]
Lewis and Clark Fort Clatsop replica 2007.jpg Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington.NPS19784,900 mi (7,890 km) Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the 1803–1806 Corps of Discovery Expedition to map and study the Louisiana Purchase for President Thomas Jefferson. On their round-trip up the Missouri River to the mouth of the Columbia River, they formed relationships with many Native American tribes and described dozens of species. Associated sites along the trail, extended in 2019 to encompass their preparation along the Ohio River, include their starting point Camp Dubois near Gateway Arch National Park, winter camp Fort Clatsop (replica pictured) at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, and an NPS visitor center in Omaha. [41]
Mormon Pioneer Independence Rock 2017-09-27 1482.jpg Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, UtahNPS19781,300 mi (2,090 km)Facing persecution at their settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), led by Brigham Young, followed the Emigrant Trail to reach refuge in the Salt Lake Valley. Around 2,000 Mormon pioneers completed the original 1846–1847 trek, including stops at Mount Pisgah, Iowa; Winter Quarters, Nebraska; and Fort Laramie, Wyoming. In the next two decades, 70,000 more followed on the arduous route, some pulling handcarts. Among the 145 participating sites to visit today are Independence Rock (pictured), Devil's Gate, and This Is the Place Heritage Park. [42]
Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) Big-hole-national-battlefield-06022012-rogermpeterson-007 (7351656778).jpg Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, MontanaUSFS19861,170 mi (1,880 km)In 1877 the Nez Perce (Nimíipuu) people were forced to relocate to a reservation, but a group of 750 people led by Chief Joseph fled to reach sanctuary. A U.S. Army unit of 2,000 soldiers pursued the band for four months as the Nez Perce warriors held them off at several battles until they were cornered and captured at the Battle of Bear Paw. Their route can be traced on an auto tour, visiting Big Hole National Battlefield (pictured), Camas Meadows Battle Sites, Yellowstone National Park, and other sites of Nez Perce National Historical Park. [43] [44]
Old Spanish One Mile North of the Old Spanish Trail highway in Inyo County, California.jpg New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, CaliforniaNPS, BLM20022,700 mi (4,350 km)Mexican merchant Antonio Armijo led the first trade expedition from Abiquiú, New Mexico, to Los Angeles and back in 1829, crossing areas mapped on the 1776 Domínguez–Escalante expedition and by Jedediah Smith in 1826. Wolfskill and Yount traced an alternate northern route the next year, providing New Mexican trade caravans and emigrants access to California on mules until a wagon route was built by the 1850s. Little evidence of the trails remains, but landmarks include Mojave National Preserve, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. [45] [46]
Oregon Covered Wagon In Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska.jpg Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, WashingtonNPS19782,170 mi (3,490 km) Marcus Whitman made the first wagon trek to Oregon Country in 1836 to found the Whitman Mission, followed by the Oregon Dragoons and Bartleson–Bidwell Party. Whitman led a wagon train of around 1,000 emigrants in 1843, with tens of thousands of families making the risky journey over the next few decades to reach a new life in the West. The trail's typical endpoints were Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon, via Fort Kearny, Scotts Bluff (pictured), South Pass, Shoshone Falls, the Blue Mountains, and Barlow Road. Emigrants came in mule- or oxen-pulled covered wagons filled with months of supplies, but they also faced disease and attacks by Native Americans upon whose land they intruded. [47]
Overmountain Victory RETIREMENT AND THE MUSTER GROUNDS, ABINGDON, WASHINGTON COUNTY, VA.jpg Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South CarolinaNPS1980330 mi (530 km)In September 1780 during the Revolutionary War, the Overmountain Men militia mustered in Abingdon, Virginia (pictured) and Sycamore Shoals, Tennessee, for a two-week march across the Appalachian Mountains via Roan Mountain. Pursuing British Major Patrick Ferguson, they confronted his Loyalist force at the October 7 Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina, where the Patriots won a quick, decisive victory that would be a turning point in the war. The linked highways and walking trails visit several preserved encampment sites. [48]
Pony Express Hollenberg-home-station-pony-express.jpg Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, CaliforniaNPS19922,000 mi (3,220 km)Lasting just 18 months in 1860–1861, the Pony Express delivered mail via horseback between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Riders relayed communications 1,800 mi (2,900 km) across the country in just ten days until the transcontinental telegraph put the service operated by Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company out of business. While little of the trail itself remains, 50 stations or their ruins of the original 185 can still be visited, including Hollenberg Pony Express Station (pictured), Fort Caspar, Stagecoach Inn, the Pike's Peak Stables and Patee House at the eastern terminus, and B.F. Hastings Building at the western terminus. [49]
Santa Fe Foun wagon.jpg Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New MexicoNPS19871,203 mi (1,940 km) William Becknell made the first trade trip from Missouri to Santa Fe in 1821, when newly independent Mexico welcomed commerce. It was a major exchange route between the two countries for the next 25 years when the Army of the West used it in the Mexican–American War. After the war ended in 1848, emigration and freight to the new southwest flourished. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached Santa Fe via Raton Pass in 1880, replacing the trade caravans. Significant sites include Fort Larned, Bent's Old Fort, and Fort Union (pictured), where wagon ruts can still be seen. [50]
Selma to Montgomery P030715PS-1619 (20894933462).jpg AlabamaNPS199654 mi (90 km)The 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches were nonviolent demonstrations of the civil rights movement pushing for the Voting Rights Act. Led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams, 600 marchers were brutally attacked by state police at Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge (pictured), rousing national support for the bill. Another march a month later saw the protestors complete the four-day walk from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to the Alabama State Capitol, where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke before a crowd of 25,000. The trail has historical markers and three interpretive centers. [51]
Star-Spangled Banner Fort McHenry 2016 4.JPG Maryland, Virginia, District of ColumbiaNPS2008290 mi (470 km)This water and land trail highlights the history of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Major sites of this three-year war between the United States and United Kingdom include raided towns Havre de Grace and Saint Michaels; grounds of the Battle of Bladensburg and Battle of North Point; and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (pictured), where the flying of the American flag in the Battle of Baltimore inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner". [52]
Trail of Tears TrailofTearsMemorial-3.jpg Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, OklahomaNPS19875,045 mi (8,120 km)The 1830 Indian Removal Act forced tens of thousands of Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw people to leave their ancestral homelands in the Southeast and relocate to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Around ten thousand Indians died of disease or the elements on their journeys. This trail commemorates the routes taken by the Cherokee after they were evicted and detained in camps by the Army in 1838, making the four-month trek over the winter. Historic sites include the Cherokee capital New Echota in Georgia (pictured), Chief John Ross's log cabin, Red Clay State Park, Rattlesnake Springs, and several museums. [53]
Revolutionary Route
Yorktown VA NPS 18-pdr cannon.jpg Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, MassachusettsNPS20091,000 mi (1,610 km)Six years into the Revolutionary War, the French Expédition Particulière commanded by the comte de Rochambeau departed Newport, Rhode Island, to meet George Washington's Continental Army at Dobbs Ferry, New York, in June 1781. They marched to Williamsburg, Virginia, over the next few months, stopping at the Old Barracks in Trenton and Mount Vernon. In the three-week siege of Yorktown (now part of Colonial National Historical Park, reenactment pictured) they defeated General Cornwallis's army, soon clinching independence for the 13 colonies. Several campsites and homes on their route are preserved, including the Joseph Webb House where Washington and Rochambeau made plans for the campaign. [54]

Connecting or side trails

The act also established a category of trails known as connecting or side trails. Though there are no guidelines for how these are managed, these have been designated by the secretary of the interior to extend trails beyond the original congressionally established route. Seven side trails have been designated: [5]

National Recreation Trails

NRT logo NRT Logo.gif
NRT logo

National recreation trail (NRT) is a designation given to existing trails that contribute to the recreational and conservation goals of a national network of trails. Over 1,300 trails over all fifty states have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, tribal and private lands that are available for public use and are less than a mile to more than 500 miles (800 km) in length. [57] They have a combined length of more than 29,000 miles (47,000 km). [58]

Most NRTs are hiking trails, but a significant number are multi-use trails or bike paths, including rail trails and greenways. Some are intended for use with watercraft, horses, cross-country skis, or off-road recreational vehicles. [59] There are a number of water trails that make up the National Water Trails System subprogram. [60] Eligible trails must be complete, well designed and maintained, and open to the public. [59]

The NPS and the USFS jointly administer the National Recreation Trails Program with help from other federal and nonprofit partners, notably American Trails, the lead nonprofit for developing and promoting NRTs. [57] The secretary of interior or the secretary of agriculture (if on USFS land) designates national recreation trails that are of local and regional significance. Managers of eligible trails can apply for designation with the support of all landowners and their state's trail coordinator (if on non-federal land). [59] Designated trails become part of the National Trails System and receive promotional benefits, use of the NRT logo, technical and networking assistance, and preference for funding through the Department of Transportation's Recreational Trails Program. [61]

American Trails sponsors an annual NRT photo contest [62] and a biennial symposium [63] and maintains the NRT database. [58]

National Geologic Trail

The first national geologic trail was established by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, though it did not amend the National Trails System Act to create an official category. [64]

National Geologic Trail
NameImageStates on routeAgencyYear est.LengthDescription
Ice Age Floods Dry Falls (Washington).jpg Washington, Oregon, Idaho, MontanaNPS20093,400 mi (5,470 km)From around 18,000 to 15,000 years ago, the glacial Lake Missoula breached its ice dams 40 to 100 times, each time releasing the cataclysmic Missoula floods that carved coulees, lakes, cliffs, waterfalls, and giant current ripples along their path. They created the Channeled Scablands that form much of eastern Washington's landscape of irregular buttes and basins and the Columbia River Gorge past the Wallula Gap. An unmarked tour route connects a network of state parks and other featured sites formed in these erosive floods such as Steamboat Rock State Park, Dry Falls (pictured), Palouse Falls, and the Grand Coulee. [65] [66]

See also

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The North Country Trail is a long-distance hiking trail in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. The trail extends roughly 4,800 miles (7,700 km) from Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota to the Appalachian Trail in Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, passing through eight states along its route. As of 2023, most of the trail is in place, though about one-third of the distance consists of road walking; those segments are frequently evaluated for transfer to off-road segments on nearby public or private lands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Continental Divide Trail</span> Long-distance scenic trail in the western United States

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a United States National Scenic Trail with a length measured by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition of 3,028 miles (4,873 km) between the U.S. border with Chihuahua, Mexico and the border with Alberta, Canada. Frequent route changes and a large number of alternate routes result in an actual hiking distance of 2,700 miles (4,300 km) to 3,150 miles (5,070 km). The CDT follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana near the Canadian border the trail crosses Triple Divide Pass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Delaware Water Gap</span> Geological feature along the Delaware River

Delaware Water Gap is a water gap on the border of the U.S. states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River cuts through a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blue Ridge Parkway</span> Scenic parkway in the United States

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road in the United States, noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway, which is America's longest linear park, runs for 469 miles (755 km) through 29 counties in Virginia and North Carolina, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is at U.S. Route 441 (US 441) on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The roadway continues through Shenandoah as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road which is managed by a different National Park Service unit. Both Skyline Drive and the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway are part of Virginia State Route 48 (SR 48), though this designation is not signed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capitol Reef National Park</span> National park in Utah, United States

Capitol Reef National Park is an American national park in south-central Utah. The park is approximately 60 miles (97 km) long on its north–south axis and just 6 miles (9.7 km) wide on average. The park was established in 1971 to preserve 241,904 acres of desert landscape and is open all year, with May through September being the highest visitation months.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American Discovery Trail</span> Long-distance hiking trail across the United States

The American Discovery Trail is a system of recreational trails and roads that collectively form a coast-to-coast hiking and biking trail across the mid-tier of the United States. Horses can also be ridden on most of this trail. The coastal trailheads are the Delmarva Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the northern California coast on the Pacific Ocean. The trail has northern and southern alternates for part of its distance, passing through Chicago and St. Louis respectively. The total length of the trail, including both the north and south routes, is 6,800 miles (10,900 km). The northern route covers 4,834 miles (7,780 km) with the southern route covering 5,057 miles (8,138 km). It is the only non-motorized coast-to-coast trail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park</span> Historic site in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is located in the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland. The park was established in 1961 as a National Monument by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to preserve the neglected remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and many of its original structures.

The Potomac Heritage Trail, also known as the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail or the PHT, is a designated National Scenic Trail corridor spanning parts of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States that will connect various trails and historic sites in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The trail network includes 710 miles (1,140 km) of existing and planned sections, tracing the natural, historical, and cultural features of the Potomac River corridor, the upper Ohio River watershed in Pennsylvania and western Maryland, and a portion of the Rappahannock River watershed in Virginia. The trail is managed by the National Park Service and is one of three National Trails that are official NPS units.

Catoctin Mountain Park, located in north-central Maryland, is part of the forested Catoctin Mountain ridge−range that forms the northeastern rampart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the Appalachian Mountains System.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail</span> Route across the United States commemorating the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a route across the United States commemorating the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806. It is part of the National Trails System of the United States. It extends for some 4,900 miles (7,900 km) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mount Greylock State Reservation</span>

Mount Greylock State Reservation is public recreation and nature preservation area on and around Mount Greylock, the highest point in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. The park covers some 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) in the towns of Lanesborough, North Adams, Adams, Cheshire, Williamstown and New Ashford, Massachusetts. It was created in 1898 as Massachusetts' first public land for the purpose of forest preservation.

Taconic State Park is located in Columbia and Dutchess County, New York abutting Massachusetts and Connecticut within the Taconic Mountains. The state park is located off New York State Route 344 south of Interstate 90 and 110 miles (180 km) north of New York City. It features camping, hiking, bicycling, hunting, cross county skiing and other recreational opportunities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ozark National Scenic Riverways</span>

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a recreational unit of the National Park Service in the Ozarks of southern Missouri in the U.S.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bartram Trail</span> Long-distance hiking trail in the United States

The Bartram Trail follows the approximate route of 18th-century naturalist William Bartram’s southern journey from March 1773 to January 1777. Bartram explored much of the territory which is now the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Florida Trail</span> A US National Scenic trail

The Florida Trail is one of eleven National Scenic Trails in the United States. It currently runs 1,500 miles (2,400 km), from Big Cypress National Preserve to Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola Beach. Also known as the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Florida Trail provides permanent non-motorized recreation opportunity for hiking and other compatible activities and is within an hour of most Floridians. The Florida National Scenic Trail is designated as a National Scenic Trail by the National Trails System Act of 1968.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ellicott Rock Wilderness</span>

Ellicott Rock Wilderness is managed by the United States Forest Service and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. It was first designated by Congress in 1975 with the Eastern Wilderness Act. Most of this land lays in South Carolina. Additional lands were added to Ellicott Rock Wilderness in 1984 with the passing of the North Carolina Wilderness Act and the Georgia Wilderness Act, today designated wilderness totals 8,274 acres (33.48 km2). Ellicott Rock Wilderness is the only wilderness that straddles three states, with boundaries located around the point at which Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina come together. Ellicott Rock Wilderness also spans three National Forests. Sumter National Forest in South Carolina is responsible for 2,859 acres (11.57 km2), receives the majority of recreation in the wilderness, and is also the lead manager of Ellicott Rock Wilderness. Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina is responsible for most of the wilderness at 3,394 acres (13.74 km2) and the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia manages 2,021 acres (8.18 km2) of the wilderness. In 1979, all Forest Service land was surveyed under the Roadless Area Review and Evaluation and 1,982 acres (8.02 km2) on the Sumter National Forest were classified as Roadless National Forest System land and named Ellicott Rock Extension. The Andrew Pickens Ranger district on the Sumter National Forest recommended the Ellicott Rock Extension as wilderness in 1995 in their Resource Management Plan. Although not fully designated, recommended wilderness is managed as if it were designated wilderness. In June 2017 during a land management plan revision, the Nantahala Ranger District on the Nantahala National Forest added 824 acres (3.33 km2) of proposed wilderness, currently called Ellicott Rock West Extension.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catoctin Trail</span> Hiking trail in Maryland

The Catoctin National Recreation Trail is a 26.6 mi (42.4 km) hiking trail that traverses federal, state, and municipal woodlands along the northern half of Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County in central Maryland, USA. The hilly terrain is typical of western Maryland with large sections canopied under dense forest cover.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pacific Northwest Trail</span> Hiking trail in the western USA

The Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) is a 1,200-mile (1,900 km) hiking trail running from the Continental Divide in Montana to the Pacific Ocean on Washington's Olympic Coast. Along the way, the PNT crosses three national parks, seven national forests, and two other national scenic trails. It travels against the grain of several mountain ranges, including the Continental Divide, Whitefish Divide, Purcells, Selkirks, Kettles, Cascades, and Olympics. It was designated as the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail by Congress in 2009.


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Further reading