Happy Birthday to the National Trails System Act, which celebrates 50 years in 2018!
In 1968, the National Trails System Act was created “In order to provide for the ever-increasing outdoor recreation needs of an expanding population and in order 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.”
At the time of its creation, the act included just two trails: the Appalachian Scenic Trail and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Since 1968, the act has been amended and more trails have been included. Additionally, trails now fall into one of four categories – National Scenic Trails, National Historic Trails, National Recreation Trails and Connecting and Side Trails. In all, nearly 60,000 miles of trail combine to showcase the beauty and history of our great country.
One of the original trails, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which totals 2,181 miles, extends from Maine to Georgia. It is open year-round and accessible from many locations. In one shot, it would take 5-7 months to make the entire trek from one end to the other. The highest point is Clingman’s Dome, in North Carolina, which is 6,644 feet above sea level. For an interactive map of the 14 states in which the trail runs through, visit appalachiantrail.org.
The second original trail, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail runs 2,650 miles through Washington, Oregon, and California. Highlights of this trail include the Sonora Pass, the Bridge of the Gods and Crater Lake National Park. Again, you can tackle the true adventure and make the trek all at once or enjoy it at a more leisurely pace as the trail is divided into 29 manageable lengths. For more information, visit pcta.org.
When you think of Florida you think of sun and sand, but Florida also has the Florida National Scenic Trail that traverses the Sunshine State from the Panhandle south to Big Cypress National Preserve. This trail has the distinction of being one of only three that are contained within one state. The trail is about 1,000 miles long and is conveniently divided into geographic regions to make exploring the trail easier. The regions include Southern, Central, Northern, and Panhandle. Check out floridahikes.com for some hiking ideas to take in this trail.
A newcomer to the list, the Arizona National Scenic Trail, was designated a national scenic trail in 2009. Running 800 miles from north to south, stretching from the Utah border to the Mexican border, this trail is divided into 43 passages taking you through the mountains, canyons, valleys and desert terrains of Arizona. Check out the Arizona Trail Day Hiker’s Guide, available through the aztrail.org website, to chart your course across this scenic trail.
Other trails include the New England National Scenic Trail, a 215-mile trail from Connecticut to the Maine/New Hampshire border (newenglandtrail.org), the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail that will take you through parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee (nps.gov/natt) and the Potomac National Scenic Trail that combines land and waterway exploration opportunities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. For information, visit nps.gov/pohe.
For more information on the trails, visit trails50.org.