Changing colors and cooler temperatures are the perfect recipe for an excellent hike. But where to go? Look no further than America’s National Trails system. Though there are more than 1300 to choose from, we picked our four favorites to get you started.
Your history lesson for today: In 1968, the National Trails System Act was passed, seeking to establish a formal system of trails in both urban and rural settings. The goal was to make these wonderful American trails accessible to everyone, and nurture a culture of enjoyment and appreciation.
There are four main types of trail within the 1300+ trail count—national scenic, national historic, national recreation, and side—offering opportunities for hiking (obviously) as well as biking, camping, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities.
If you’ve never hiked a national trail before, we picked four locations to start you on your journey.
1. The Appalachian Trail
If walking 2,180+ miles through 14 states is your kind of weekend activity, this is the National Scenic Trail for you. Built by private citizens over the course of 16 years, the Appalachian Trail runs from Maine to Georgia, is free and open to the public, and winds through a variety of natural landscape. And though it is open year-round, we recommend checking in with your starting location before you travel. Weather and road quality can all have an impact on trail availability. Hit the Appalachian Trail
2. The Continental Divide Trail
If you’re looking to take in all the terrain types this great nation of ours has to offer, you’ll want to hike the Continental Divide. This 3,100-mile masterpiece stretches from Mexico to Canada and runs the landscape gamut from desert to mountain to forest to grassy plain to whatever you want to call the otherworldly beauty of Yellowstone. Divide the route into multiple trips so you can really soak in your surroundings. Explore the Continental Divide
3. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
For those of you who like a little history with your hike, embark on the legendary journey of Lewis and Clark. This 16-state, 4,900-mile trail includes the original 11-state path, plus the five states involved in their lengthy planning process. And while Lewis and Clark did it in roughly three years, you could do the entire Pittsburgh-to-the-Pacific run in about 3-4 weeks. Walk a mile in their shoes
4. Your nearest recreation trail
If you’re looking to keep this trip closer to home, use this handy website to find the National Recreation Trail nearest you. These land- and water-based trails can be found in all 50 states, and provide recreation access to both urban and rural communities. Keep it local
What’s your favorite trail to hike? Nationally? Locally? Share it on our Facebook page!