system of trails in the United States
Travel topics > Activities > Outdoor life > Hiking > United States National Trails System

The National Trails System includes over a thousand trails throughout the United States, and is administered by the federal government as part of the United States National Park system.

Most of the National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails are fairly long, and most visitors hike only a portion of the trail or may take several years to finish, tackling it for a few days at a time. The trails may cover a combination of federal, state, and local land, and may go through private lands as well.

National Scenic Trails, National Historic Trails, and National Geologic Trails are designated by act of Congress, marking them among the best trails of the nation.

National Scenic Trails


National Scenic Trails have been established in order to allow public access through areas of "spectacular natural beauty and to allow the pursuit of healthy outdoor recreation." There are eleven of these trails. The most popular is the Appalachian Trail running from Georgia to Maine. American hiking enthusiasts have labeled three of these—the Appalachian, Continental Divide, and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails—the "Triple Crown" of hiking conquests.

National Historic Trails

See also: North American history

Following historic routes or themes, the National Historic Trails emphasize the history of the areas covered. They tend to be less demanding than the Scenic Trails. Some people follow these trails by car or bus, and indeed some of them are intended for cars only, with no safe walking route available. Others are mainly for hikers, and getting to some of the more remote historic gems requires hiking in.

Most of these trails have trail markers along the route, brochures and documentation leading you through the trail, and many enthusiastic supporters online who can help you make the most of your trip.

National Geologic Trail


The first National Geologic Trail was created by the 2009 stimulus package and further development was planned.

National Recreation Trails


There are over a thousand National Recreation Trails, spread across every state. These trails are designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or the Secretary of the Interior, and are generally managed by non-profit groups or state or local government. You will probably find several of these trails within an easy day's travel from most cities in the U.S.

National Recreation Trails may be less than a mile long, or may be over a thousand miles. They may be tailored to various types of activities, such as archery, skeet shooting, dog mushing, mountain biking, horse riding, inline skating, cross-country skiing, kayaking, or simple hiking. Some are ADA-accessible.

A list of all National Recreation Trails is available here[dead link].

See also

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