US National Trails On the 50th anniversary of the US National Trails network, we salute its wild hikes
So, why are we talking trails?
It’s been 50 years since the USA’S National Trails System was created, a long-held dream by then-president Lyndon Johnson to help protect the country’s best-loved wild spaces.
Sounds like a man after our own heart. How’d it come about?
While the National Trails System act was established in 1968, it was an impassioned speech President Johnson gave to Congress in 1965 that got the wheels in motion. There, he first shared his dream for paths linking the already protected national parks. Three years later, his dream was realised.
He actually talked the talk and walked the walk…
He did. Now, 1,000 trails with a combined length of over 80,000km exist across the USA. It’s certainly an impressive legacy.
Absolutely. Where do we start?
Where it all began. Along with the historic 1968 act, two inaugural national trails were spawned: the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. They’ve arguably also the country’s most iconic (thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods books), and while they’re both epic long-distance routes, it’s easy to experience snatches of either, whether by exploring sections as part of a road trip or by doing day walks. Take your pick from some wild settings: the Pacific Crest Trail slices through desert, rugged Sierra Nevada and lush woods, while the Appalachian Trail winds along rock formations and richly forested swathes.
How else can we mark the occasion?
Well… it’s not just those two. The National Parks Service website (www.nps.gov) has a full list of trails. Also head to trails50.org for all the events celebrating the anniversary – everything from walking challenges to art installations are being held along the trails. It also has information about events for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (a waterbound equivalent to the hiking trails), which also commemorates 50 years in 2018.