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The National Trail System Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-543) authorized creation of a national trail system comprised of National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails. While National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization. Through designation, these trails are recognized as part of America's national system of trails. See more about applying for NRT designation.
The National Recreation Trails Program supports designated NRT's with
an array of benefits, including promotion,
technical assistance, networking and access to funding. Its goal is
to promote the use and care of existing trails and stimulate the development
of new trails to create a national network of trails and realize the
vision of "Trails for All Americans." The first-ever NRT
Photo Contest was sponsored in 2003 by American Trails and is continuing
each year. See winners and entries for 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2004 - 2003.
along the Allegheny River National Recreation Trail
New NRTs designated each year
New designations of National Recreation Trails are announced each year, generally by the Secratary of Interior prior to National Trails Day in June. Trails on USDA land (including National Forests) follow a separate designation process. See the annual designations of additional National Recreation Trails.
National Recreation Trails
National Recreation Trails (NRT) provide for numerous outdoor recreation activities in a variety of urban, rural, and remote areas. Over 1,000 trails in all 50 states, available for public use and ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately owned lands. American Trails is working with the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the National Recreation Trails Program. Trails may be nominated for NRT designation each year.
A searchable database of NRTs is available online. Visitors can access detailed information about a particular NRT, search for diferent trail activities, or get a list of all the NRTs in any state. See how to update online trail information, or simply send minor corrections and additions by e-mail to NRT@americantrails.org.
Details of featured NRTs in different states are on line at the NRT State-by-state page and the searchable NRT database. American Trails also makes individual web pages for featured NRTs where information and photos are available (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details).
The NRT NEWS publication for NRT managers and interested public is published periodically with resources and articles. Copies are available as pdf files and articles are also posted as regular Web pages (html).
The Artful Ways national survey sought practical information about art on trails, how it is funded, how artists are selected, and the impact of art on the trail and community. Survey findings will be shared on the American Trails website in the Art & Trails area. A Request for Proposals for art projects on National Recreation Trails was also undertaken.
Revitalizing the National Recreation Trails program
For several years several trail groups and agencies have worked together to redesign and revitalize the National Recreation Trails Program. Plans for the new effort to designate National Recreation Trails was announced at the National Trails Symposium in Redding, California, September 22, 2000, and unveiling of the new NRT Program took place in 2001, starting with the announcement of newly designated trails in June.
See how to apply for National Recreation Trail designation