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The National Trails System

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Congress passed the National Trails System Act in 1968, establishing a nationwide system of scenic, historic, and recreation trails.

arrow See the list of National Historic Trails

arrow See and search the map of National Recreation Trails

arrow More about the National Trails System


National Scenic Trails


The 11 current National Scenic Trails, according to the Trails Act, "will be extended trails so located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of the nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities." These trails include the three north-south trails that run from Mexico to Canada, and other long-distance routes in scenic area.

The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers— play key roles in administering and managing these trails, while the Federal Highway Administration has been an important source of funding for them.



Designated National Scenic Trails


More resources for National Scenic Trails


More about the National Trails System

This is the "Decade for the National Trails" leading to the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act in 2018. This Act opened the door to federal involvement in trails of all types, from city centers to remote backcountry. Virtually every trail in the country has benefited from the Act and many trail initiatives over the last 50 years can find their roots in it.


In December 2006, six Federal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) pledging to work closely together to enhance visitor satisfaction, to coordinate trailwide administration and site-specific management, to protect resources, to promote cultural values, to foster cooperative relationships, to share technical expertise, and to fund lands and resources associated with the National Trails. The MOU continues until 2016 as an active partnership of the Federal Interagency Council on Trails, an interagency group that has met since 1969 to coordinate activities under the authorities of the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 1241-1251). Fiscal year 2009 started with the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System on October 2, 2008.


While a few of us took time out to commemorate this landmark date, dozens of Federal staff, thousands of volunteers, and uncounted members of the traveling public helped build and enjoy the various components of the National Trails System. Just after the 40th anniversary, enactment of P.L. 111-11 (the Public Lands Omnibus Act of 2009) expanded the Trails System from 26 to 30 national scenic and national historic trails (NSTs and NHTs). P.L. 111-11 added four new trails – the Arizona, New England, and Pacific Northwest NSTs, and the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route NHT. In addition, the Trail of Tears NHT was more than doubled in length with additional routes. Among many other notable features of P.L. 111-11 was the organic legislation for the National Landscape Conservation System within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under which administration and management of NSTs and NHTs occurs.


According to the National Trails System Annual Report for FY 2009 "These trails offer unmatched quality of life experiences in outdoor recreation, education, scenic transportation, and access to the precious natural and cultural resources that define us as a Nation. And, essential to all these efforts is an unwavering, impressive, and ever growing cadre of volunteers."


arrowLearn more about the National Trails System and its 50th Anniversary

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