American Trails: who we are

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American Trails celebrates 25 years of working on behalf of ALL trail interests. Our website,, is one of the world's most comprehensive online sources for planning, building, designing, funding, managing, enhancing, and supporting trails and greenways.


American Trails was created in 1988 by merging the National Trails Council, sponsor of the National Trails Symposium, with the newer American Trails Network. The first National Trails Symposium was held in 1971. In 2008 we hosted our 19th Symposium. For all these decades, American Trails has been the collective voice for a diverse coalition of trails enthusiasts, land managers, conservationists, and friends of outdoor recreation and livable cities.

Who do we represent?

American Trails is the only national, nonprofit organization working on behalf of ALL trail interests. This may be the hardest task of any national trail organization. It’s a good task for an optimist. We work to find the good in everyone. We think it's also a vital task.

American Trails advocates for what we all have in common.

We all need, regardless of our trail interest, access to public land, funds for maintenance and management, and a way to keep our activities visible to the decision makers. American Trails is the only national organization that can help do this for all trail users. Our productive relationships with the Federal Highway Administration, the state trails programs, and federal land management agencies is largely due to the fact that we're not a "special interest" group— we lobby for their support of trail-related recreation, not just single trails for one user group.

We support federal transportation funding and programs that benefit all interests.

The Recreational Trails Program takes federal fuel tax from motorized recreation users and gives to both motorized and nonmotorized projects. Without the cooperation of every kind of outdoor recreation interest, and the support of American Trails and organizations of every kind, we would never have seen this vital funding program. Every state now has a grants program specifically for trails, funded at nearly a million dollars a year, and much more for larger states.

We promote the richness and value of our outdoor heritage.

In its 40-year history, the National Trails System has provided a framework to support a wide range of trail goals, including wilderness hiking, boating, and historic driving tours. The system includes the National Recreation Trails (NRT), a recognition program that celebrates the diversity of trails across America. You can read about trails designated each year. American Trails is the lead nonprofit in promoting the NRT program, and hosts the NRT website and online database.

We support effective training and education for all trail users.

American Trails believes everyone has the right to recreate and everyone also has the responsibility to recreate in a safe and low-impact manner. Our goal is to promote the design and management of trails that are safe and cause the least impacts to resources, trail neighbors, and wildlife. We need to use imagination as well as technology to create trails that are cost-effective as well as exciting. We support accessible trails that invite people of all ages and abilities. At the same time, we support trails as pathways to adventure, from the deserts to waterways to snowfields.

We work to share information across the nationwide trails community.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do believe in the power of sharing our collective intelligence. Our website at is the world's largest online resource for planning, building, funding, managing, and supporting trails and outdoor recreation. Over a million people a year use our website as their trailhead for all types of information and connections. We also feel that all user groups have a lot to learn from each other— whether they're from a park interpretive association or an equestrian club. We’re documenting the benefits of trails, from urban riverfronts to resort town bike routes to motorized trail systems.

We celebrate the bold and effective leaders of the nationwide trails movement.

Every two years American Trails presents the National Trails Awards to recognize the tremendous contributions of volunteers, professionals, businesses, media, and other leaders who are working to create a national system of trails for all Americans.

We support efforts to bring trails into our daily lives.

As our nation looks closely at public health, transportation, urban development, and the environment, we see lots of problems. We want trails, greenways, bikeways, and other routes to be part of the solution. Our vision is of trails within 15 minutes of every American home and we support efforts to link community trails to neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. The health of our children, as well as our cities, will depend on preserving parks, open space, transportation choices, and places for recreation.

We support the many varieties of people who love and care for our public lands.

We need your help to bring recognition to your trails and issues. We urge you to take advantage of these opportunities and to do more outreach to us as well. We count on all user groups to share information and ideas. We support programs where everybody wins. I think the phrase “Trails for all Americans” says it all.

Trails can change lives.

As a network, we have the ability to touch the lives of many people. Join us and make a difference today!

Read more about the mission of American Trails, our Board Members, and supporting organizations, communities, and agencies on our website at

We welcome your comments... and if you're not already a member of American Trails, we hope you'll join us! See the Membership page for details.


American Trails is pursuing a national infrastructure of trails and greenways that serves a full range of activities. Through education, partnerships, and timely information resources, we promote the creation, conservation and broad enjoyment of quality trails and greenways that offer places of solace, health, fitness, recreation and transportation for all Americans.

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