National Recreation Trails to Visit This Spring

Spring is in the air, and it is the perfect time to explore nature and view wildlife on our nation’s National Recreation Trails. Wildflowers are starting to bloom, birds are out in abundance, the weather is getting warmer, and these NRTs are some of the best trails out there to experience it all.

by Taylor Goodrich, Communication and Media Specialist, American Trails


Smith’s Island Nature Trail, Pleasant Valley, Iowa

Smith's Island Nature Trail is a one-mile trail located near Pleasant Valley. The trail is a naturalist's paradise, hosting oaks, woodland wildflowers, and Sugar Maple, as well as herons, osprey and pelicans. The trail is recognized for its unique wildlife and its value to the community as an educational and recreational entity. Although the Smith Island Trail is only one mile in length, it encompasses approximately 25 acres and is located along lock 14 in the Davenport/Le Claire area. The Army Corps of Engineers also conducts various community-related events such as; fishing clinics, annual family clean-ups, and ECO-MEET, an educational program developed for younger-aged school children. The park currently functions as a Nature Preserve and Education Area. Learn more...

Green Heron on trailside at Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trail System. Photo by Patricia Pierce.

Green Heron on trailside at Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trail System. Photo by Patricia Pierce.


Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trail System, Mobile, Alabama

Named one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations, Dauphin Island consists of 164 acres of maritime forest, marshes, and dunes, including a lake, a swamp and a beach. An incredible 347 species have been reported on the island. Spring migration is the first landfall for many Neotropical birds that make the 600-mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula. Under adverse weather conditions, large flocks of exhausted birds of many species may seek shelter on the Island in a truly spectacular "fall-out." The Island has also been cited as one of the ten most globally important sites for bird migrations. The trails found in the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary are a family oriented pathway that provides a safe non-motorized way to explore the Island's best treasures, all while exercising, relaxing and enjoying the Alabama Gulf Coast. Learn more...


The Urban Wilderness South Loop Trail, Knoxville, Tennessee

The Urban Wilderness South Loop Trail lies within the 1,000-forested acres along Knoxville’s downtown waterfront that includes ten parks, more than forty miles of recreational trails, incredible views and unparalleled natural features. The system is different from typical trails. Rather than a system of trails within a park, it is a system of trails that connects parks, public and private land. As such, the system offers a diversity of views, topography and scenery. The trails traverse dramatic 30’ tall rock outcroppings — remnants of an old limestone quarry — and weave around a brilliantly blue quarry lake, wetlands, sink holes, rolling farmland and sunflower fields. They climb through mature hardwood forests, woods abundant with wildflowers, and exit surprisingly into a neighborhood though a bamboo thicket. They provide a gentle ride along the Tennessee River and through a nature center. The entire system is well signed with four trailheads with informational kiosks, maps, and directional posts throughout the system. Learn more...

photo credit: Larry B. Smith
Cub Scouts working on a Tree Identification Badge at the Sarah Zigler Trailhead. Photo by Larry B. Smith.

Cub Scouts working on a Tree Identification Badge at the Sarah Zigler Trailhead. Photo by Larry B. Smith.


The Sarah Zigler Interpretive Trail, Jacksonville, Oregon

The Sarah Zigler Interpretive Trail beings in the historic Peter Britt Garden and follows an 1860 water ditch formerly used by Pioneer Peter Britt to water his world famous gardens, and Oregon's oldest Sequoia tree. The trail follows Jackson Creek, the site of Jacksonville's 1852 gold rush. The north facing hillside supports a diverse collection of native plants, including the rare and endangered Gentner's Fritillaria. Crossing Jackson Creek the trail climbs through a transitional forest of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas fir, Big Leaf Maple, and Madrone, to the top of a dry ridge consisting mostly of small Oregon White Oak. Views are also enjoyed of the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountains. The complete circle is 2.5 miles. Learn more...


The Sullys Hill Nature Trail, Benson County, North Dakota

The Sullys Hill Nature Trail is a scenic trail which gives the visitor a unique chance to walk through prairie, wetland and forest ecosystems not usually found together in North Dakota. From the trail the visitor has a chance to see mammals, birds, wetlands, woodlands, Devils Lake (the largest natural lake in North Dakota), and native grasslands. In 1904, Sullys Hill National Game Preserve was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt. At Sullys Hill, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focuses its efforts on preserving wildlife and their habitats and offering wildlife-oriented recreation. The wooded, glacial moraine hills and native grasslands of Sullys Hill are a unique setting in North Dakota. In addition to seeing bison, visitors can observe elk, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed prairie dogs. Learn more...

A view from Florala-Lake Jackson Scenic Trail.

A view from Florala-Lake Jackson Scenic Trail.


Florala-Lake Jackson Scenic Trail, Florala, Alabama

Lake Jackson is a 500-acre natural lake situated on the Alabama/Florida line. A study conducted in 2005 by the State Geologists determined that Lake Jackson is not a spring fed lake but rather a prehistoric sinkhole dependent totally upon rain for its water supply. Birds naturally love the lake and understandably, Lake Jackson is getting attention from bird watchers across the nation. Lake Jackson is home to at least one pair of bald eagles, and the occasional heron graces the shores. It is also not unusual to witness a mother duck crossing with as many as sixteen chicks trailing behind. In addition to the birds, alligators also call Lake Jackson home. Learn more...

About the Author

Taylor Goodrich started with American Trails in January 2018 as Communication and Media Specialist. Taylor has worked with the National Recreation Trail (NRT) Ambassadors since the beginning of the program and has helped shape the program to where it is today. Taylor currently lives in Dallas, Texas, which is also where she grew up and where she attended the University of North Texas receiving her degree in History. While in college she started doing freelance work editing and writing, and also got into graphic design and discovered she loves the creativity and craft of digital arts. After college she traveled quite a bit, and lived in both the Pacific Northwest and in New Mexico, and while in both of those places took full advantage of what the outdoors had to offer. After moving back to Texas she started moving towards doing graphic design, social media, and communications work full time, and she has contracted with several companies from tech startups, to music festivals, to law firms, to grow their social media and digital communications presence. Taylor loves hiking and kayaking especially, and is glad to be working with an organization that fights for further accessibility and stewardship of our nation’s trails. She feels very lucky that in this position she will be able to use her professional skills and passion for something she is also very personally passionate about, and in helping to grow American Trails.

Contact: [email protected]

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1,112 views • posted 03/22/2019