Walk this way: unique U.S. historic and scenic trails

Continental Divide at Loveland Pass Colorado (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Continental Divide at Loveland Pass, Colorado, on the way to the TBEX travel blogging conference in Keystone. Part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Did you know that we’re in the middle of the “Decade for Trails” (2008 – 2018) in the United States?

It’s an initiative that includes the National Park Service, the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS), the American Hiking Society, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the National Trails Training Partnership and many others, all to make the trails better, ensure that people know that a trails system even exists, and hopefully persuade them to get out and see a few.

These aren’t just hiking trails, either. The system includes waterways, driving routes, snow tracks and equestrian paths.

Poke around in the National Trails map PDF …. mouse down to the bottom for the + and – symbols to zoom in/out …. and here are some of the interesting items you’ll find:

***  The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, located entirely in Wisconsin. It’s a thousand miles long and takes hikers around the outline of what was the far edges or “terminus” of the glacier that covered most of the state more than 10,000 years ago. You’ll see glacier-related geological landforms like eskers, moraines, drumlins, erratics, kettles, kames and dells (dalles.) Good thing there’s an Ice Age Trail glossary for me to figure out all that glaciation terminology.

***  Alaska and Hawaii have major trails. The Iditarod National Historic Trail is about more than just the famous dog sled race, and the Ala Kahakai Trail on Hawaii‘s Big Island is a unique shoreline trail connecting significant ancient Hawaiian anthropological and cultural sites.

***  Paddle your way down a water trail on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail on the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, or the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

*** A huge moment in U.S. civil rights history is commemorated on the Selma to Montgomery Trail in Alabama.

***  Several trails converge across the same territory. In parts of Nebraska (like around North Platte) you’re covering ground that includes the Pony Express Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Pioneer Trail and the California Trail.

***  Native American history is found on every step of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) Trail and the Trail of Tears.

Between this and reading our editor Tim’s story about biking, brews and wine along Missouri’s Katy Trail (not a national trail, but it is the longest rails-to-trails conversion at 225 miles) I’m feeling the itch to get out and explore some of these pathways.

Have you been on any of the national trails? We’d love to hear down in the comments about which ones you liked and which ones didn’t work out so well.

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