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America's National ScenicTrail System

Map of 11 NST.jpg


The Triple Crown

The National Trails System Act of 1968 was part of a sweeping initiative of Congressional conservation acts during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. The following trails were the first three to designated as National Scenic Trails. 

Appalachian Trail (1968)

It is the granddaddy of the National Trail System, conceived in 1921 and decked in the deep green forests atop the highest peaks in the Eastern United States.  The well-worn 2,175-mile pathway attracts millions of visitors each year to sample its hikes, with more than 500 hearty “thru-hikers” walking the full distance from Georgia to Maine each year.

Pacific Crest Trail (1968)

Rising from the deserts of South California, this well-established footpath takes to the crests of the Sierra and Cascade Mountain ranges.  Over its 2,650 miles, the trail spans glacial, volcanic, desert, alpine habitats through California, Oregon, and Washington, Highlighting delights like Crater Lake and Yosemite National Park.

Continental Divide Trail (1978)

Zigzagging along the high crests of the Rocky Mountains, this 3,200-mile rugged footpath embraces some of wildest places in the West.  Starting with southern terminus Hachita NM then on to El Malpais National Monument, the San Juan Mountains, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Yellowstone National Park and finishing at Glacier National Park.

Rest of the Original Eight

North Country Trail (1980)

Along the Northern tier of the United States, this 4,600- mile route stretches across seven states, from the lush cedar and pine forests of New York, to the open, rolling grasslands of North Dakota.  Sample hundreds of sweet spots in between, showcasing deep ravines, roaring waterfalls, and panoramic views along Lake Superior.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail (1980)

When the glaciers of the last Ice Age retreated from Wisconsin, they left behind craters carved by the melting ice, oddly shaped hills, deep valleys, and vast boulder fields.  For 1000-miles, this trail traces the glacial front, highlighting two billion years of geographic time.

Florida Trail (1983)

From haunting cypress swamps and sawgrass prairies along the edge of the Everglades to the sparkling white sand beaches of Pensacola, America’s only subtropical National Scenic Trail leads hikers 1,400-miles through an ever changing landscape of botanical splendor.

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (1983)

Linking Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, this trek into the past embraces America’s Colonial heritage.  Along its 350-miles, it follows early exploration and settlement routes such as the Potomac River, the C&O Canal, the National Road, and the tributaries that form the Ohio River.

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (1983)

Discover the history of the Deep South along this 444-mile route now paralleled by the Natchez Trace Parkway.  With its roots in the cypress and tupelo swamps of Mississippi, the trail connects Natchez with Nashville, Tennessee along a path used by many including the ancient lost tribes of mound builders to the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the explorer Meriwether Lewis and the “Kentuck farmers” of the Ohio River Valley.


Saving the Best for Last

President signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, one of the most sweeping pieces of conservation and public land management legislation in decades into law on March 30th.  It established new national parks, a national monument, and three new National Scenic Trail. It also provides legal status for the National Landscape Conservation System, which will protect some of this country’s most spectacular scenery.    

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (2009)

Starting at the Northern Terminus of the 1200-mile Continental Divide Trail hikers transverses the Rocky Mountains, the Selkirk Mountains, the Pasayten Wilderness, the North Cascades, the Olympic Mountains ending at the western most point of the lower 48 states.  Hugging the border with Canada this trail passes through vast tracts of rugged and wild isolation. The final 30 miles are along of the jutting coastal portion of the Olympic National Park, requiring low tides for passage.

New England National Scenic Trail (2009)

The New England Trail is a 220-mile trail route travels through Connecticut and Massachusetts. Comprised of the Metacomet, Monadnock and Mattabesett Trails, the route features classic New England landscape features: long distance vistas with rural towns as a backdrop, agrarian lands, unfragmented forests, and large river valleys. The trail also travels through important Native American and colonial historical landmarks and highlights a range of diverse ecosystems and natural resources–traprock ridges, mountain summits, forested glades, vernal pools, lakes, streams and waterfalls.

Arizona National Scenic National Trail (2009)

Some say the Arizona Trail is the greatest achievement of the National Scenic Trail System!  It stretches from Mexico to Utah, a distance of 807-miles. The trail begins on the Mexican border and traverses desert, mountains, more desert, more mountains, canyons, plateaus, the Grand Canyon, and the Colorado Plateau to the Utah border. Adventurers explore its diversity on foot, bicycle, and horseback.



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