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Exploring The National Scenic Trails In The United States

National Scenic Trails are protected areas of scenic natural beauty in the United States, and serve as popular tourist attractions in the country.

New England National Scenic Trail

#11 New England National Scenic Trail

The New England National Scenic Trail is located in southern New England in the northeastern United States. It runs through the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. This trail stretches for 233 miles and reaches 1,202 feet above sea level at its highest peak. It was founded in 2009 through the combination of 3 pre-existing trails: the Mattabesett, the Metacomet, and the Metacomet-Monadnock. The idea for this trail was first established in 2000, when the National Park Services began research on a new trail after receiving approval from Congress. It was created in order to preserve the pre-existing trail system through joint efforts.

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

#10 Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, established in 1983, runs through the southern US states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. It follows along the Natchez Trace Parkway as five trail segments that add up to around 60 miles in length. In some places, the Natchez Trace trail follows roadsides. In others, it crosses state and county roads. This trail is one of a few that does not rely on volunteers for upkeep, but instead, is administered by the National Park Service. It was created to preserve the original Natchez Trace, a Native American pathway.

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

#9 Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, established in 1983, makes its way through several US states and districts, including Washington DC., Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It stretches for 710 miles, connecting historic sites along the upper Ohio River watershed, the Potomac River corridor, and some of the Rappahannock River watershed. Rather than follow along one single path like the majority of long trails, the Potomac Heritage Trail offers hikers a variety of side trails and alternative routes. This hiking trail runs across two other famous trails: the Appalachian Trail and the American Discovery Trail. It is available to hikers year round for hiking and biking.

Arizona National Scenic Trail

#8 Arizona National Scenic Trail

Established in 2009, the Arizona National Scenic Trail runs along the entire length of the US state of Arizona, from Mexico to Utah. This 800-mile trail begins at the Coronado National Memorial, which sits close to Mexico-US border. It crosses a number of mountain ranges including the Rincon, Santa Catalina, Machuca, Mazatzal, and San Francisco Peaks. From there, the Arizona Trail makes its way across the Coconino Plateau, down into the Grand Canyon, and up out of the Grand Canyon. It ends at the Kaibab Plateau on the Utah border. People can enjoy the Arizona Trail by hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, or horseback riding.

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

#7 Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, established in 2009, stretches along 1,200 miles from the Continental Divide of Glacier National Park in the state of Montana to the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington. It crosses through several mountain ranges, including the North Cascades, Rocky Mountains, Olympic, and Selkirk. Additionally, it makes its way across the Pasayten Wilderness and Wilderness Coast. Of all the trails in the National Scenic Trail list, the Pacific Northwest is known as one of the most difficult. Although only listed as a National Scenic Trail in 2009, the Pacific Northwest was first thought of in the early 1970s. The idea behind this trail lead to the establishment of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association in 1977. At lower elevations, hikers can enjoy this trail year round; higher elevations are reserved for summer and fall.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

#6 Ice Age National Scenic Trail

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, established in 1980, runs through the state of Wisconsin. Currently, only 600 miles of 1,200 planned miles have been completed. Its name is derived from the trail’s course, which follows the terminal moraine of the last Ice Age. A terminal moraine is an accumulation of glacial debris that forms at the edge of a glacier as it moves across the landscape. This trail is considered easy to moderate for hikers and its highest point is located at 1,920 feet above sea level on Lookout Mountain.

Florida National Scenic Trail

#5 Florida National Scenic Trail

The Florida National Scenic Trail was established in 1983, although planning and trailblazing began in the 1960s. It reaches 1,300 miles in length and crosses Florida from the Big Cypress National Preserve to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This trail is administered by the US Forest Service, however, volunteers and state land managers work together to ensure its maintenance and development. It can be divided into several regions: Southern, Northern, Central, and Panhandle. Each region is home to a unique variety of plant and animal species ranging from black bears to alligators and swamps to forests.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

#4 Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail was established in 1968, although it was completed in 1937 after 10 years of development and trail blazing. It runs along the eastern region of the US, though the Appalachian Mountains. This trail begins on Springer Mountain in the southern state of Georgia and ends on Mount Katahdin in the northern state of Maine. At 2,200 miles in length, it is said to be the longest hiking trail in the world. Approximately 2 million people make their way to the Appalachian Trail every year, crossing through forests and sometimes towns and farms. Northern extensions of this trail can be found through to Canada, Greenland, Europe, and Morocco; southern extensions can be found through Alabama to Florida.

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

#3 Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, established in 1968, run 2,659 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through the US states of California, Oregon, and Washington. It mainly follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, with its highest point at 13,153 feet above sea level on Forester Pass. The idea for this trail was born in 1932, but it was not completed until 1993. The Pacific Crest is part of the longer 6,875-mile Great Western Loop.

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

#2 Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail was established in 1978 and covers a length of 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada through the US states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It follows the Continental Divide, which is considered the line that separates the Pacific Ocean watersheds from those of the Atlantic Ocean. Its highest point is at 14,270 feet above sea level on Grays Peak in Colorado and its lowest point is at 3,900 feet in Columbus of New Mexico.

North Country National Scenic Trail

#1 North Country National Scenic Trail

The North Country National Scenic Trail, established in 1980, can be found crossing the US states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. It is the longest of the National Scenic Trails at 4,600 miles. Currently, only 3,009 miles have been developed and cleared for hiking. This trail runs through 10 National Forests and 2 National Wildlife Refuges, creating a connection among various parks, historic sites, hunting areas, and scenic attractions.

Exploring The National Scenic Trails In The United States

Trail NameYear EstablishedLength Authorized (miles)
North Country National Scenic Trail19804,600
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail19783,100
Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail19682,650
Appalachian National Scenic Trail19682,181
Florida National Scenic Trail19831,300
Ice Age National Scenic Trail19801,200
Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail20091,200
Arizona National Scenic Trail2009807
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail1983700
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail1983695
New England National Scenic Trail2009220

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