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7 of the Best New Trails in the United States

Trail crews have carved out hundreds of new miles for hikers, runners, and riders from New York to California. It's time to freshen up your route.

The vast network of singletrack on Tiger Mountain is where Seattle mountain bikers go for weekend and after-work rides. (Washington DNR/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
mountain bike

Trail crews have carved out hundreds of new miles for hikers, runners, and riders from New York to California. It's time to freshen up your route.

Why hike the same old trail you’ve always done? Though the outlook for protected wilderness can look unsteady at times, new paths are being built on public lands from New York to California, and many are just now opening to the public.

Thanks to the hard work of volunteer trail crews, nonprofits, and recreation-friendly state entities, it’s never been easier to go on a post-work trail run, bag an iconic peak, follow a multiday backpacking route, or fly down purpose-built downhill mountain bike tracks. Here are seven new or recently improved trails worth checking out.

Backbone Trail

Santa Monica Mountains, California

The Backbone Trail isn’t new: this long-distance hiking trail through Southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains was first imagined in the 1970s. But in the summer of 2016, two remaining gaps were finally completed to link 67 miles of continuous trail. Though it’s surrounded by millions of people, the Backbone is a designated wilderness zone. When you’re out there, it’s just you and striking views of the Pacific Ocean. You can backpack the trail in a few days or hike or trail-run it in sections. Mountain biking is permitted only in certain zones.

Empire State Trail

New York

The Empire State Trail won’t be completed until 2020, but much of the trail is already built and ready to be used. When it’s finished, it’ll be a 750-mile multiuse path—the largest in the country—that crosses the state north–south from the Canadian border to New York City and east–west from Albany to Buffalo. A project of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, this former rail trail—which connects existing trails along the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway Trail—will be open to hikers, runners, bikers, and, in winter, cross-country skiers.

Violet Crown Trail

Austin, Texas

When it’s finished in 2018, the Violet Crown Trail aims to be the longest of its kind in Texas. Right now, it’s just a six-mile stretch of trail that starts in downtown Austin’s Zilker Park and winds through urban landscapes. Hopefully by next year, it’ll be 30 miles long and offer an easy way for Austinites to get outside. The trail was imagined in the late 1990s and took years of planning on behalf of the Hill Country Conservancy before construction began in 2014.

Captain Ahab Trail

Moab, Utah

Since its opening in 2013, the Captain Ahab Trail has already become one of Moab’s signature downhills. It’s just over four miles in length but drops about 1,000 feet in elevation. You’ll soar over sandstone rocks and down benchy ledges, and cruise buff singletrack, all with views of the La Sal Mountains. This is a technical trail—not for newbie mountain bikers—and you’ll reach it by climbing up the HyMasa Trail.

Predator Trail

Issaquah, Washington

The vast network of singletrack on Tiger Mountain is where Seattle mountain bikers go for weekend and after-work rides. The Predator Trail is a one-way, purpose-built downhill trail that was completed last September as a collaboration between the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and Washington’s Department of Natural Resources. The trail is only 1.8 miles long, but the riding is game changing. Hikers aren’t allowed on this consistently steep grade for experts.

Wild Rogue Loop

Wild Rogue Wilderness, Oregon

The Wild Rogue Loop is a 25-mile route in southern Oregon’s remote Wild Rogue Wilderness. Wildfires and natural erosion made sections of the loop impassable over the years, but some eight miles reopened in 2015 after restoration by the nonprofit Siskiyou Mountain Club. The loop, which travels through old-growth forest and stunning canyons, can be accessed via five trailheads, making for plenty of day-hiking options as well.

Mount of the Holy Cross


After several years of trail work by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, the trail up Colorado’s 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross now reaches the summit via the peak’s north ridge. In the past, the summit trail was unclear and complicated, which often led to hikers getting lost and requiring rescue. In 2015, an easy-to-follow trail was completed up the talus fields from tree line to summit. Mount of the Holy Cross is one of Colorado’s 54 peaks higher than 14,000 feet and a bucket-list item for hikers.

Filed To: Travel / Biking / Hiking and Backpacking / California / New York / Austin / Moab / Washington / Oregon / Colorado
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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