This Saturday marks the 27th annual National Trails Day. First created by the American Hiking Society in 1993, the annual event commemorates the myriad ways we enjoy our trails, whether it’s classic hiking, paddling blueways, mountain biking techy singletrack, or walking our dogs.
Since its inception, National Trails Day has also become an important opportunity for advocacy and preservation. Kate Van Waes, executive director of the AHS, says that the day is as much a celebration of the ways in which we connect with trails because it’s a chance to ensure their future.
“The more people we can get outside and on their local trails, the more we can get people interested in conservation and stewarding those trails. We want people thinking about ways they can volunteer with their local land groups and remembering to contact their representatives to make sure public lands are protected and funded.”
Last year the AHS challenged the public to improve 2,802 miles of trails—the same distance it takes to hike this country from coast to coast. More than 100,000 volunteers surpassed that goal by over 1,000 miles. This year the AHS hopes to set the world record for the number of people involved in building and maintaining trails.
To facilitate that goal, the organization has created a searchable database that allows users to find events in their area. Every state but Rhode Island is included. Projects range from hard-core restoration on the Appalachian Trail to invasive species removal projects at local land trusts. Other events include races, kids days, and weekend festivals.
Can’t find one that meets your criteria? Van Waes says she hopes you’ll create your own. “Grab a couple of friends, take our pledge, and go clean up a trail. It’s totally cool,” she says.
For her part, Van Waes says she and her husband will be spending Saturday at their local land trust in Maryland, along with their two-year-old daughter. “She’s not ready to lay down a new drainage system, but she already gets really bummed when she sees trash when we go hiking.”
Here are just a few of the events happening nationwide. For a complete list, check out the AHS’s official National Trails Day website.
Mass Audubon Trailapalooza (Westport, Massachusetts)
Sign up for one of three guided nature walks, which range from two-mile treks through salt marshes to a short ramble on Mass Audubon’s universally accessible trail (perfect for trail fans who also have special mobility needs). Afterward, swing by the Stone Barn for all-ages activities and a bake sale.
Trail Stewardship with the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club (Camp Morgan, Millen Pond Road, Washington, New Hampshire)
Learn the basics of trail maintenance with this hands-on workshop. Participants will have the opportunity to install steps and drains and work collaboratively to build bridges while learning from professional trail stewards.
Trek to Taste (Marsh – Billings – Rockefeller National Park, Woodstock, Vermont)
Sample food prepared by farm-to-school students and local restaurants while learning about Leave No Trace and stream ecology. Participate in both guided and self-guided hikes and then relax with local musicians and ice cream.
National Trails Day Open House at The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (600 Ramapo Valley Road; Mahwah, New Jersey)
Participate in family friendly nature walks and yoga hikes, learn how to build and maintain trails, and volunteer your time pulling invasive species or planting native ones. The event is free and, best of all, it includes shuttle service from the city.
OutdoorFest NYC Campout (Henry Kaufman Campgrounds, Staten Island, New York)
Billed as New York City’s largest campout, this ticketed event includes everything from yoga to local brews and s’mores around an enormous bonfire. Don’t have camping gear? Not a problem. The $155 gear pass includes a tent, sleeping bag, and more.
Super Mega Volunteer Service Day (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Join the Friends of the Wissahickon for its 95th annual conservation event, taking place on ten different trails around Philly. Spend a couple of hours on trash detail or planting native trees and flowers, then share the brotherly love with other trail stewards at a group picnic in the Wissahickon Valley Park.
Girls Who Hike Florida Clean Up Party (Mead Botanical Garden, Orlando, Florida)
Join women and teen girls in this volunteer event, followed by a potluck lunch and conversation.
Mountain Bike Alliance Work Party (Kerr Scott Dam, Wilkesboro, North Carolina)
Spend some time learning how to build a mountain-bike trail, along with the history of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. After a sack lunch you’ll be one of the first to shred the very trail you built.
Paddle Activities (various Virginia State Parks)
Re-create John Smith’s 1608 voyage on the Aquia Creek or float down a scenic river. Either way, you’ll have the chance to learn about local history and ecology, along with the tips for enjoying Virginia’s bluest trails.
Danner Day Along the Ice Age Trail (Clean Water Outdoor, Delafield, Wisconsin)
Join representatives from the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Alliance for a day of trail clean-up, yard games, and paddlesports on Nagawicka Lake.
Superior Hiking Trail Association Hike Fest (Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, Finland, Minnesota)
A three-day festival including guided hikes, paddling, and trail runs, along with special workshops on everything from yoga and ropes courses to nighttime photography. Advanced registration required.
Take Me to Your Feeder (Friends of Fort Harrison State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana)
Join other avian enthusiasts in a trail improvement project at the park’s bird-viewing area. Snacks and refreshments provided.
Peace Creek Backcountry Horse Work Day (Cascade, Idaho)
Join members of the Back Country Horseman of Idaho for a trail ride and stewardship project in conjunction with rangers in the Boise National Forest.
Teton Trails Day (Grand Teton National Park Foundation, Moose, Wyoming)
Get technical with a working National Park trail crew. Volunteers will have the opportunity to try out trail decompaction and tread work, along with brushing and buck-n-rail fence construction. No experience necessary, but an RSVP is required.
Young Gulch Trail Restoration (Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Bellvue, Colorado)
This iconic trail was ravaged first by wildfire and then by floods. It’s being painstakingly restored by the folks of Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. Join them for either a backcountry base camp experience or some front country trail building.
Carson City Celebrates National Trails Day (Carson City, Nevada)
Join the city mayor and trained volunteers at Carson City’s new Open Space acquisitions. Learn about the city’s logging history and its environmental and cultural legacy, watch new trails be built, and find out how conservation easements are creating green space for residents and visitors alike.
Free Potato Patch Hike and More (Hualapai Mountain Park, Kingman, Arizona)
Free admission to the park and guided hikes, along with family-friendly activities and plenty of games (and snacks!) for kids.
Hike in the San Gabriel Mountains with Latino Outdoors (Burkhart Trail, Pearblossom, California)
Latino Outdoors was founded in 1993 with a mission creating equitable access to the outdoors by focusing on opportunities for families and cultural community. This Saturday, it’s sponsoring a dog-friendly and kid-friendly hike in the San Gabriel Mountains.
National Trail Day Celebration (Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Ojai, California)
Spend a couple of hours helping out the trail conservancy spruce up its trails and adjoining preserves, then rock out at the after party, where you can drink cold beer and hang with local musicians at Caravan Outpost, a crazy cool Airstream vacation destination.
Saturday Crew at Hoyt Arboretum (Washington Park, Portland, Oregon)
The Hoyt Arboretum is one of Portlandia’s most popular destinations. Founded in 1928 to conserve endangered species, it now boasts over 2,300 species of trees and is a true urban oasis. Help keep it pristine by teaming up with one of the arboretum’s stewardship crews.
Walking Native Land (West Duwamish Trails Group, South Seattle College Arboretum, Washington)
Join Ken Workman, a descendant of Chief Seattle, for an interpretive walk on one of Seattle’s loveliest greenways. Workman will share personal stories as well as a Native history of the area.