Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Celebrate National Trails Day: America’s Best Historic Trails

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® is this Saturday, June 6 and celebrated with events across America. These events not only increase awareness of our nation’s treasured trails and their pristine beauty, but they also get Americans up and active through hiking and other outdoor activities. There are tens of thousands of trails in the United States, many richly historic, that provide hikers with a glimpse into our nation’s past. One can only imagine the events that once took place and the people that once traversed along those same paths.

Here is a list of some of America’s top historic trails. They are best experienced by car (many cover hundreds or even thousands of miles) and have historic sites and walking trails in various locations along the way.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail: Running through nine states from Georgia to southern Illinois, the Trail of Tears commemorates the difficult journey of the Cherokee people after a forced removal from their homeland in the southeastern United States in 1838. There are a variety of historic sites in several towns and cities along the Trail of Tears, including heritage centers, museums and walking paths.

Beale Wagon Road Historic Trail: This 19.5-mile trail in Kaibab National Forest in northern Arizona is part of what was the first interstate road in the Southwest, built during the 1860s and 1870s and stretching from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to California. Parts of this trail are suitable for hiking and horseback riding, and visitors can even discover old sections where rows of rocks mark the wagon-width road.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail: This trail traces the journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the goal of which was to discover a water route (via the Missouri and Columbia rivers) from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast. Starting in Illinois and passing through 11 states, it extends over 3,700 miles. There are more than 100 historic sites along the trail that commemorate this brave expedition and important period of American history.

California National Historic Trail: During the great Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s, this trail carried nearly a quarter of a million people westward to California to seek their fortunes. It passes through 10 states from Missouri to California and has several trail sites to enrich your experience along the way.

Oregon National Historic Trail: To follow the Oregon Trail is to follow the journeys of American settlers who trekked across the open expanses of the West in search of better lives. With the major eastern starting points in Missouri and Iowa, the Oregon Trail was never actually one singularly defined trail, but rather several routes that were established over the years by a number of explorers.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail: More than 330 miles long and meandering through Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, the Overmountain Victory Trail commemorates the 1780 campaign that led to the Battle of Kings Mountain. This battle was a crucial turning point for American patriots battling Loyalist forces during the Revolutionary War. The motor route begins in Abingdon, Virginia, and is set amongst the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Each year a reenactment procession travels along the route by foot and car, where participants can join in along the way.

Pony Express National Historic Trail: You have undoubtedly heard of the famous Pony Express — America’s first postal service that carried communications from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. The Pony Express National Historic Trail has many interesting historic sites (such as original stations and pony stables) along its 1,800-mile route.

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail: This trail was not used by explorers, settlers or soldiers of the traditional sense — instead it chronicles a more recent and very important turning point in American history. In March 1965, peaceful marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, were organized to bring attention to the struggle by African-Americans for voting rights. After two previous attempts, marchers successfully made the 54-mile trek to the state capital in Montgomery. As a result of this monumental event, Congress enacted legislation that guaranteed voting rights for all Americans. Begin by visiting the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, and then follow the Alabama State Scenic Highway to the state capitol building in Montgomery.

Happy trails!

What historic trails, whether made for walking or best suited for driving, have you traveled? Share your favorite trails in the comments section below.


Kari Rippetoe is the Marketing Manager at Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

photo credits: Flickr, Trail of Tears State Park, by steve9567; National Park Service, "Three Forks from Lewis Lookout," Dillon, Montana; Flickr, "Oregon Trail" by glennwilliamspdx; National Park Service, "Hollenburg Pony Express Station," Marysville, Kansas

No comments:

Post a Comment


Invite Friends

Send an invitation to friends who share a love of learning, traveling and connecting with others. Invite them to join you in growing this new online community!
Your name
Your email address
Your friends' email addresses (use commas between email addresses)