The National Trail Systems Act may not be the first piece of legislation you think of from the ’60′s. But thanks to congress, who passed the act in 1968, we are now able to enjoy some of the most beautiful trails in the world. Of the 20 trails classified under the act, we’ve selected the top 5 that everyone needs to experience, at least in part.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
One of two original trails protected in 1968, this trail stretches 2,184 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The majority of the trail runs through wilderness. However, some portions traverse towns, roads, and rivers.
Trail Mix Factioid- Thru-hikers complete the entire trail in a single season.
Passes Through- Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine
Highest Point- Cligmans Dome- 6,643 feet
Hazards- Severe weather, steep grades, black bears, ticks, mosquitos, limited water, snakes
Best Direction to Hike- South to north
Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
The most famous of the NTS trails, this trail extends 2,663 miles from the Washington border to the San Diego/Tijuana international border. The most intriguing aspect of the PCT is that the route passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks.
Trail Mix Factioid- The PCT links the John Muir Trail, Tahoe-Yosemite Trail, Skyline Trail, and the Cascade Crest Trail.
Passes Through- California, Oregon, Washington
Highest Point- Forester Pass-13,153 feet
Hazards- Severe weather, bears, difficult climbs, steep drop-offs, lack of food
Best Direction to Hike- South to north
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
In 1978, the CDT became the fourth trail to fall under the NTS Act. This epic hike extends 3,100 miles from the border of Mexico to border of Canada. Each year only a handful of hikers attempt to hike the full trail, and it takes up to 6 months to complete with technical sections of the Rocky Mountains to navigate.
Trail Mix Factoid- In 2007, Francis Tapon became the first person to do a roundtrip backpacking trip from border to border and back in only 7 months.
Passes Through- Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico
Highest Point- Grays Peak, Colorado- 14, 270 feet
Hazards- Severe weather, hypothermia, steep cliffs, avalanches, bears, mountain lions
Best Direction to Hike- North to south
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail-
This trail follows the path of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee-Creek and Seminole Indians of 1831, where they were marched from their homelands to Oklahoma. The Trail of Tears was established as a National Historic Trail in order to acknowledge a dark time in the country’s past. The trail bisects numerous state parks and forests as well as national forests, and goes through some of the most scenic mountains and upland plains of the southeast.
Trail Mix Factoid- The trail recognizes the Indian Removal Act of 1830, a pivotal moment in native tribal history.
Passes Through- Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma
Highest Point- Tatham Gap, North Carolina- 3,645 feet.
Hazards- Thunderstorms, lightning, flash floods, tornadoes,
Best Direction to Hike- East to west
Pony Express National Historic Trail-
This 1,966-mile long historic trail served as the original route where men would ride on horseback to deliver the nation’s mail across the country. The horse-and-rider system became the United States’ most direct and practical means of east-west communications before the telegraph.
Trail Mix Factoid- There are approximately 120 historic sites along the trail, including 50 stations from the original days of the Pony Express.
Passes Through- California, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri
Highest Point- 11,138 feet, Fort Sedgwick Colorado
Hazards- Horses, motor-traffic, severe weather
Best Direction to Hike- East to West