11 National Scenic Trails offer 19,000 miles of meandering beauty

1 of 12
Scenic trails map
credit: REI

The idea of a long trail, like a really long trail, is undeniably romantic ... like a Route 66 for hikers, there's enormous appeal in traveling through the wild landscape of the country by foot. Long trails are bucket list fodder and fuel for stories of endurance and discovery. Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail" and Cheryl Strayed's "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" are just two of many accounts of people lured into the challenge of walking across large swaths of the country courtesy of an official hiking trail.

In 1968, an act of Congress authorized the National Trails System Act which paved the way for the 11 National Scenic Trails that we are blessed with today. With a minimum requirement of 100 miles in length, together they comprise 18,753 miles of heavenly hiking potential. Administered by either the US Forest Service or the National Park Service, the 11 trails will be "extended trails so located as to provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the area through which such trails may pass." According to the Act, each is intended to, "stand out in its own right as a recreation resource of superlative quality and of physical challenge."

Superlative, indeed! They're the best. You can see the routes and learn more about each one by clicking through the following pages. (They're also indexed at the bottoms of each page if you want to jump around.) Happy trails!

Appalachian National Trail | Pacific Crest Trail | Continental Divide Trail | North Country Trail | Ice Age Trail | Potomac Heritage Trail | Natchez Trace Trail | Florida Trail | Arizona Trail | New England Trail | Pacific Northwest Trail

1 of 12

More Slideshows