33.5 Miles Were Just Added to The Country’s National Trails System

Four new recreational trails in four states have joined the nationwide network, which includes recreational, scenic, and historic paths.

Aerial view of curved and elevated stretch of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, an abandoned railroad bed traversing foggy fields and forests.

The 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Oregon follows an abandoned railroad bed through fields and forests.

Photo by Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock

Four much-loved multi-use trails in Oregon, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia recently got a promotion.

In celebration of Great Outdoors Month (June), which kicked off on National Trails Day, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland deemed each of the four paths a National Recreation Trail and, in doing so, added 33.5 miles to the country’s National Trails System.

The newly minted National Recreation Trails are now part of a network of more than 1,300 existing National Recreation Trails, which can be used for anything from hiking and walking to dirt bike and 4x4 riding. These trails span all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Here are the newest additions.

New additions to the trail system

Banks-Vernonia State Trail: Located about an hour drive northwest of Portland, this 21-mile trail follows an abandoned railroad bed between the small towns of Banks and Vernonia in Oregon. Along the way, it crosses through fields and forests and over 13 bridges, including one, the Buxton Trestle, that’s 80 feet tall and 733 feet long. It’s popular with hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. There are five different trailheads, and closing times vary between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m depending on the time of year. The trail always opens at 7 a.m. throughout the year.

Comal River Water Trail: Float or swim along this 1.5-mile water trail, which is part of the Comal River, a popular waterway for tubing in New Braunfels, Texas (located about 40 minutes north of San Antonio, and 50 minutes south of Austin by car). The river is open year-round for recreation (unless high water levels force a closure) and lifeguards are on duty from May until Labor Day.

Hell’s Revenge Trail: This 9.7-mile trail, which crosses petrified dune fields, is about a 30-minute drive northeast of Moab, Utah, and is meant for experienced mountain bikers and 4x4 drivers.

Sweet Springs Turnpike Trail: Follow an intact section of a 19th-century stagecoach road for 1.2 miles through fields and forests near Sweet Springs, West Virginia, which is known for the historic Sweet Springs Resort, a natural hot spring that dates to the late 1700s.

What this means for communities

“These four new national trails will build connections in communities, ensuring bikers, hikers and all who love our public lands have increased access to outdoor recreation opportunities close to home,” said National Park Service director Chuck Sams in a press release.

A National Recreation Trail can be named by either the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture, provided the federal, state, tribal, nonprofit, or private entity that has jurisdiction over the trail agrees. To be considered, the trail’s manager must submit an application.

In addition to National Recreation Trails, America’s National Trails System includes 11 National Scenic Trails (such as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail) and 21 National Historic Trails (like Alaska’s Chilkoot Trail and Alabama’s Selma to Montgomery Trail) for a total of roughly 90,000 miles of paths.

While not part of the national park system, National Recreation Trails are jointly overseen by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service (often in conjunction with other federal and nonprofit partners). The only trails that are part of the national park system are national trails; the USA has six. Three were added in December 2023: the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail, the 235-mile New England, and the 4,600-mile North Country. The previous three include the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, the 444-mile Natchez Trace Trail, and the 710-mile Potomac Heritage Trail.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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