Thanks to thousands of miles of trails, we are able to explore the wild. June 6th, 2020 marks National Trails Day to celebrate and advocate for trails we enjoy (now more than ever). The American Hiking Society created this day to commemorate all the ways we enjoy trails in the United States.
National Trail Day is an opportunity to give back to the trail system. It’s a day to express your gratitude for all those who develop and maintain the trails.
National Trails Day recognizes the incredible benefits that trails provide for recreation and have fun in nature. Typically, there are events held throughout the United States to promote awareness of the trail systems and what they have to offer.
While group gatherings and public events have been canceled, there are still several ways you can celebrate and give back to the trails you explore. While we encourage adventures, please follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local county’s guidelines.
National Trails Day Activities
Many people celebrate National Trails Day by hiking. It makes sense because it’s usually the first thing we think of when we hear “trails.” Depending on your county’s orders, you may be able to leave your home. Most organizations continue to recommend staying local though. You can find hikes near your house on American Hiking’s website. You can also use All Trails to find a hike near you.
You can discover new places in your old stomping grounds. Keep an open mind and look for a trail you’ve never hiked before.
Instead of two feet, try two wheels. The bicycling industry is booming right now with new and returning riders. With the available technology (eBikes, for example), bicycles open up a new world to young and old.
Take your bike out on to paved trails, dirt roads, or single tracks. There is a bike and a bike trail for every kind of interest. Start discovering new mountain bike trails through MTB Project. In addition to All Trails, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has a comprehensive trail guide, called Trail Link, to plan your next bike adventure.
Trails do not always mean land. It can be waterways as well. Why not paddle down a river or enjoy a lake on a stand-up paddleboard? If you own a kayak or paddleboard, visit paddling.com to find a river or lake nearby. Paddling.com also offers advice videos and articles for aspiring paddlers.
Trail running is a great way to enjoy the trails and nature. It’s different than treadmill/pavement running with obstacles to avoid and varying terrain. Not to mention you’re surrounded by nature. You may have to slow down more than you would on the pavement because of all the rocks, potholes, logs, and tight turns.
Trail running is less about gaining fitness and more about connecting with nature. We all love to get outdoors and what better way to sweat than amongst the trees? Read our quick and dirty tips to trail running.
For the explorers out there, geocaching is a treasure hunt outdoors. It’s a game where players use GPS coordinates to track down a container. There are hiding guidelines for cache but if you want to find a cache, all you need to do is download a geocaching app. Then choose the geocache you want to find and start looking for it. After you find it, sign the logbook and put the geocache back where you found it.
There are about 47 million birders in the United States so you’re in good company if you want to watch birds. Bird watching is accessible, especially for those who can’t leave their home and it’s easy to get started. Audubon suggests the following to start: a pair of binoculars, a field guide, a weather-proof notebook, and a birding app. You can learn more about bird watching on their website.
Trail Clean Up
Don’t just hike a trail, pick up litter you find at the same time. With the importance of keeping yourself and others safe amidst COVID-19, take more precautions than normal if you decide to clean up a trail. Earth Day suggests the following:
- Ensure that it is safe and permissible by local authorities to be outside.
- Select an appropriate time and route for your cleanup.
- Ensure that you wear some form of gloves for protection.
If you are in a county that is following a stay-at-home order, you can pick up around the outside of your house too.
Donate to Organizations That Take Care of Our Trails
There are numerous organizations working to protect public lands and this is a small list of what’s out there. Research other organizations yourself and donate to one that speaks most to you.
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.
The Wildnerness Society protects wilderness and inspires Americans to care for our wild places.
The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. They amplify the power of their 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.
The National Wildlife Federation unites all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world
Pew is working to connect critical areas of biodiversity through the identification and preservation of important tracts of land and rivers throughout the American West.
The National Parks Conservation Association protects and enhances America’s National Park System for present and future generations.
Educate Yourself About Public Lands
American Hiking Society lists several key issues regarding public lands you can learn about. For example, you can learn about:
Being an advocate for the outdoors and public land has widespread positive impacts. It provides policymakers with information to make informed decisions and influence legislation.
Visit Parks Virtually
While some National Parks are opening, most organizations urge us to stay local. This helps contain the spread of the virus. It may not be the same as in person, but you can visit all the parks in one day. No waiting in line for the best view or worrying about keeping a 6-foot gap between you and the next person.
Here is a list of our top ten favorite National Parks you can visit virtually.
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Safety Reminders for National Trails Day
Follow the Guidelines
The most important rule is to practice social (physical) distancing and follow your local government’s guidelines or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whichever are more restrictive. This keeps us all safer in the long run. This likely means keeping a six-foot gap between you and anyone else, wearing a mask, avoiding crowded areas, etc.
To contain COVID-19, authorities ask us to stay within our communities. This helps prevents the spread of the virus to communities that do not have the resources or can absorb an outbreak as larger cities can.
Find parks or trails that are not crowded or visit them during an unpopular time. Crowded trails and parks make social distancing difficult, if not impossible. It also places additional stress on trails and park infrastructure during a time volunteers can’t operate. Also, if you veer off-path, you can damage trails further.
Check the status of the place you want to visit and prepare for facilities to be closed. If the park you want to visit is closed, do not go. Find somewhere else to visit. If you stay close to home, it will be easier for you to deal with closed facilities. Do your business at home or wait until you return.
Pack your food, water, hand sanitizer, and face-covering with you. If you’re leaving your house to go on an adventure, make sure you can sustain yourself without having to stop at a store outside of your locale. This helps prevents the spread of the virus.
This “new normal” is new for everyone and we’re all trying to do the best we can with what we have.
When you do go on the trails, communicate clearly with others you encounter and need to pass. When visiting parks, extend your gratitude to park staff because they’re there to give you a good experience.
We all want the same thing which is to see this through and find small ways to continue to enjoy our lives and nature. Remember to take time to enjoy your surroundings, take a nice deep breath, and soak in Vitamin N(ature).