Nature lovers go ambling together along America’s footpaths June 2
Whether you’re a seasoned trail trekker or just looking to get your feet dusty for the first time in a stretch, there’s a day designated just for getting people together to enjoy a nature walk.
On the first Saturday of June for 25 years, the American Hiking Society has promoted a nationwide gathering of hikers of all ages, abilities and experience levels to discover or rediscover a sense of beauty and adventure along a local public-lands footpath. Thousands of the trail-marching meet-ups are hosted throughout the country.
The concept for National Trails Day is to connect people with a wide range of trail activities on a single day. Organizers of the coast-to-coast events say that sometimes all people need to get enthused about hiking is someone to show them what’s available – or biking or horseback riding or any other trail activity, for that matter.
National Trails Day is a “collective effort to connect people with trails,” he said.
“We encourage a wide variety of events, and not all of it even has to be hiking related,” said Wesley Trimble, a program coordinator for the American Hiking Society. “Basically, any kind of trail activity that is muscle-powered, whether it be hiking, biking horseback riding, is something we promote.”
National Trails Day is also envisioned as an event to spur volunteer interest in repairing and improving trails. Last year AHS helped coordinate more 1,500 hikes and trail-maintenance events, with activities in all 50 states. This year’s goal is to improve 2,802 miles of trail across the country — the distance across the United States.
“It’s easy to hit the trail and enjoy being outside without thinking about the tremendous effort it takes to advocate for, plan, build, and maintain the nearly 250,000 miles of trail crisscrossing America,” said Kate VanWaes, director of AHS.
Tennessee’s coordinator for outreach programs and special events at state parks, Morgan Gilman, said National Trails Day is one of a handful of days throughout the year when all state parks organize activities around a common theme
“National Trails Day is one of our signature events at all of our state parks – and it is all about getting people out and enjoying our trails,” she said.
And there are plenty of trails to choose from: together, State parks across Tennessee boast more than a thousand miles of walking paths.
Some parks will offer leisurely strolls; some strenuous. Some parks are doing clean-up hikes and others are more history oriented, she said
In addition to promoting the thoroughgoing benefits to health and well-being that hiking provides, National Trails Day provides an outstanding opportunity for park managers and staff to showcase something that makes their sites worthy of designation as special places in Tennessee, Gilman said.
And when it comes to having a lot to offer, Tennessee’s state park system is among the best in the country. Last year, the National Recreation and Park Association named Tennessee as one of the four best state park systems in the country for demonstrating excellence in management, stewardship and program development.
“On National Trails Day, the parks tend to try to highlight the aspects that make them unique,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to maybe explore a new trail or volunteer to help clean up or do maintenance on one of your favorite trails.
Events include activities such as hikes, trail runs, bicycle tours, horseback rides, volunteer trail projects, activities for kids, and much more.
“We have a variety of things that they are trying to tap into at all the parks, but it is just a great day to celebrate trails and hiking,” said Gilman.
To find out what’s going on at a state park you’d like to visit, go here for a calendar of events and contact info for all Tennessee’s individual park headquarters.