Top 3 CCC Trails

The Civilian Conservation Corps is turning 75—so celebrate right by hiking its classics.
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The Civilian Conservation Corps is turning 75—so celebrate right by hiking its classics.

Grand Canyon NP, AZ | Table Rock State Park, SC | Wind Cave NP, SD

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps, a quarter-million-strong workforce that created or upgraded 800 state parks and built 28,087 miles of trails. Commemorate the CCC's 75th anniversary by hiking one of these three classics

Grand Canyon NP, AZ

Hike a Cliff-Hugging Trail

Between 1933 and 1936, 200 men from Company 818, one of seven CCC crews in the park, chipped out riverside hiking trails as wealthy guests relaxed piano-side at Phantom Ranch. Trek on their handiwork along the nine-mile Clear Creek Trail, with gobsmacking views of Zoroaster Temple and steep red-walled cathedrals. Pick up the Clear Creek Trail in the narrow canyon just north of Phantom Ranch (it's a one-to-two-day hike in from either rim; try Bright Angel, or the North or South Kaibab Trails). Climb three-quarters of a mile to a stone wall overlook and bench perched 550 feet above the Ranch. Continue east over the Tonto Platform and look for campsites about 2.5 miles in, just past Sumner Wash, or continue 6.8 miles to campsites along Clear Creek. (928) 638-7888; nps.gov/grca

Refuel

An ice-cold Tecate at the Phantom Ranch Canteen pairs well with its Hiker's Stew. (888) 297-2757; grandcanyonlodges.com

The Way

From Phoenix, take I-17 north 136 miles to Flagstaff. Follow US 180 81 miles northwest to the Bright Angel trailhead.

Grand Canyon NP, AZ | Table Rock State Park, SC | Wind Cave NP, SD

Table Rock State Park, SC

Climb steps carved into granite

This peakbagger's hot spot northwest of Greenville didn't even exist until the Corps showed up, in 1935. The canteen, most cabins, every trail, and even 36-acre Pinnacle Lake are CCC-constructed. Bag headliners Table Rock Mountain (3,124 feet) and Pinnacle Mountain (3,425 feet) on this 11.2-mile circuit that starts with a 3.6-mile climb from the Nature Center up Table Rock Trail. Recharge trailside at the wooden CCC shelter before ascending carved granite steps to the summit. Backtrack to the 1.9-mile Ridge Trail to link to Pinnacle Mountain Trail and a short climb to your second summit. There's no camping on park trails, so continue 0.2 mile west on the connecting Foothills Trail to pitch camp in flat, sassafras-blanketed sites outside park boundaries. (864) 878-9813; southcarolinaparks.com

Refuel

Grab a slice of the All-American Pie (sausage, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers) at Barley's Tap Room & Pizzeria in Greenville. barleystaproom.com

The Way

From Greenville, take US 276 north 15 miles to SC 11 and turn left, heading 15 miles to the park.

Grand Canyon NP, AZ | Table Rock State Park, SC | Wind Cave NP, SD

Wind Cave NP, SD

Explore underground, Camp in a Prairie

Thanks to the Corps, it's an easy walk into the world's fourth-longest cave (at 127.76 miles). CCC workers built a staircase by schlepping 70-pound tubes filled with wet concrete. After a four-hour trip into the cave, grab your kit for an overnight on a 17-mile loop above it. Start one mile north of the visitor center (CCC-built, naturally) on the Wind Cave Canyon Trail. Scan 40-foot limestone cliffs for great horned owls, then pick up the Highland Creek Trail one mile from the trailhead. Trek north through mixed-grass prairie, passing (with luck) a few of the park's 400 bison. In six miles, turn left onto Sanctuary Trail, then link to the 111-mile Centennial Trail. Camping is unrestricted–just get at least 100 feet off-trail. The next day, cruise four miles south on Centennial to reconnect with Highland Creek Trail and a quick and rolling four-miler back to the trailhead. (605) 745-4600; nps.gov/wica

Refuel

Chill out with fresh lemonades and chicken panini at FlatIron Coffee Bar in nearby Hot Springs. flatiron.bz

The Way

From Custer, follow US 385 south 20 miles to the park.