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Looking for an excuse to celebrate your love of trails? Good news: National Trails Day is just around the corner. This year’s trail lovers can participate in the holiday by hitting the trails on June 4 for a cleanup, some trail building, a celebratory music festival, or, yes, a hike.
Originally established by the American Hiking Society in 1993 to advocate for trail stewardship, National Trails Day has grown along with hiking’s popularity over the past 29 years. In 2019, the holiday set a new record when over 41,000 participants showed up to participate in one of 565 events. The result was less litter, and more trail development, to the tune of tens of thousands of person-hours of work and 274 miles worth of improvements to national trails across the country.
Over 57 million American residents identified as hikers in 2020, which is just under 20% of the population. Roughly 52 million Americans identified as cyclists in 2020, accounting for a similar percentage. Trails like those that exist in the National Trails System also support horseback travel, running, birding, and other activities.
Your options for celebrating the holiday depend largely on where you are. Residents and visitors in Boulder, Colorado will be kicking off the day with trail building and maintenance at Doudy Draw. American Hiking Society’s home, Maryland, will be hosting hikes, foraging classes, and a cleanup. After a day of guided hiking, biking, and rafting, backpackers in Chester, South Carolina will be able to celebrate with a concert and picnic at Wild Hope Farm. (Don’t live in any of those places? You can take your pick of hundreds of additional events.)
How big is the need for volunteers? The National Trails System currently contains over 60,000 miles of trails across all 50 states, enough to wrap around the earth twice. Hikers can find thousands of additional national trails on federal lands; the U.S. Forest Service alone hosts 158,000 miles of trail.
As outdoor trail usage continues to grow, trail stewardship is more important than ever. Outdoor participation has grown steadily since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with hikers reporting 52.1% more hikes in 2020 than in 2019. If you’ve been dragging your feet on giving back, this might just be the opportunity you need.