Masterpiece Trails

Here are the stories behind 10 of North America’s most impressive trail-building feats—and how to see them yourself.

WHAT COULD BE SIMPLER than a path through the woods? Deer forge them without thinking, and manmade trails often are hardly more sophisticated. But among the many paths we follow are a few works of art: improbable routes that ease the way through arduous terrain; trails built to last for decades instead of degrading into rock-studded, ankle-twisting chutes; trails that not only lead to spectacular sights but also evoke delight and admiration.

Airline Trail, NH

Airline Trail, NH

Making The Grade
Edmands Tour, Presidential Range, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Angels Landing Trail

The final half-mile of the Angels Landing Trail offers sweeping views—and big exposure. Photo by T. Pierre Leclerc

Switchbacks to Heaven
Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Kendall Katwalk

Crews used dynamite to create this narrow walkway across a 900-foot -tall cliff. Photo by Kirkendall-Spring

Sky Walk
Kendall Katwalk, Pacific Crest Trail, Washington

Back from the Burn
Mt. Islip Loop, Angeles National Forest, California

Telluride Krogerata

You’ll need the right gear—and nerves of steel—to traverse this via ferrata. Photo by Ryan Bonneau

Vertical Limits
The Krogerata, Uncompahgre National Forest, Colorado

Bike to Hike
Boone Fork Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Hungabee Lake and 8,050-foot Vanguard Peak

Step by Step
Lake Oesa-Opabin Lake Loop, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Balconies Caves

CCC Showcase
High Peaks–Balconies Caves Loop, Pinnacles National Park, California

Bear Mountain State Park, NY

Photo by Eddie Walsh

Kings of Rock
Appalachian Trail, Bear Mountain State Park, New York

Boardwalk on the Plover River section of the Ice Age Trail

Boardwalk Empire
Plover River Segment, Ice Age Trail, Wisconsin