Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 24, 2018. It was updated on May 27, 2022.
We love getting out on the trail. But how often do we think about all of the work that goes into building and maintaining the trails we know and love? It’s easy to forget that someone has struggled every rock staircase, bridge and drainage into existence. That’s why this National Trails Day, June 4, the American Hiking Society is asking all of us to take a moment to think differently about the places where we recreate.
“It’s so easy to get out on the trail without thinking about the people who have come before, who have advocated, built and maintained these amazing trail networks. There are a quarter of a million miles of trails across the country, put there by people like you and me,” said Wesley Trimble, communications and creative director at the American Hiking Society.
The National Trails System Act, adopted in 1968, established nationally designated trails. These national trails are special because once designated by Congress, they are maintained and protected by federal agencies, keeping them open to the public for future generations. The America Hiking Society founded National Trails Day in 1993 to celebrate the Act’s 25th anniversary. This year marks the 30th annual event. On National Trails Day, the American Hiking Society encourages people to get out and enjoy, build and maintain trails and speak up for equitable access to trails.
REI has participated in National Trails Day for more than 30 years. “It’s a day that unites the larger trail community behind a common cause of stewarding, celebrating and enjoying our national trails system,” said Taldi Walter, government and community affairs manager for REI. Annually, REI locations offer stewardship opportunities for customers and members in honor of National Trails Day.
Since National Trails Day’s inception, most registered events have been recreation-based, like trail runs, mountain bike rides or water sports events. Over the past several years, an increasing number have involved trail building and maintenance. In 2022, the American Hiking Society invites everyone to help build or maintain a hometown trail and engage with their local community to improve neighbors’ access to the outdoors. They’re asking us all to improve a trail close to home, whether we’re volunteering to build or maintain a trail or using one (i.e., pick up that piece of litter you see as you’re hiking).
“Volunteering is really critical in this day and age when there isn’t funding to maintain existing trails and build new trails. It’s very important that people who enjoy using trails take some time to help maintain and improve those trails,” Trimble said.
The American Hiking Society has built partnerships with organizations around the country, including REI retail stores. Anyone can host an event or register for one. Events can be as simple as an organized hike, ride or paddle, or as complex as a large trail-work festival. National Trails Day is a grassroots effort that’s all about building connections.
Consider pitching in to help maintain a section of your favorite trail or host your own trail-building event with friends or family. Showing our trails a little love is up to us. Will you take the pledge to improve a trail on June 4?