National Trails Day is June 4

National Trails Day is coming up on Saturday, June 4. This annual event, sponsored by the American Hiking Society, celebrates the 200,000-plus miles of recreation trails in the U.S., and the opportunities they provide for getting outside and experiencing the natural world. National Trails Day is also an opportunity for you to do your part to make these experiences possible.

Since I am the director of our national recreation program at The Wilderness Society, you can probably guess that trails have been big part of my life. I have hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail in California, paddled my canoe on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in New Hampshire and rode my bicycle on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in western Maryland.

For me, America’s trails have been the setting for many memorable experiences.

I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of great places, but you don’t have to travel a long way to have a great trail experience. There are close-to-home trails in city parks and suburban forests all over America where you and your family can get outside and experience the wonder of nature first hand. National Trails Day is a great time to explore one of those trails.

In 2009, I had the privilege of leading a National Trails Day outing on the Occoquan Water Trail. Volunteers from a local trail organization, the Occoquan Watertrail League, joined me in leading twenty people on a twelve mile paddling trip. Along the way, we visited a National Wildlife Refuge, a state park, and a county park, all of them just a few miles south of Washington, DC.

If a hiking or paddling outing sounds like fun to you, visit the National Trails Day website to find an outing in your area. If this is your first time out, many of these trips will be led by experienced guides.

Of course, America’s trails did not magically appear on their own. They exist because government agencies and citizen activists created them and do the hard work of maintaining them so that they are available for us to enjoy. The American Hiking Society and its network of trail clubs throughout the U.S. are leaders in this effort. They provide thousands of volunteer hours maintaining trails, and they need your help. If you have enjoyed a trail in your community, sign up to help with a trail maintenance project or other stewardship event on National Trails Day. You may find that giving back is its own memorable experience.