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New Freedom, Pa., along the Heritage Rail-Trail, an existing open trail within the Grand
History Trail system.

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Grand History Trail Home Page

The Basics<< You are here
Brief description of the Grand History Trail concept and its origins.

Learn and Explore
Check out the trail route, segment by segment.

Find out how you can promote the Grand History Trail in your area.

View a list of agencies and organizations that support the Grand History Trail or were involved in planning the route.

For more information, please contact Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, National Office.


Grand History Trail
The Basics

The Grand History Trail is currently a conceptual network that could link more than 100 miles of existing disconnected trails into a 300-mile circular pathway for non-motorized travelers.

Where will the trail go?
Currently, the Grand History Trail loop is a combination of on- and off-road facilities that connect major metropolitan cities and small historic towns in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Pennsylvania (see overview map). The route encompasses Annapolis, Md.; Baltimore, Md.; Frederick, Md.; Gettysburg, Pa.; York, Pa.; and Washington, D.C. Additional maps detail the identified route and the segment analysis describes the status of each section.

Whom and what will the trail connect?
The Grand History Trail attempts to connect popular existing trails like Pennsylvania's Heritage Rail-Trail County Park and the C&O Canal towpath, with proposed or project trails like the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C., and the Gettysburg to Hanover Trail in Adams and York Counties, Pa. The Grand History Trail is a circular corridor that includes heritage sites of national significance like the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg National Military Park. A comprehensive list of nationally recognized historic sites that can be easily accessed from the Grand History Trail route is included in the Historic Resource Inventory.

Brief Background of the Grand History Trail Concept
Members of the York County Rail Trail Authority first saw the great regional potential of connecting the trails between York, Pa., Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, Pa., and Hanover, Pa. That initial thought spawned the idea of a defined interstate trail system that also shares connections with the East Coast Greenway (a proposed bicycle route from Florida to Maine), the Great Allegheny Passage (a rail-trail system from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh, Pa.) and the C&O Canal towpath.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) received grant funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and technical assistance from the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program to work with local stakeholders in developing a concept plan for the Grand History Trail. That plan identified a route alignment, conducted a segment analysis and resource inventory, and made recommendation for implementation. What began as a sketch on a scrap of paper bourgeoned into a concept plan with specific suggestions, an interconnected group of stakeholders from every level of government, and a comprehensive set of Geospatial Information System (GIS) data that can be used by the various state and local partners to include on official planning documents and future tourism materials.

Closing the Gaps: Opportunities and Challenges
A safe, non-motorized, interstate trail system in the Mid-Atlantic region would benefit millions of people every year. Not only would the system provide opportunities for recreation and tourism, it would also contribute to a growing network of multi-modal facilities that enhance transportation infrastructure by providing more commuting options. The Grand History Trail will also be a major tourist attraction in the Mid-Atlantic.

Completion of an exclusively off-road route for the Grand History Trail will be challenging. Although a third of the route is along open multi-use trails, gaps in the system are located in major population centers with extreme traffic congestion, or in places where funding for off-road bicycle and pedestrian facilities is limited. However, with support from forward-looking state agencies, local planning departments, elected officials and engaged citizen advocates, the Grand History Trail can become the cornerstone of an emerging trail interstate system in the Mid-Atlantic and offer non-motorized travelers a unique way to visit the heart of America's history, combining physical activity with learning and exploration.

What can you do?
Learn more about the Grand History Trail route alignment and advocate for completion of missing sections in your area. Visit the Grand History Trail Advocacy section for more information. An informational handout with map is also available for download and print.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037