About Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Elroy-Sparta State Trail | Photo by Eric Reischl Photography
At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we believe that communities are healthier and happier when trail networks are central to their design.
Since 1986, RTC has worked to bring the power of trails to more communities across the country, serving as the national voice for the rail-trail movement.
Our mission is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines, connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.
With more than one million grassroots supporters, 23,000 miles of rail-trails on the ground nationwide and more than 8,000 miles of rail-trails ready to be built, our focus is on linking these corridors—creating trail networks that connect people and places, bringing transformative benefits to communities all across the country. Our flagship initiatives—the Great American Rail-Trail™, TrailNation™, and TrailLink.com—bring that strategy to life, connecting millions of people by trail.
For three decades, RTC has served as the national voice for trails, setting the precedent that rail-trails are need-to-have community assets and establishing policies and practices that ensure these trails are built. Here’s how.
We advocate on Capitol Hill and to state legislatures and local governments—for investments and policies that support safe trail, walking and bicycling networks for people of every age and ability.
We mobilize trail supporters and the public to advocate in their own communities for safe walking and biking infrastructure.
We partner with nationally respected organizations; federal, state and local agencies; public leaders; and trail advocates to build trails and educate Americans on their value.
We raise funds to help develop regional trail networks that create and connect healthy, thriving communities and raise the quality of life for Americans.
We provide resources in the form of trail planning, capacity-building grants, technical support and best practices for rural, suburban and urban communities seeking to build trails and connect trail systems.
We protect trails—as the only national organization in America solely committed to defending the preservation of former railroad corridors for continued public use, we have helped shape the legal framework around rail-trails and continue to defend it in court.
We speak out about the transformative power of trails, encouraging their use and generating demand for trails nationwide.
What is a Rail-Trail?
Rail-trails are multipurpose public paths created from former railroad corridors. These paths are flat or gently sloping, making them easily accessible and a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Rail-trails are ideal for many types of activities--depending on the rules established by the local community--including walking, bicycling, wheelchair use, inline skating, cross-country skiing and horseback riding.
Explore the History of Rail-Trails
Check out our interactive timeline below to browse important moments in the history of RTC and trail development in America.