For decades, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been at the forefront of the movement to create trails that connect people to safe outside spaces where they can walk, bike and be active. Never before was our leadership more important than in 2020. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation took to trails to find resilience and respite, and moments of joy and reflection.

While 2020 brought immense hardship in countless ways, we realized the full value of our nation’s trails and the more than 1 million grassroots supporters who came together to support and advocate for the pathways that bring so much to our lives. Since 1986, the team at RTC has stood shoulder to shoulder with passionate partners, trail advocates and public leaders to grow the nation’s trails and trail networks. Together, we have made big strides in creating a nation connected by trail—and that matters more than ever.

Join us in exploring that impact throughout this interactive report. Dig in on the stories and the statistics that represent progress and persistence in a movement dedicated to delivering safe spaces where we all can walk, bike and move.

Moving Forward: A Message From the President

Each year, our work to develop RTC's Impact Report is a time for reflection—to assess our progress and to identify where challenges remain so that we’re better able to lead in the pursuit of a nation connected by trails. Reflecting on fiscal year 2020 has been even more poignant.

This past year, the nation reckoned with so much—a global pandemic, significant economic hardship and important calls for racial justice. At a time when the only thing that felt certain was the uncertainty and challenges so many were facing, trails became a lifeline.

Ryan Chao with his family for the virtual Celebrate Trails Day 2020 | Courtesy RTC
Ryan Chao with his family for the virtual Celebrate Trails Day 2020 | Courtesy RTC

Trails provided access to the outdoors, close to home, for millions of Americans. TrailLink, RTC’s trail-finder website and app, has been an invaluable resource, connecting more than 10 million people last year to trail maps as they sought ways to get outside. We’ve heard from thousands of people who have shared with us their stories and experiences on the trail—moments of joy, respite, healing and strength they found in the outdoors, close to home. These trail moments and the impact of our work in this time has brought urgency and focus to our path forward.

Our path is one where we prioritize the strategies that deliver at a national scale; that increase the diversity and representation of our movement, reducing disparities in opportunity and access to trails and the outdoors; and that are responsive—to the greatest needs of our movement and the country in a time of continued uncertainty and need.

Against the backdrop of 2020, the team at RTC worked to define our next strategic plan, fueled by the urgency and the opportunity that this past year brought into sharp focus. As we advance this strategic plan, we are guided by the responsibility we have—and the potential—to build a nation connected by trails. We are driven by a mission to reimagine public spaces to create safe ways for everyone to walk, bike and be active outdoors.

Our strategic priorities include commitments to:

  • Creating national models for connected trail networks through our flagship TrailNation™ initiative
  • Advancing innovative trail and active transportation policies on the federal, state and local levels to deliver the public funding and policy change necessary to unlock the power of trails to transform America
  • Sustaining the nation’s cultural and behavioral shift in recognizing the essential value of trails
  • Prioritizing equity and inclusion in all facets of our work and reducing disparities in access to the benefits of trails
  • Ensuring RTC is a healthy, sustainable and growing organization

We’ve always known that when connected trails networks are at the center of communities—and people have access to trails in every neighborhood—they are happier and healthier. While we knew we had far more work to do to realize this future, 2020 revealed both what’s possible and how much more needs to be done. We are driven by an urgency to reimagine public spaces so that everyone has safe spaces, close to home, where they can be active outside.

We look forward to your continued partnership as we work toward a future where trails connect everyone, everywhere.

Ryan Chao | Courtesy RTC
Ryan Chao | Courtesy RTC


Ryan Chao
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


Building a Nation Connected by Trail

Here's how we're delivering on our goal to create an America transformed—where trails connect everyone, everywhere.


Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail in Nebraska | Photo by Eric Foster


Connecting People to Safe Outdoor Space During COVID-19

In 2020, we connected millions of people to safe outdoor space—as trails served as lifelines for our physical and mental health.


Burke Gilman Trail in Washington | Photo by Bryce Hall


Connecting America’s Trail Networks

Through our TrailNation™ portfolio of eight innovative projects, we’re accelerating connected trail systems across the country.


Baltimore, Maryland | Photo by Side A Photography


Advancing a Great American Icon

Learn about the progress made for the Great American Rail-Trail™, which is poised to serve a major role in the vitality of the country.


Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail in Washington | Courtesy Washington State Parks



Connecting a Nation to Trails During the Pandemic

Through our national trail-finder website,, we connected 10.5 million users to safe outdoor space in America in 2020.


Wissahickon Valley Park Trail System in Pennsylvania | Photo by TrailLink user popsknox


Advocating for Trails

As the leading advocacy voice for trails—we focused in 2020 on safeguarding public funding for trails and active transportation and pursuing visionary federal transportation reauthorization.



Supporting Our Nation’s Trail Experts

In 2020, we strived to support the national trail-building community through innovative grants, technical support and creative solutions.


Tammany Trace in Louisiana | Courtesy St. Tammany Parish


Protecting Trails in Our Courts

As the foremost legal advocate for rail-trails, we’ve argued on behalf of these vital assets in more than 60 cases.


Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Connecticut and Massachusetts, part of the East Coast Greenway | Photo by TrailLink user nmfuko


Celebrating Our Trail Champions

Each year, we seek to honor esteemed trail champions and exemplary pathways across the country. Here are our 2020 honorees.


Caperton Trail bridge at the mouth of Deckers Creek in Morgantown, West Virginia | Courtesy RTC


Elevating and Expanding the Movement

Through our national platforms, we serve as the leading voice of the trails, walking and bicycling movement—engaging a grassroots community 1 million strong.


Little Blue Trace Trail in Missouri | Photo by TrailLink user julesnp713



Summary of Activities and Changes in Net Assets for the Fiscal Year Ending Sept. 30, 2020

FY2020 Revenue pie charts
FY2020 Expenses pie charts
2020 Revenue chart
2020 Expenses chart
2020 Net Assets chart

*Non-operating income represents realized and unrealized gains and losses on investment of restricted assets. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization as qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Codes.



RTC staff and board during the virtual Celebrate Trails Days 2020 celebration | Courtesy RTC
RTC staff and board during the virtual Celebrate Trails Days 2020 celebration | Courtesy RTC

Board of Directors

Our board members come from diverse backgrounds but with a common purpose—to enrich the lives of millions of Americans by creating a nationwide network of trails. 

View a list of our FY 2020 Board of Directors.


Our Staff

We’re innovative. We’re passionate. We care about making a difference in communities nationwide.

View an FY 2020 Staff List.


Contact Us

Get in touch with us and engage with our national community.


Return Top