Advancing a Great American Icon

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

Great American Rail-Trail map
$4+ million in public and private funds secured for Great American projects / 145 existing host trails on a route + 53% complete
20+ miles of trails completed in FY 2020 for a total of 2,000+ miles

Imagine the incomparable experience of exploring America’s heritage by trail—its potential, its beauty and bounty, its people and places—along a route that stretches more than 3,700 miles between Washington, D.C., and Washington State.

Learn more about the vision of the Great American Rail-Trail™, which is 53% complete to date, and growing each year.

RELATED: A new way to travel across the US | BBC Travel

Great Strides for the Great American Rail-Trail in 2020

In 2020, the collective action of RTC and our many partners along the route of the Great American Rail-Trail, the nation’s first cross-country multiuse trail, resulted in more than $4 million in public and private funds being secured for projects along the route and over 2,000 miles of trail completed to date.

Since the project publicly launched in 2019, 54 miles have been completed, and new trail projects have begun or are complete in 10 out of 12 Great American states. A total of $23 million in public and private funds have been secured to advance local Great American projects (as of May 2021).

With projects like the Great American poised to serve major roles in the health and vitality of America as it moves beyond the pandemic, this iconic project continued to capture hearts and imaginations across the country.

Spotlight on Iowa

In March, RTC joined the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and trail supporters to rally legislative support for Iowa’s trail networks at an event at the Iowa State Capitol that drew attention to the benefits of Iowa trails—and the importance of programs like the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which could provide as much as $171 million annually, or transformative outdoor and conservation projects like the state’s portion of the Great American Rail-Trail.

RELATED: Trail enthusiasts urge Iowa lawmakers to consider all funding options | The Gazette

Spotlight on Indiana

In the summer of 2020, the Great American saw exciting progress in the Hoosier State, where trail builders celebrated the opening of the first mile of the Veterans Memorial Trail in Hebron in June—and the opening of 3.4 miles of the Pennsy Greenway between Schererville and Munster in July (bringing Indiana’s Great American total to 116).

“Filling this trail gap will have significant impact for Indiana and the nation. [The] trail segment—just 3.4 miles of new trail—will multiply the economic and health impacts that this trail can deliver by significantly increasing the number of people who have access to green space, safe transportation routes, and safe places to walk and bike right in their community."

—Eric Oberg, Midwest Regional Director, RTC

RELATED: Hebron celebrates 1-mile completion of Veterans Memorial Parkway with ribbon-counting | Chicago Tribune

Spotlight on Nebraska

In Nebraska, trail builders signed an easement agreement to create 5 miles of trail alongside an active corridor (owned by Nebraska Northwestern Railroad) to help connect the 321-mile developing Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail into Chadron. A host trail of the Great American, the Cowboy Trail is currently the longest rail-trail conversion in the country.

“We see it as an opportunity to showcase what the town of Chadron has to offer and also showcase the railroad history that we have here in Northwest Nebraska."

—Jim Collins, General Manager, Nebraska Northwestern Railroad

RELATED: Cowboy Trail connection to Chadron moves forward | Lincoln Journal Star

A Great Ride

In the summer of 2020, trail fans across the country got their pedal on through the inaugural “Great American Ride” from Sports Backers—a virtual race to raise money and support for RTC and the 3,700-mile developing route. With results tracked in real time, dozens of teams stepped up to see which could be the first to “reach” the finish line in Washington, D.C., during the two-month event!