Experiencing Americas Trails

Tammany Trace in Louisiana | Photo courtesy St. Tammany Parish

The COVID-19 pandemic brought sharp focus to the importance of trails as shared public spaces in our communities. As of December 2021, an ongoing Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) poll found that 95% of people say they are getting outdoors as much as, or more than, they did prior to the pandemic, and 67% indicate that having access to outdoor spaces has reduced their stress.

The rising demand for trails and the enhanced appreciation for the value they bring to our lives has created new opportunities for people to engage with trails nationwide.

Over the course of the year, RTC provided a range of resources and trail user content—including Top 10 trail content for all 50 states—to help people find and enjoy these essential places. Through our Share the Trail campaign and #RecreateResponsibly initiative, implemented in partnership with the nation’s leading outdoor organizations, we educated America on how to be safe while active on trails, and encouraged local stewardship in trail communities across the country.

In FY 2021, we shared the transformative power of trails in all our public platforms—a message that resonated with our national audience, which included: 

In FY 2021, rail-trails and multiuse trails received 35,000+ mentions in external media outlets. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was mentioned 2,700+ times, and our flagship cross-country initiative, the Great American Rail-Trail®, received 600+ mentions.

Our Trail Moments initiative lifts up the voices and experiences of diverse trail users across the country, centering on real people and their stories of how trails add value to their lives. Since its September 2020 launch, more than 2,000 people have shared their stories in English and in Spanish, and more than 50,000 people have connected with us to share how trails bring value to their lives. The campaign has more than 5 million people in 30+ states.

#TrailMoments With Jeff Jenkins

With the goal of making travel more inclusive and accessible for everyone, blogger Jeff Jenkins created Chubby Diaries to inspire people to discover new places and foster a welcoming community of travelers.

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#TrailMoments With Adriana Garcia

Through her grassroots initiative, Latinx Hikers, Adriana Garcia works to break down barriers in the outdoors by creating access, providing representation and empowering people to establish connections with nature.

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Graphic by RTC

Celebrate Trails Day

Even just one day revealed how impactful trails are for our physical and mental wellness. On April 24, 2021, more than 170 partners and 3,500 people from 48 states and Washington, D.C., joined us for our annual Celebrate Trails Day. During the virtual event, participants logged some 139,000 minutes of activity, with 90% of participants spending more than 30 minutes active outside, exceeding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) physical activity guidelines.

Learn More  Trail Use Tips

“It can be easier to make healthy choices when communities create safe, convenient and equitable places for physical activity such as trails.”

—Ken Rose, Chief, Physical Activity and Health Branch, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, CDC

Rail-Trail Champion

RTC named Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb our 2021 Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion for his leadership in accelerating trail development across the state, including championing Next Level Trails, an innovative state funding program that could serve as a national model.

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“When you look at vibrant communities, one thing in common—the common denominator—is outdoor amenities. People want to work where they want to live. Trails were that X-factor.”

—Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb

Rail-Trail Hall of Fame

Iowa’s Raccoon River Valley Trail, RTC’s 2021 Rail-Trail Hall of Fame inductee, secured more than 16,000 votes in our national contest. This 89-mile path connects rural communities to larger cities and is an important segment of the cross-country Great American Rail-Trail®, a flagship project of RTC.

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“The Raccoon River Valley Trail is now a major economic force for West Central Iowa. It connects Des Moines, the largest city in Iowa and the state capital, to some of the richest, most productive farmland in America.”

—Chuck Offenburger, Former Raccoon River Valley Trail Association Board Member

2021 Trailblazer Society Tour on Iowa's Cedar Valley Nature Trail | Photo by RTC
2021 Trailblazer Society Tour on Iowa's Cedar Valley Nature Trail | Photo by RTC

Thank You, Trailblazer Society!

An important source of funding for our work comes from our Trailblazer Society members—who generously donate $1,000 or more annually. A special thank you to all our Trailblazers, including the 100 new people who joined the ranks of this critical group of trail supporters in 2021!