Skip to content

The Great American Rail-Trail Vision

Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail | Photo by Eric Foster

Imagine a trail that connects the country …

Picture yourself … pedaling across the entire country on a safe, seamless and scenic pathway—or walking a local trail that connects along historic routes. Imagine the incomparable experience of exploring America’s heritage by trail—its potential, its beauty and bounty, its people and places. Consider the economic opportunities and the benefits for communities along the route of a multiuse trail that stretches more than 3,700 miles between Washington, D.C., and Washington State.

Preferred Route Assessment

50 million people withiin 50 miles of the Great American Rail-Trail
Great American Rail-Trail 2023 Infographic - More than 55 percent complete
Great American Rail-Trail 2023 Infographic - 150 existing trails hosting route and 80 trail gaps

RTC embarked on a 12-month assessment of route options using its GIS database of more than 34,000 miles of existing, multiuse trails nationwide, and analyzing more than 300 state and local trail plans to identify planned future trails. RTC also met and worked with more than 200 local trail partners and more than 50 state agencies representing the trails along the route, shaping criteria to ensure safe, non-motorized travel on a route that is entirely walkable and bikeable.

David Burwell on the Capital Crescent Trail in 1986 | Photo by Carol Parker
David Burwell on the Capital Crescent Trail in 1986 | Photo by Carol Parker

“One day, you could go across this entire country … on flat, wide, off-road paths. I want rail-trails to be ‘America’s Main Street.'”

—David Burwell, RTC Co-Founder
Cedar Valley Nature Trail in Iowa | Photo by Liz Zabel, courtesy GO Cedar Rapids

Download a printable brochure on the vision of the Great American Rail-Trail.

Download Brochure

The time is now.

The possibility of a rail-trail that spans the country has been known since the mid-1980s. As RTC stood at the forefront of the trails movement that was emerging across the country, it tracked rail-trails being developed east to west along the same course charted by the railroad a century ago. Now, analysis of RTC’s database of open trails shows that the Great American Rail-Trail’s preferred route is more than 50 percent complete—the milestone RTC has long identified as the threshold for committing to make this trail a reality. With that milestone in hand, RTC has committed to bring its national expertise and resources to bear in connecting the people and the infrastructure necessary to deliver the Great American Rail-Trail to the country.

Edward Day Cohota Signage | Photo courtesy RTC

Great American Rail-Trail Historical Marker Program highlight historically significant people, places and events along the trail.

Learn More

Support the Great American Rail-Trail

The Great American Rail-Trail will stand alongside our country’s iconic landmarks as a national treasure. You can help by making a gift to RTC, supporting the national leadership and on-the-ground support—the work to organize people, plans and ideas; trail planning and community engagement; the advocacy and marketing that is necessary to completing the Great American Rail-Trail.


Shop Great American Rail-Trail Gear

Great American Rail-Trail gear promo | Photo by Albert Ting and graphic by RTC
Photo by Albert Ting, graphic by RTC

Shop Great American Rail-Trail gear including a jersey, t-shirt, socks and gaiter to celebrate the trail connecting the country.