This year’s Opening Day for Trails is going to be the best yet, as people across the country officially kick off spring by hitting their favorite pathways (or new ones!). Everyone’s invited to participate—and it’s super easy, with thousands of miles of multiuse trails in America!
Below are a few ideas to get you thinking about ways you can celebrate Opening Day in your own neighborhood and beyond. And don’t forget to take Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s 2018 Opening Day pledge to get out on the trail; you’ll be entered to win a special giveaway!
1Go for a nature walk, hike or ride.
There’s so much out there in the media and academia about how being in nature does so much for our mental and physical wellbeing. Trails are ideal public spaces for connecting or reconnecting us to nature—with routes that span for miles into some of America’s most beautiful wildlife areas (animal spotting and bird watching are good activities for most rail-trails), preservation corridors, watersheds and geographic wonders.
2Spring that “New Year’s resolution” forward!
Fitness and weight loss may top the list of New Year’s resolutions made by Americans each year, but for many people, dark, cold winters can be super effective in knocking us off our game. What better way to get back on the fitness wagon than during the kick off to the spring trail season—which means warmer weather and beautiful budding landscapes!
3Come hang out with us at RTC’s official Opening Day Fun Run 5K.
Want to kick things off in our nation’s capital? If you’re in the area—come and join us for our official Opening Day 5K, a free, family-friendly event in Arlington, Virginia (okay—not exactly D.C., but close!). In addition to walking or running 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) on the bucket-list-worthy W&OD Trail and Four Mile Run Trail in Bluemont Park, you’ll also enjoy giveaways, food and entertainment—including live music from the Capitol Hillbillies!
4Attend an official Opening Day event at a trail near you.
RTC and a variety of partners are hosting walks, rides and other gatherings on trails around the country. For example—in Cleveland alongside the banks of the Cuyahoga River, participants can discover new sections of trail on a group ride or a self-guided bike/walk tour on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath and Cleveland Foundation Centennial Lake Link trails. We’re also holding events in Baltimore, Maryland; Richmond, California; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and Camden, New Jersey—and sponsor Performance Bicycle is offering hundreds of rides from their stores all over the country.
Check out our Opening Day events page to find an event near you.
5Hold your own gathering. (It doesn’t have to be big!)
If you want the camaraderie of others on the most exciting trail day of the year, why not invite a few buddies to join you in your favorite activity? Take a stroll, roll or ride (bike or horseback!), and then stop off at your favorite snack shack or watering hole! With maps and reviews for more than 32,000 miles of trails—TrailLink.com is a great tool to help plan your route. Don’t forget to pledge your participation to be entered into a chance to win. And share your experiences with us—tag photos with #RTCOpeningDay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
6Try a new seasonal trail activity.
Flowers and butterflies might be popping up in some parts of the country on April 7, but other regions are still blanketed in snow. As long as the thermometer and anemometer are registering safe conditions where you live, Opening Day can be a great time to try a new activity on the trail! For those of you who may still be weathering through wintery mixes, ever hear of skijoring or perhaps considered giving cross-country skiing a go? And if spring is in full bloom on your local trails, hitting the trail to snap some photos or play a game of “I Spy” are terrific ways to take in the changing season and the re-emerging flora and fauna it precipitates.
No matter what new activity you try, remember to double-check that it’s permitted on your trail of choice. Not sure where to find the rules? Try starting your search on TrailLink.
7Transport yourself—literally—to your desired destination.
Trails are super fun—but that’s only the beginning. In America, where traffic and pedestrian and bike safety are hot button topics, these safe, free routes get us where we need to go and keep us separated from vehicle traffic. Trails are critical resources for short trips, work commutes and longer regional excursions.
If you’re already a “trail transporter,” keep up the great work! And if you’ve been thinking about trying out your heels, wheels (or hoofs) to get places, Opening Day is a great time to start. (You know, make your “official commute Day 1” special.)
8Visit a charming trail town.
Trails can be amazing kick-starters for ma and pa shops, restaurants and small businesses. Just ask the communities surrounding the Virginia Creeper Trail, Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania or Katy Trail in Missouri. And when these small businesses start popping up along a route, it makes for some great excursions. Why not take the opportunity on Opening Day to blend some great physical activity with a visit to your favorite (or an as-of-yet unknown) tourist town or hotspots along a trail—for some good eats, good shopping or just good times!
9Volunteer your services to—or on—your local trail!
Giving back always feels good. Giving back to one’s local community—while on your favorite trail—feels great (we know from experience).
You might be able to find programs in your area like Healing Rides, in which volunteers provide formal assistance on the trail to people with disabilities and mobility issues. Or simply try contacting your local trail manager to coordinate a trail cleanup or beautification project.
RTC is looking for some volunteers for our Fun Run 5K on April 7! Email us if you're interested!
10Start a family day tradition on Opening Day (that lasts throughout the year).
In an issue of Rails to Trails, RTC member Judy Berlfein talks about how much the bike trips she and her sisters took with their parents inspired the rides they take now with their own families. Opening Day for Trails is a great time to inspire a new trail tradition in your family … one that you can repeat throughout the year. Are you avid horseback riders, or are you looking to start? Is it time to take your daughter or son on their first long biking excursion?
Regardless of what tradition you set, take the trail!
11Go on a trail date.
Need a fun (and wallet-friendly) date idea? Think trail! When you and your special someone are strolling hand in hand down your favorite trail, there’s no need for candles, cut flowers or the croons of that mix tape you made, because between the wild blossoms and the serenading of songbirds—the perfect romantic scene has been set all around you! Or, if you and your partner are hoping to get into something a bit more heart pounding—tandem bike rides, sunset jogs or sunrise hikes along the trail are terrific date activities too! Want to do something sweet for your date? Pack up that box of chocolates, and bring it on a trail picnic!
12Just get out and enjoy yourself!
The real beauty of trails is that they are for everyone, regardless of age or ability, and most of them are free to use. This means to really celebrate Opening Day, all you need to go is get outside and get on the trail with a family member, a friend, your pet—or by yourself—and experience all the things that make trails great.
If you don’t have a favorite trail already, check out TrailLink.com for ideas.
Let us know how you plan to celebrate and explore trails on Opening Day on social media (and share your experiences on April 7) using hashtag #RTCOpeningDay!
See you on the trail!
Originally published on 03/13/17