Rails-to-Trails Conservancy invites you to join us and people across the country in kicking off the spring trail season on April 13, 2019—the nation’s seventh annual Opening Day for Trails! Opening Day is the perfect way to grab your sneakers, your favorite ride and/or your skis (for some of you) and enjoy America’s spectacular trails system.
This year’s Opening Day is sure to be one of the best yet—and with thousands of miles of trails nationwide, there are tons of ways for you to get outside and celebrate.
For some inspiration, check out these 13 fun ways to celebrate Opening Day on April 13, in your own neighborhood and beyond!
1Spring 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!
2Paw the trail with your favorite furry friend.
Whether a horse, dog, adventure kitty or other type of path-friendly pet, celebrate Opening Day by hitting the trail with your buddy! Before you begin your trot together, please check the trail’s rules first to confirm that your furry friend is welcome.
Don’t have a pet? Call up your local pet rescue or shelter to see if they’re part of an Opening Day event, or if they have a “field trip” or “day-out” program! Many offer approved volunteers with the opportunity to take pets out of the shelter and about town for special day. And what could be more special than stretching their legs and flaunting their charm on the trail with you and the thousands of potential adopters who will also be celebrating Opening Day? You never know when they could find their forever family!
3Attend an official Opening Day event at a trail near you.
All across the country, local organizations and trail groups, including the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy team, will be hosting events on trails for Opening Day. The events planned for Opening Day are often as unique and wide ranging as their event organizers—from cleanups led by watershed conservation organizations to arts festivals run by entire communities, to a whole bunch of hikes, run and rides in between. What the events all do have in common: They’re celebrating America’s amazing trails!
During the lead up to Opening Day, we’ll be adding and listing these special events on our website, so keep checking back to discover what’s happening on trails near you and all around the country!
4Hold your own gathering. (It doesn’t have to be big!)
If you want the camaraderie of others on one of the most exciting trail days 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 34,000 miles of trails—TrailLink.com is a great tool to help plan your route.
5Try a new seasonal trail activity.
Flowers and butterflies might be popping up in some parts of the country on April 13, 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.
6Get to know the Great American Rail-Trail.
In January, RTC was proud to commit to the Great American Rail-Trail, a nearly 4,000-mile trail that will stretch from Washington, D.C., to Washington State! Already 50 percent complete, you can jointly celebrate this developing cross-country trail and Opening Day by getting to know the 12 iconic “gateway trails” that are making the Great American Rail-Trail possible. If you live near any of these gateways, we hope you’ll explore them in person on April 13 (and share your #GRTAmerican experiences on social media for others to enjoy too)! And if you won’t be able to visit them on Opening Day, virtually explore them now in our recent feature so you can plan a fun visit in the future!
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, preservation corridors, watersheds and geographic wonders.
Searching for an Opening Day idea that you can tweet about? Try birding! Here are nine trails that are known for bird’s-eye views.
8Transport 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.)
9Visit 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!
10Volunteer 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.
You can also make your heart doubly happy by giving back while you exercise through “plogging”—a hybrid activity popularized by the Swedish that combines jogging and cleaning up the environment.
11Start 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!
12Go 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!
13Just 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 do 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 using hashtag #RTCOpeningDay!
See you on the trail!
Originally published on 03/13/17