Trails benefit and bring joy to millions of people and communities across the country. With so many moments on the trail for which to be thankful, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy likes to take time every year to highlight these special places. And with Celebrate Trails Day—our springtime celebration of America’s trails—coming up on the fourth Saturday of April, we’ve rounded up some fun ways for everyone to get outside and enjoy their local trails.
We hope you try out these activities and share your ideas to #CelebrateTrails!
1Walk It Out
Searching for a go-to activity? When in doubt, walk it out! Though it’s considered a low-impact exercise because it’s easier on your joints, walking can be extremely impactful for your health and wellness. In fact, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is credited with saying that physical activity, like walking, is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug." The health benefits of regularly walking include reducing the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States; improving memory and cognitive capabilities; strengthening your body; lowering stress; and boosting happiness, especially when you walk with others. Beyond personal perks, by electing to walk more you can help benefit your community, too—from aiding the environment to promoting a safer, more equitable place to live.
Luckily, this wondrous activity is free, easy to snazz up and can be done almost anywhere—like on your local trail!
2Try Plogging or Another New Activity
A term born in Sweden and now popping up on millions of social media feeds around the world, plogging combines picking up litter with jogging. Since it’s fun and helps keep trails and communities clean, we hope this viral trash-fighting fitness trend is here to stay and that you will try it for yourself! You can do it solo whenever you’re ready for a run, or in a group as part of a planned event; all you need are gloves, a trash bag, shoes and a can-do attitude.
If you’re not sure about plogging but want to try something different, consider activities that aren’t in the limelight as often, like inline skating, horseback riding, geocaching, or, if there’s snow, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. You can also mix it up by listening to a podcast, audiobook, playlist or guided meditation, or gamify your adventures with a scavenger hunt or a round of I-spy.
3Explore the Local Scene
Art, history, culture, brews and views: All of these can be found along trails. Whether you’re new to your community or have been there your whole life, chances are there’s something new to explore and learn about where you live. Along the trail, you may find information about the Native lands, nearby destinations and eateries, historical and cultural moments of significance, local plants and wildlife; or you may encounter murals that highlight and tell the stories of the region, sculptures that honor people and the past, unique trailside attractions, or something else that adds deeper understanding and richness to your trail experience. In addition to on-site signage and markers, some trails offer digital materials that can enhance your explorations, so we recommend doing some research online about your trail before heading outside!
4Watch for Wildlife
Whenever you visit the trail, you’re sharing that space with fellow users: people AND plants and critters! These pathways, especially when they provide links or connected corridors to parks, reserves and other protected areas, can host a wide variety of plant and animal life. By functioning as buffers that improve water and air quality, mitigate flooding and allow for the sounds of nature to be heard, trails are helping to enhance our communities and protect natural habitats. This makes trails excellent places to observe and experience wildlife. Some ways to respectfully and safely appreciate wildlife include birding; recording wildlife through photography, painting or drawing; being a citizen scientist and participating in wildlife counts or monitoring; taking part in a habitat restoration event or cleanup; or simply hitting the trail and enjoying connecting with nature.
5Swap a Drive for a Ride
Did you know that half the country’s car trips are within a 20-minute bike ride? Next time you’re planning a short trip to the store, your friend’s house, the office, your favorite watering hole or wherever you’d like to go, try trading the car ride for a bike ride! It helps you skip the traffic, cut down on your trips to the pump and reduce the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, all while giving you a chance to get outside and get your heart pumping. For adults, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and two days of strengthening exercises, so swapping in that 20-minute pedal-powered ride every day will help you tackle those goals and boost your physical and mental health—adding some joy to your ride!
Want more ideas? Check out this video for inspiration!
Are you planning to participate in Celebrate Trails Day on April 23? Let us know! If you tell us how you’re going to #CelebrateTrails, you’ll be entered to win great prizes.