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 annual kick-off to the spring trail season—coming up on Aprill 22 (Earth Day!), we’ve rounded up some fun ways for everyone to get outside and enjoy these vital spaces.
We hope you try out these activities and share your ideas to #CelebrateTrails!
Keep It Clean
Sights, sounds, scents—there’s much to experience along the trail. But something you never want to encounter (nor see, hear or smell!) is trash. This year’s Celebrate Trails Day takes place on Earth Day—the perfect time to give back to the planet by helping to keep your local trails clean and litter free! Many trails, plus the parks and waterways they navigate, host group cleanups, maintenance days, tree plantings and other service activities for volunteers to join. And every year, we work with our partners to round up and share trailside events that welcome volunteers on Celebrate Trails Day, so be sure to sign up to receive updates.
This blog has been updated from its original version on 3/10/22.
If you want to become a steward of your local trail right away, you can learn about volunteering opportunities from the trail’s managing organization (Pro tip: If you’re not sure who manages or helps maintain the trail, TrailLink.com, our free trail-finder website and app, can help you access that info!). If you’d rather run your own personal cleanup, consider plogging! A term born in Sweden that has popped 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! Simply bring some protective wear, a trash bag and a can-do attitude to begin your plogging journey—and remember, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your trail-managing organization to get advice and guidance!
Walk It Out
Searching for a go-to activity? When in doubt, walk it out! 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 a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States; improving memory and cognitive capabilities; a stronger body; decreased stress; and a boost in happiness, especially when you walk with others.
Around the world, supporting personal well-being through the power of walking is widely recognized. It has even been made buzz-worthy, as evidenced by this trend centered around focusing on feeling glamorous and practicing gratitude with each step. And 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, walking more can be a step toward making your community a healthier, happier place, and that’s something worth celebrating!
Luckily, this wondrous activity is free, easy to snazz up and can be done almost anywhere—like on your local trail!
Try Something New!
If you’re a longtime trail user, chances are you have a beloved go-to activity for your trail outings. In the spirit of celebrating the many ways you can experience trails, consider taking a break from your tried-and-true by doing something new! And since our partners plan a variety of events on Celebrate Trails Day, it’s an easy way to explore a potpourri of fun experiences.
Beyond bicycling, walking and running, some activities that are fun but aren’t in the spotlight quite as often include inline skating, horseback riding, geocaching, or—if there’s snow—cross-country skiing and 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. You can browse our collection of trail-use ideas, guidance and inspiration to help keep your trail adventures feeling fresh all year long!
Explore 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, and 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!
Swap 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 usage of 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!
Trading in more trips on the trail can take some fine-tuning and getting used to, but Celebrate Trails Day provides an opportunity to plan your new trail-based commute and/or to investigate new routes for running errands. To help get you off on the right foot, here’s a list of team-tested tips about swapping trips.
Watch 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 simply hitting the trail and enjoying connecting with nature.
Build Your Trail Community
Whether it’s your tail-wagging BFF, your human BFF, your family, date, neighbor, colleague, workout buddy or someone else in your life, bring them out to enjoy the trail with you! Research shows that spending time outdoors is good for our physical and mental health, social connections can help lengthen our lifespan, and walking meetings can even lead to increased creativity! You AND your pal can both benefit from the quality time together—plus, if they aren’t familiar with the local trails, your invitation may be unlocking new possibilities and adventures for them.
Unfortunately, not every community has trails for people to easily and safely access—yet. According to the CDC, however, this is a priority: “access to safe places to play and walk, such as parks, safe streets, trails, and greenways, is important for physical activity. It is also important to be able to safely and easily walk, bike, or take transit to everyday destinations such as homes, workplaces, schools, parks, health care, and food outlets.” By getting outside and using the trails where you live, you can help demonstrate the value of trails and grow appreciation for them, signaling the need to create and connect more trails in more communities.
Which means that when you join us and people across the country for Celebrate Trails Day—and invite your friends and family to do the same—you’re helping to build a nation connected by trails so that everyone, everywhere has access to these essential outdoor spaces.
We hope these ideas inspired you to #CelebrateTrails with us! If you’re searching for more, check out this video for inspiration!
This blog has been updated from its original version on 3/10/22.