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Using Trails

Ways to Celebrate Trails

By: Suzanne Matyas
March 13, 2024

Photo courtesy Getty Images
Photo courtesy Getty Images

Trails deliver joy and impact for people, places and the planet every day—and we believe that’s worth celebrating. That’s why, every year since 2013, we hold a big springtime celebration for America’s trails and invite everyone to join us.

Celebrate Trails Day takes place on the fourth Saturday of every April, a day that everybody—of every age and ability—can enjoy. Whether you’re new to trails, a longtime user, a celebrity who has been selling out tours for years, or someone who is thinking of going on their first-ever bike tour, consider your local trails to be your “red carpet” to the celebration.

And with more than 41,000 miles of multiuse trails already on the ground and at least 150 trail networks in development nationwide, there are plenty of places where you can get outside to celebrate this year, either on your own or by joining a group event. We’ve teamed up with an amazing group of partners to plan Celebrate Trails Day events around the country. Plus, by signing up, you’ll even be entered to win great gear and prizes courtesy of our 2024 sponsors and supporters!

To get you excited about the celebration this spring (and to keep you inspired to #CelebrateTrails all year long), we’ve gathered up some fun activities and ideas for you to try—enjoy!

A St(r)ewarding Experience

RTC led a trail clean up along the W&OD Trail in 2019 | Photo by Anthony Le
RTC led a trail clean up along the W&OD Trail in 2019 | Photo by Anthony Le

Trails can be your gateway and getaway to the great outdoors! Of course, there’s so much natural beauty to experience—sights, sounds, scents—but something you never want to encounter (nor see, hear or smell!) is trash. There are many ways to care for trails, from following Leave No Trace guidance during your own outings to getting involved in group volunteer activities. Celebrate Trails Day—which falls during Earth Month—is a great time to give your local trails some TLC! Every year, we work with our partners to round up and share trailside events, such as group cleanups, maintenance days, tree plantings and other service activities. Consider joining a volunteer opportunity on Celebrate Trails Day—as we mentioned above, you can find out about open events happening year you by signing up on our mailing list. (Pro tip: If you’re not sure who manages or maintains a trail, TrailLink.com, our free trail-finder website and app, can help you access that info!).

Step To It

Don't miss our blog 10 Great Rail-Trails for Dog Walking | Photo by Laura Pedrick, AP Images
Don’t miss our blog “10 Great Rail-Trails for Dog Walking” | Photo by Laura Pedrick, AP Images

Searching for a go-to activity? When in doubt, walk it out or take a hike! Considered a low-impact exercise because it’s easier on your joints, walking can be extremely impactful for your health and wellness—plus, it’s inexpensive to get started and build it into your daily schedule, making it low-impact on your wallet, too. The health benefits of regularly walking include a reduced risk of chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States); improved memory and cognitive capabilities; a stronger body; decreased stress; and a boost in happiness, especially when you walk with others. When you step to it with a walk or hike outdoors, you also get the bonus of the many benefits that come with being exposed to nature

Luckily, this wondrous activity is free, easy to snazz up and can be done almost anywhere—like on your local trail!

Try Something New!

RTC's Willie Karidis wrote the blog The Magical World of Snowshoeing- A How-To Guide for Trails | Photo courtesy Willie Karidis
RTC’s Willie Karidis wrote the blog “The Magical World of Snowshoeing: A How-To Guide for Trails” | Photo courtesy Willie Karidis

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, you’ve got your pick of a potpourri of new, fun experiences.

Beyond bicycling, walking and running, you might try a trail activity not in the spotlight quite as often, such as inline skating, horseback riding, geocaching, or—if there’s snow—cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You can also mix it up by gamifying 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!

Cheer on Trails

In nearly every community across the country, there are opportunities to create and connect trails—but moving forward these projects takes the support of the community. You can help by cheering on trails and encouraging your decision-makers to support them, too! When people from all around the country unite to participate in Celebrate Trails Day, they’re both showing up for their local trails coming together to show elected officials, at every level, that trails are appreciated and should be a part of every community. In addition to being a great way to become better acquainted with the trails near you, the celebration also provides an opportunity to get to know the organizations that are helping to manage, maintain and make more trails in your region. As you enjoy your day of fun on the trail, take some time to connect with your local trail managing organizations and consider asking them about any trail projects that are planned and/or underway and how you can get involved. To help you get started, check out this list we put together of five ways that you can help advance local, state and federal priorities for trails, walking and biking.

Explore the Local Scene

Artwork along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail featured in the blog Exploring the Trailside Artwork of Bernard Williams | Photo courtesy Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc.
Artwork along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail featured in the blog “Exploring the Trailside Artwork of Bernard Williams” | Photo courtesy Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc.

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 and Go by Trail

Victoria Yuen wrote the blog Swapping a Car for a Bike? Here’s What I Learned. | Photo by Hayden Duncan, courtesy Victoria Yuen
Victoria Yuen wrote the blog “Swapping a Car for a Bike? Here’s What I Learned.” | Photo by Hayden Duncan, courtesy Victoria Yuen

Did you know that half of all trips in the United States are within a 20-minute bike ride, and a quarter are within a 20-minute walk? 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 walk or a bike ride! You can skip the traffic, cut down on your trips to the pump and reduce usage of the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, all while getting outside and getting your heart pumping. For adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and two days of strengthening exercises, so swapping in that stride or pedal-powered ride every day will help you tackle those goals and boost your physical and mental health—adding some joy to your trip!

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 get you off on the right foot, here’s a list of team-tested tips about swapping trips.

Watch for Wildlife

Keith Russell wrote the blog "Tips for Birding Beginners" | Photo by Brian Byrnes
Keith Russell wrote the blog “Tips for Birding Beginners” | Photo by Brian Byrnes

Whenever you visit the trail, you’re sharing that space with fellow users: people and plants and critters! These pathways, especially when they link or connect to parks, preserves and other protected areas, can feature 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. 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.

Let the Good Times Roll

Celebrate Trails Day can be a “wheelie” fun time to bike, scoot, skate and roll along your local trails. Thanks to our partners, there will be opportunities to join group events around the country, but if you can’t find a Celebrate Trails Day event near you or would prefer to do your own thing, you might consider a virtual event like the Great American Ride or planning your own outing! If it’s been a while since you’ve gone on a spin, prepare for the big day by tuning up your bicycle and checking out your equipment. If you’re going to rent or try out a new type of wheels—such as an e-bike or other form of micromobility device like a scooter—take some time to research tips and usage regulations to help make sure you have a smooth ride.

Build Your Trail Community

Chelsea Murphy wrote the blog Tips for Outdoor Outings With Your Kids | Photo courtesy of Chelsea Murphy
Chelsea Murphy wrote the blog “Tips for Outdoor Outings With Your Kids” | Photo courtesy of Chelsea Murphy

Whether it’s your tail-wagging or trotting 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 time together—plus, if they aren’t familiar with the local trails, your invitation may be unlocking new possibilities and adventures for them.

Then after you’ve made your memories on the trail, you can save and share your Trail Moments to inspire other people using our online form or social media!

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 inspire you to #CelebrateTrails with us! If you’re searching for more inspiration, check out this video!

This blog has been updated from its original version on 3/10/22.

Suzanne Matyas | Photo courtesy Suzanne Matyas
Suzanne Matyas

Suzanne Matyas is RTC’s social media and engagement strategist. She is an inline skating and skiing enthusiast, and a mediocre runner, and loves corny jokes.

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