Learn about the Power of Connected Trails


Pennsylvania's Three Rivers Heritage Trail | Photo by Milo Allerton

TrailNationTM Projects | Playbook | Collaborative

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s (RTC) visionary TrailNationTM initiative is redefining how we build trail networks nationwide and the impact these equitable trail systems can have on people and places.

At RTC, we believe that communities are healthier and happier when trail networks are central to their design. That’s why we’re committed to connecting trails and building comprehensive trail systems that bring people together and get them where they want to go.

TrailNation brings to life our vision of trails at the heart of healthy, thriving communities by showcasing the impact of trail networks and redefining how we create themso we can more quickly connect trails across the country. We're bringing together the model projects, the leaders and champions, and the resources to accelerate the pace of equitable trail development nationwide, creating new access to this essential infrastructure and the benefits it brings for everyone in America.

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California's Marvin Braude Bike Trail | Photo by Ben Kaufman
California's Marvin Braude Bike Trail | Photo by Ben Kaufman

TrailNation Collaborative

Accelerating Trail Network Development Nationwide

TrailNation Collaborative is a nationwide peer learning community from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that brings together advocates, leaders and professionals from across disciplines to establish and accelerate trail networks across America. The collaborative provides proven tools, methods and resources, combined with RTC’s expertise and network of partners across the country, to accelerate the development of connected trail systems. When trails are connected across regions and states, trail networks have a proven transformative impact—they are essential infrastructure that creates thriving, healthier communities.

Collaborative members enjoy meaningful conversations and connectionsincluding monthly online dialogues and regular interactive virtual gatherings, the TrailNation Playbook that delivers a compendium of best practices, technical assistance, in-person events and opportunities to engage with each other in the dedicated Facebook group. Members also receive a regular newsletter with updates on trail network development across the country.

Related: New TrailNation Collaborative Community to Escalate Trail Network Development Nationwide
Related: New Federal Cash Headed to Trail Projects Nationwide / Route Fifty


West Virginia's Caperton Trail | Courtesy RTC
West Virginia's Caperton Trail | Courtesy RTC

TrailNation Playbook

Strategies to Build Trail Networks

RTC’s TrailNation™ Playbook curates case studies, best practices and tools developed alongside partners on our TrailNation projects to stimulate trail network development nationwide. Explore each section for lessons learned that can support trail planners, municipalities, states and regions working to advance trail network projects.

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Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath | Photo by Jason Cohn
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath | Photo by Jason Cohn

TrailNation Projects

Trail Network Examples

RTC’s TrailNation initiative encompasses model trail network projects that connect across city, county, multi-county and multi-state lines. These trail networks are learning laboratories to test strategies and approaches in communities that are diverse in their geographies, constituencies and politics. Through TrailNation, RTC is working to connect nearly 10,000 miles of trail in partnership with over 300 trail organizations, advocates and local leaders.

Through these projects, RTC and our partners are demonstrating what’s possible when equitable trail networks are central to community design and what it takes to make this infrastructure essential. Learn more about each project below and how their strategies can be useful in your trail network plans.

Related: These 8 TrailNation Trail Networks Are Connecting Millions of Americans


Baltimore Greenway Trails Network | Photo by Side A Photography

Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition: MD


The Miami Loop | Photo by Ken Bryan

The Miami LOOP: FL



New England Rail-Trail Network | Photo by TrailLink user jrakis

New England Rail Trail Network: CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT

Circuit Trails | Photo by Laura Pedrick/AP Images

Circuit Trails: PA, NJ

Nebraska's Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail | Photo by TrailLink user marty_watts

Great American Rail-Trail: DC, MD, PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, WY, MT, ID, WA

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Connecting The Nation By Trails

Trail networks have a proven transformative impact on America’s communities. When trails are connected, they create healthy, thriving communities by delivering economic opportunities, safe transportation options, environmental resiliency and quality-of-life benefits for everyone.

Since 2005, RTC has championed trail networks that connect millions of people by trail. Our visionary TrailNation™ initiative, along with the work of our hundreds of partners on the ground, is redefining what it means to build trail networks and the impact these equitable trail systems can have on people and places. There are dozens of trail networks emerging across the country and in 2018, RTC convened trail leaders for the TrailNation Summit to explore innovative strategies and opportunities to develop trail networks across the country. The excitement among trail advocates, professionals and leaders captured in these sessions has multiplied as demand for trails has surged and a new influx of federal funding is now available for communities to harness. This momentum is the impetus for the new national peer learning community, TrailNation Collaborative. The collaborative’s learning laboratories will provide proven tools and methods that will help trail advocates, professionals and leaders maximize the opportunities presented in this unique and exciting moment.

Learn more about the TrailNation impact in 2021 and our work over the decades.


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