October marked the 50-year anniversary of the Nation Trails System Act, signed by President Johnson to promote “the preservation of public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciate of the open-air, out-door areas and historic resources of the Nation.” It all started with Johnson’s speech in 1965 where he stated “The forgotten outdoorsmen of today are those who like to walk, hike, ride horseback or bicycle. For them we must have trails as well as highways…”
The legislation established two national scenic trail systems: the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) running from the Mexican board of California to the Canadian border in Washington state; and the Appalachian Trail (AT) which runs from Georgia to Maine. National Scenic trails are described as extended trails of more than 100 miles in length that provide for outdoor recreation.
Seventy miles of the PCT’s 2,635 miles runs through Yosemite National Park, as well as another, older long-distance trail, the John Muir Trail (JMT) which runs east-west from Yosemite to Mt Whitney. Thousands of day-hikers and through-hikers pass through the park on these trails each year.
There are two other categories of trails that were created under the Trails Act. National Historic Trails which are also extended trails, though they may be less than 100 miles in length, must follow an historic route as closely as possible. The Oregon Trail, running from Missouri to Oregon, is an example of an Historic Trail. National Recreation Trails have no minimum length and are located primarily in and around urban areas.
Celebrate national trails – get outside and take a hike!