National Trails Day (NTD) launched in 1993, when the American Hiking Society set aside the first Saturday in June to highlight the need for America’s trails, their benefits to society, and the work necessary to maintain them.
More than two decades later, the event is still going strong with hundreds of celebrations being held across the country and thousands of people participating. The day is celebrated not only by hikers but all trail users, such as paddlers, equestrians, and people taking casual walks.
This year, National Trails Day is June 2, and environmental and recreational groups in Alabama are hosting a variety of events. To get you up to speed on what’s happening, we’ve highlighted a couple of the official celebrations and shared several ways that you and your family and friends can honor our trails and work to protect and maintain them. To keep up with events in Alabama and other states, check out the American Hiking Society website.
Red Mountain Park
Historic Red Mountain Park in Birmingham is having a big National Trails Day celebration from 8 a.m. to Noon. They’ll be doing a little of everything, including guided bike rides, hikes, activities for the kids, special exhibits and presentations and trail maintenance projects.
Wind Creek State Park
Wind Creek State Park’s National Trails Day celebration gives you the chance to learn the ins-and-outs of Leave No Trace principles, or just brush up on your knowledge and skills. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the park will host hands-on demonstrations of LNT ethics with a 1.8-mile hike and a 10-mile horseback ride.
More Ways to Celebrate
Volunteer with a Trail Building/Maintaining Group
When it comes to trails, Alabama has no shortage of nonprofit organizations that build new trails and maintain old ones across the state. What better way to give back to the trails you love than to volunteer with one of these groups? There are far too many organizations to mention them all here, but you’ll find a thorough list by visiting the Auburn University Grassroots Clearinghouse.
A lot people feel better doing volunteer work on their own, and that’s fine. There are many ways you can celebrate our trails by doing a bit of solo trail work.
Of course, the simplest and most obvious thing you can do is clean up a trail. On NTD, or anytime you go out on your favorite path, bring along a bag and pick up trash you find along the way and pack it out.
Trail groups would appreciate it if you would email them with trail conditions after your hike, paddle, bike or enjoy any other outdoor activity. Let them know if trail markers need to be replaced, if blow-downs or log jams are obstructing trails, if there’s a lot of trash, or if a trail just needs a quick grooming.
And speaking of grooming, bring along a pair of pruning shears and cut back small branches that might be obscuring a trail. But, before you do that, check with the landowner or land manager to make sure it’s OK. In places like our National Forests you must be part of an organized, trained group to do such work.
Support a Trail Group Financially
Maybe you can’t get out and help with trail building and maintenance. That’s fine, too. As mentioned earlier, there is a group that does such work for just about any outdoor activity, and they could use a donation. Once again, visit the Auburn University Grassroots Clearinghouse for a list of these organizations and consider making a one-time donation or become a member. Whatever amount you can give, big or small, it will go a long way toward keeping those trails safe for all to walk, paddle, and ride.
Voice Your Opinion
Celebrate our trails by being heard. Many times our nation’s trails and waterways are the furthest things from the minds of our elected officials. A great way to get involved is to visit American Trails online, where you’ll find groups in your area who are in contact with the state and local officials who influence efforts to fund trails and protect them from development and pollution.
Get Out and Explore
The best way to celebrate National Trails Day is to simply get out and explore. Lace up your boots, grab the paddle, saddle up the horse, or slip on the old walking shoes, and just go. Experience the thousands of miles of wilderness and recreational trails that explore Alabama’s fascinating and diverse terrain and ecosystems.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated Media in partnership with BCBS of AL.