National Trails Day is just a couple weeks off, and with it comes time to savor, support, and celebrate the trails that wind not only through the National Park System, but throughout all public lands.
Across that public lands kingdom there's an estimate 200,000 miles of hiking trails, and according to the Outdoor Industry Association, roughly 76.6 million Americans hike, 13.5 million backpack and 40.4 million trail run.
How can you get involved with National Trails Day when it arrives on June 5? Many national parks are getting involved with local hiking organizations to plan activities. And the National Park Service is making it relatively inexpensive, as park entrance fees are being waived for that weekend.
Now, as far as what's going on out in the parks, in Shenandoah National Park the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club invites new hikers and experienced backpackers to learn new trail skills at PATC Trail Patrol’s “Beyond the Trailhead” event at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51 on Skyline Drive). Throughout the day there will be hikes to join in on, demonstrations, and various presentations related to getting out and heading down a trail.
The event is designed to give novice hikers the information they need to leave their cars behind and venture beyond the trailhead to enjoy this area’s numerous hiking and nature trails. Even experienced backpackers can learn new skills at the information tables and discussion groups on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics, hiking techniques, and equipment. Hands-on demonstrations of traditional tools, such as crosscut saws, used to
maintain wilderness trails will be offered by Shenandoah National Park trail crew.
A variety of hikes guided by experienced Trail Patrol members will be offered for people of all ages and experience levels: hikes suitable for families with children; easy, moderate, and advanced hikes for adults. Hikers will need to meet at the registration table at Byrd Visitor Center 15 minutes before the hike time to sign in. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the season, and bring food and plenty of water.
Hikes leaving Byrd Visitor Center:
Story of the Forest Nature Trail......1.8 miles..............10:00 a.m.
Appalachian Trail Ramble..............2.0 miles..............10:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Dark Hollow Falls Hike................1.4 miles..............9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Lewis Falls Hike......................2.0 miles..............10:15 a.m.
Rapidan Camp National Historic Landmark via Mill Prong Trail...4.0 miles...9:45 a.m.
Pre-registration is encouraged, but you may also register on June 5 at Byrd Visitor Center. To pre-register, send an email to [email protected] by June 3. Please include your name and which hike you wish to join.
A presentation about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Reflections, will be offered as part of the National Trails Day event. Maryland backpackers Georgia Harris and Randy Motz will share their 2006 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail by describing what trail life is like, relating what it takes to accomplish a thru-hike, and showing photos of their journey. The one hour presentation will be given Saturday, June 6 at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium. A book signing of the presenters’ book, Solemates - Lessons on Life, Love and Marriage from the Appalachian Trail, will follow each presentation.
PATC and Trail Patrol are charging no fees to attend or participate in any hike, workshop, or demonstration connected with the event; however, there is a $15-per-car entrance fee to the park (good for seven days). Byrd Visitor Center lies within the park at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. For more information about the event, visit the PATC website at potomacappalachian.org or contact Trail Patrol at [email protected]. For more
information on the park, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/shen.
At the same time, only a bit further south on the Appalachian Range, there will be a celebration of National Trails Day at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park will host three volunteer trail projects, including the Annual Appalachian Trail Work Day.
The park is currently recruiting for volunteers for two of the projects that are supported through the National Park Foundation and the Trails Forever Program. They are the Crooked Arm Ridge Trail on the Tennessee side of the Park near Cades Cove and the Grassy Branch Trail on the North Carolina side of the Park near Cherokee.
On the Crooked Arm Ridge Trail, volunteers will work to improve the trail by installing
waterbars, maintaining existing drainage structures, removing social trails and defining the trail tread. On the Grassy Branch Trail volunteers will work to dig a new section of trail that is permanently being relocated.
Work will be conducted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on both projects and Great Smoky Mountains National Park will provide all the necessary equipment needed for them, including work gloves, for the project.
Volunteers should come prepared to work for a day in the woods and must be able to hike, safely perform manual labor, and be comfortable using hand tools. It is suggested that participants dress in good sturdy foot wear and long pants. Since volunteers will be working a full day, it will be necessary to pack a lunch and plenty of water. To attend these projects, interested persons must RSVP by May 28 to the Trails & Facilities Volunteer Coordinator, Christine Hoyer, at 828-497-1949 or [email protected].
At the time of RSVP, volunteers will be provided with further project and trailhead information.
In addition, the Friends of the Smokies is inviting participants to assist in the 14th Annual Appalachian Trail Work Day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in cooperation with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. The work day concludes with a barbecue picnic at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area for all registrants who will also receive a commemorative t-shirt. A registration fee for this activity will apply which goes to sponsor trail projects in the Smokies.
There is also a new trail being dedicated at Saratoga National Historical Park on June 5, when the Victory Woods Trail opens. On June 5th at 11 a.m. the park's staff will hold an opening ceremony and then lead a guided walk along the 1-mile-long trail, which features an accessible boardwalk. Light refreshments and presentations by community organizations will be offered between noon and 1:30 p.m.