Hikers always enjoy a good challenge. Not only can you push yourself physically while enjoying the scenery, but you can also give yourself a taste of what travelers had to experience to get around before the luxury of modern transportation. The United States thankfully also has a lot of options regarding historical hiking trails.
These trails do not just supply you with a test of your physical strength while exposing you to the elements, but they also give you an opportunity to learn more about the United States. From wars to migrations, there are many trails you can adventure through to give you a glimpse into the past.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail was one of the very first trails in the National Trail System. An ambitious 2,180-mile-long footpath, the trail starts in Maine and makes its way all the way to Georgia. It is more commonly known as the Appalachian Trail, or A.T., and is a feat that dedicated hikers aim to try at least a part.
You can attempt to do the entire thing, but it is broken up into stretches that will not require a few months of your time to complete.
Arizona National Scenic Trail
An 820-mile trail, the Arizona National Scenic Trail runs from Mexico to Utah, crossing through the Grand Canyon. The trail is mostly dirt and is a little rough, but it has something for every level of hiker and outdoors person. There are lots of places to get off the trail to return to civilization, which is a definite perk if you are concerned you will find yourself in trouble. Since it does pass through desert climates, you will need to make sure there is adequate water available to keep you from getting heat exhaustion while you do your exploring.
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Spanning nine states and covering thousands of miles, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail was once the route that more than 16,000 Cherokee men, women, and children had to walk after being forcibly removed from their own lands in 1838. The trail is a marker of atrocities done to the Cherokee as they were pushed into Indian Territory, which is now the state of Oklahoma. The historic trail is there to preserve the story of the forced migration that resulted in many deaths.
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
When it comes to challenging trails, many people immediately think of the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, but the Continental Divide Trail is even harder than those. With a length of 3,100 miles, the trail goes from Canada to Mexico, crossing the Rocky Mountains, high deserts, and granite peaks. It has certainly earned the title of the “King of Trails” for a good reason.
California National Historic Trail
The California National Historic Trail covers 10 states, following an 1800s highway. The first travelers along the motorway were making their way to California in search of land and gold, but the trail itself is long and beautiful.
The trail remains to educate travelers about the routes that the people walked on and took wagons on to make it out West in search of prosperity. Even present-day gold miners may still find some luck.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Crossing 11 states and spanning 3,700 miles, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail represents the incredible journey the Corps of Discovery went through following the Louisiana Purchase. The trail runs from Camp Wood, Illinois to the Oregon Coast, crossing every type of climate the United States has, from arid to forested land.
Pony Express National Historic Trail
The Pony Express was the original postal service for the United States. The Pony Express Historic Trail is to commemorate the route where men on horseback carried mail across the country. While you can follow the route in a car, hikers can still follow the route that once allowed people to get cross-continental mail in as little as 10 days, an impressive amount of time for the 19th century.
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail is a commemoration of Commander Anza, of Spain, who lead an expedition to bring colonists to San Francisco. The trail runs from Arizona to California, letting hikers experience the coast, the desert, and the mountain in one long hike. The hike is also meant to educate travelers about the important roles the Native Americans and the Spanish had during the settlement of California.
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
Covering Texas and New Mexico, the El Camino Trail was the primary route from the 1500s up through the 1800s for travelers headed from Mexico City through the area that is now Texas and New Mexico, which were Spanish provincial capitals at the time. The trail represents the heritage of the Native Americans, the Spanish, and the history of what is now the country of Mexico.
Natchez Trail National Scenic Trail
Spanning 450 miles, the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail was once the major way to get across the Southwest. The trail today has five trails that are connected. Following this trail will take you through swamps, forests, and wetlands, showing you exactly what travelers had to walk through to get around the Old Southwest.
These trails are only a small sampling of the historic trails that the United States has to offer. Regardless of your skill level or where you are located in the United States, there is sure to be a historic trail out there for you to use to expand your lungs while expanding your mind.
Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew regarding the trails. Some of these do require training and proper equipment. Regardless, find a trail near you and get out there. You may be surprised by what you can learn.