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National Forest N R T Trails

National Recreation Trails on U.S. Department of Agriculture lands

logo A familiar agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the Forest Service, which manages 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. A wide variety of Forest Service trails are designated National Recreation Trails. Some of these are featured below; click on the links to see more photos and trail descriptions. Eligible trails may be designated in the future— see the U.S. Department of Agriculture designation process for details.

Designating new National Recreation Trails

Periodically the USDA designates new national recreation trails in national forests and grasslands to the system of nationally significant and recognized trails. See the U.S. Department of Agriculture Designation Process for details and see the USDA Forest Service Contacts for National Recreation Trails. About 35% of all designated NRTs are on national forests and grasslands. To see details of these any all of the trails, visit the searchable online National Recreation Trails database.

Trails on USDA lands that have been designated as NRTs in recent years:

Ozark Trail (Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri )
225 miles of the trail are trail located on and managed by the Mark Twain National Forest. traverses clear Ozark streams, dry granite barrens and panoramic mountaintops, travels near wetlands and fens (a fen is a bog-like area, generally with peaty soils, that is kept constantly moist or wet by spring-fed groundwater and dominated by sedges, forbs and some shrubs), and through deep Ozark forests, providing an opportunity for trail users to experience the variety of the Ozarks (designated 2008).

Pioneer Trail (Tahoe National Forest, Calif.)
Volunteers constructed all but two miles of the 25-mile Pioneer Trail, which follows one of several emigrant trails that were used to travel to California following the discovery of gold. Historic uses of the land are evident throughout it, including mining areas, logging railroads and wagon roads. The Forest Service has plans to connect the trail with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Partners include Bicyclists of Nevada County, CalTrans, Folsom-Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition, Gold Country Trails Council, Nevada Irrigation District and Pacific Gas & Electric (designated 2003).

Tahoe Rim Trail (Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Calif. and Nev.)
The Tahoe Rim Trail makes up 96 miles of the 165-mile trail that encircles Lake Tahoe along the ridges and mountaintops that form the Lake Tahoe Basin. It offers spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and surrounding mountain peaks, forests and meadows that form the Lake Tahoe Basin and shares 49 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Partners include Nevada State Parks and Tahoe Rim Trail Association (designated 2003).

Maah Daah Hey Trail (Dakota Prairie Grasslands, N.D.)
Winding its way through the rugged badlands and rolling prairies of western North Dakota is the 96-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail. It passes by Theodore Roosevelt's original ranch site on the Little Missouri River and is full of unique geological formations and cultural resources. Its name is derived from the Native American Mandan language meaning "grandfather" or "long lasting" and is used to describe an area that has been around for a long time and deserving of respect. Partners include Maah Daah Hey Trail Association, North Dakota State Park and Recreation and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (designated 2003).

Massanutten Trail (George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Va.)
The 71-mile trail offers overlooks with vistas that peer into the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great North Mountain area. The Civilian Conservation Camp constructed much of the east side of the Massanutten Trail. Visitors can explore rocky creeks passages and hollows hidden by this mountainous terrain and pass old charcoal hearths and mining operations. The name Massanutten may have originated from a Native American word for either sweet potatoes or the baskets that the American Indians wove. Partners include Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, Old Dominion 100-Mile Ride Club, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. The national trail designation is part of a continuing campaign to promote community partnerships and to foster innovative ways to encourage physical fitness (designated 2003).

The National Trails System Act of 1968 allows the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to recognize existing community trails that qualify as additions to the National Trails System. The Act promotes enjoyment and appreciation of trails and greater public access. Along with inclusion in the National Recreation Trails System, each of the four trails will receive a certificate of designation and National Recreation Trail markers. See more benefits of NRT designation.

The National Recreation Trail program provides technical assistance and support for outreach efforts. The Forest Service and National Park Service administer the program with help from a number of other federal and nonprofit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trail Web site:

Each year nominations for designation of new National Recreation Trails may be submitted. Details of the program may be found on the NRT website hosted by American Trails: ( The National Recreation Trail Program recognizes trails that provide opportunities for all Americans to enjoy the out-of-doors and improve the quality of life of our communities.


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Updated July 6, 2012

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