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National Park Service Programs

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Young volunteers on a Volunteers for Outdoor
Colorado project

About the National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 and today manages over 390 units found in all 50 states and some of the U.S. territories. NPS supports and operates trails in three interlocking arenas: trails in parks, technical assistance to States and communities, and administration of much of the National Trails System.

Trails in Parks: The National Park Service maintains over 18,000 miles of trails in most of its park units across America. These trails can be found in all types of settings (back-country, urban, shoreline, desert) and accommodate all types of users, depending on the conditions (hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, strollers, snowmobilers, and even skate boarders). Some are paved; most are natural surfaced.

Information about park trails can be found on the websites and brochures for individual park areas. All official park websites, mapping, and travel information can be found through the portal at


Rivers & Trails Conservation Assistance program works with communities and local groups

The Rivers & Trails Conservation Assistance program (RTCA) works with communities and local groups. RTCA works in urban, rural, and suburban communities with the goal of helping communities achieve on-the-ground success for their conservation projects. Program staff help communities help themselves by providing nationwide expertise and experience. Assisted projects vary widely from urban promenades to trails along abandoned railroads, from wildlife corridors to river protection, from greenways to blueways.


National Trails System

Created in 1968, the National Trails System today is comprised of five types of trails: national scenic trails, national historic trails, national recreation trails (NRTs -- see above), connecting and side trails, and rail-trails. The National Park Service has full or partial administrative responsibility for 23 of the 30 national scenic and historic trails. Details on individual trails, partners, maps, and related subjects can be found at

All three areas of NPS trail work help achieve these goals:


National Recreation Trails (NRTs): a celebration of America

Trail groups, states, and Federal agencies agree that National Recreation Trails are a great way to celebrate America's diverse network of trails and greenways. More people than ever before are using trails, and more are volunteering to help care for parks and public lands. NRTs provide a trail recognition tool. Healthy trails systems can benefit from this publicity to attract volunteers, community support, and agency assistance.

Trail managers can nominate their project for NRT designation using the NRT designation process.

Current nominations for NRT status are also posted on the NRT website.
Featured NRTs in many states are highlighted with photos and details about the projects.
More resources for NRT managers are at (click on Resources & Library).


Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands provides online courses and onsite programs designed for those in the parks, recreation and tourism professions. The e-Courses listed below offer continuing education through the convenience and flexibility of the Internet.

The National Trails Training Partnership

American Trails, P.O. Box 491797, Redding, CA 96049-1797 • (530) 605-4395 • Fax: (530) 547-2035 •

The National Trails Training Partnership is an alliance of Federal agencies, training providers, nationwide supporters, and providers of products and services. Visit the online calendar of training opportunities, access hundreds of trail-related resources, read the news, learn how you can help, and see training resources in your state.

This material is based upon work supported by the Federal Highway Administration under Cooperative Agreement DTFH61-06-H-00023. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Federal Highway Administration.



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