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About the NRT Program

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What is the National Recreation Trails Program?

NRT logoThe National Trail System Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-543) authorized creation of a national trail system comprised of National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails. While National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization. Through designation, these trails are recognized as part of America's national system of trails. See more about applying for NRT designation.

The National Recreation Trails Program supports designated NRT's with an array of benefits, including promotion, technical assistance, and networking. Its goal is to promote the use and care of existing trails and stimulate the development of new trails to create a national network of trails and realize the vision of "Trails for All Americans." The first-ever NRT Photo Contest was sponsored in 2003 by American Trails and is continuing each year.

photo of hikers listening

along the Allegheny River National Recreation Trail


New NRTs designated each year

New designations of National Recreation Trails are announced each year, generally by the Secratary of Interior prior to National Trails Day in June. Trails on USDA land (including National Forests) follow a separate designation process. See the annual designations of additional National Recreation Trails.

National Recreation Trails

National Recreation Trails (NRT) provide for numerous outdoor recreation activities in a variety of urban, rural, and remote areas. Over 1,000 trails in all 50 states, available for public use and ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately owned lands. American Trails is working with the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the National Recreation Trails Program. Trails may be nominated for NRT designation each year.

A searchable database of NRTs is available online. Visitors can access detailed information about a particular NRT, search for diferent trail activities, or get a list of all the NRTs in any state. See how to update online trail information, or simply send minor corrections and additions by e-mail to

Details of featured NRTs in different states are on line at the NRT State-by-state page and the searchable NRT database. American Trails also makes individual web pages for featured NRTs where information and photos are available (contact for details).


The NRT NEWS publication for NRT managers and interested public is published periodically with resources and articles. Copies are available as pdf files and articles are also posted as regular Web pages (html).

The Artful Ways national survey sought practical information about art on trails, how it is funded, how artists are selected, and the impact of art on the trail and community. Survey findings will be shared on the American Trails website in the Art & Trails area. A Request for Proposals for art projects on National Recreation Trails was also undertaken.


Revitalizing the National Recreation Trails program

For several years several trail groups and agencies discussed ways to redesign and revitalize the National Recreation Trails Program. Plans for the new effort to designate National Recreation Trails was announced at the National Trails Symposium in Redding, California, September 22, 2000, and unveiling of the new NRT Program took place in 2001, starting with the announcement of newly designated trails in June. See more about the efforts in these archived news items:

See how to apply for National Recreation Trail designation

The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:

National Recreation Trails Program
American Trails, P.O. Box 491797, Redding, CA 96049-1797
Phone (530) 605-4395


trail noteEach 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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trail database

The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails:


The NTTP Online Calendar connects you with courses, conferences, and trail-related training


Promote your trail through the National Recreation Trails Program


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