National Trails System, Wild and Scenic Rivers Turn 50

AMC sound science
Ryan SmithTwo seminal outdoor efforts, the National Trails System and Wild and Scenic Rivers, turn 50 in 2018.

You can take a trail to get somewhere, but it’s often the trail that takes you to places you never dreamed of.

AMC members revel in trail-based recreation while also recognizing the need to care for the trails we use to disappear into the forest or climb to a stunning vista. Throughout our region, AMC staff and volunteers maintain more than 1,800 trail miles, and trail stewardship is at the core of our mission. It’s our responsibility to keep the trails in good shape. It’s also up to us to introduce new people—especially young people—to the joys of outdoor exploration so we can build and sustain a constituency for trails across generations.

We’ll have unique opportunities to achieve these goals in 2018, as the National Trails System (NTS) celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Partnership for the National Trails System is organizing anniversary events, and with 60,000 miles of trails in the NTS, the opportunities to get outside are virtually endless.

The official anniversary is October 2, but there’s no need to wait to show our support. Already, AMC maintains and provides stewardship for more than 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT), one of the first National Scenic Trails to be designated by Congress under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

Many more trails have been designated over the years, including the 215-mile New England National Scenic Trail (NET), which AMC members help to maintain. Made up of the Mattabesett, Metacomet, and Monadnock trail systems, the NET travels from Connecticut’s Long Island Sound to the Massachusetts–New Hampshire border.

While icons like the AT are widely known nationwide, the NTS also includes National Recreation Trails you’ll likely recognize, such as Crawford Path near AMC’s Highland Center in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Initially cut in 1819, it’s considered the oldest continuously maintained recreation path in the United States. Another recognizable walking path is Boston’s Freedom Trail, which passes by AMC’s new headquarters. The route commemorates the American Revolution by connecting more than a dozen historic sites along its 2.5-mile course.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which protects important waterways in natural places, such as the Wildcat River in Jackson N.H. The Wildcat’s headwaters flow from the Carter lakes, near AMC’s Carter Notch Hut, to the confluence with the Ellis River. Working with the town of Jackson, the White Mountain National Forest, and the National Park Service, AMC helped achieve Wild and Scenic River designation for the Wildcat in 1988.

In the 50th year of these two systems, our legacy is visible in the trails and the waters where our members help ensure that recreation and conservation stewardship meet. 

John D. Judge
President and CEO


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John D. Judge, President

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.