National Trails System Map
Meet the Partners
Partnership for the National Trails System
National Trails System home
How to Establish a National Trail:
National scenic and national historic trails require four steps
to become fully established:
Altogether this process has taken anywhere
from six to 15 years. Because of this dialogue back and forth between
Congress and the administrative agency over many years, a trail is
most likely to succeed in this process if there is a strong, well-organized,
citizen-based organization at work on behalf of the trail.
- An amendment to the National Trails System
Act requesting a feasibility study.
- The feasibility study (usually conducted
by the National Park Service).
- If the feasibility study recommends establishment,
an act of Congress adding the trail to the National Trails System.
- Once the trail is established, a comprehensive
management and use plan, outlining the roles of partners (including
the Federal Government) the full length of the trail. This is
usually conducted by the trail's administering agency.
National Recreation Trails and connecting-and-side trails are established (or, more
precisely, recognized) by either the secretary of Agriculture or
the secretary of the Interior. Within those departments, there are
procedures for initiating and processing applications for these
types of trails.