Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail? The trail extends from North Carolina through Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and ends in Oklahoma. The trail is 5,043 miles long (8114 km) with water and land routes.
Where can I obtain the official map and guide brochure? Trail brochures may be obtained from a number of locations. Many museums and visitor centers along the trail distribute our free brochures. The Places To Go page provides a sample of some of the sites along the trail that may carry our publications. Download a brochure from our publications page, or email us to request one.
How do I visit or follow the Trail of Tears? The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is not a clearly marked hiking trail. Instead it is a corridor that passes through communities as well as wild areas and through different states and land ownership. We encourage you to go to the Places To Go web pages to discover the many sites you can visit. Check with state chambers of commerce and visitor centers to retrace the trail on foot, by vehicle, over water, by bicycle or horse. Sites are listed in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
ACCESS: Visitors can follow parts of the original trail on public lands and approximate other parts by driving the paved highways that travel near the historical route. However, many parts of the original trail are privately owned, have been destroyed by development, are under plow, or cross military or American Indian tribal reserves. There is no public trail access across private property and reserves. Before entering those lands, you must locate the owners and ask their permission.
Where can I get my Passport stamped? Go to the Passport for Your National Parks web pages on this website for stamp locations.
Do you have educational materials for teachers? Visit the Education web page for two lesson plans. We would be happy to mail you our official map and guide brochure for your classroom. Send an email to: e-mail us with your contact information, mailing address, and the quantity of guides you need for your class.
What is the Trail of Tears? From 1837 to 1839, thousands of Cherokee were removed from their homelands in the Appalachian Mountains. The Cherokee or the Principal People (Ani'Yun'wiya) did not leave willingly. The 1830 Indian Removal Act required that they surrender their land. In the decade that followed, the federal government forcibly removed Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole from their homes in the Southeast and relocated them to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.
Why did the Trail of Tears happen? In late 1829, President Andrew Jackson gave a speech to Congress, saying that it was time to take all American Indians living east of the Mississippi River and move them west to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In response, Congress in 1830 passed the Indian Removal Act. To find out what happened leading up to Jackson's decision, read the official map and guide or the stories written under the History and Culture web page.
How are the tribes today? Today the Cherokee and other removed tribes endure as vigorous Indian nations. The Trail of Tears story is one of racial injustice, intolerance, and suffering, but it is also a story of survival, of people thriving in the present while remembering their past in the homeland of southern Appalachia.
What year was the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established? Congress established the trail in December 1987.
Who owns the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail? The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is administered by the National Park Service (National Trails Intermountain Region), but the actual route on the ground is owned or managed by public, private, nonprofit, state, county, and local landowners. These include the Trail of Tears Association, the Cherokee Nation, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. National Trails Intermountain Region works with these landowners to identify the historic trail resources, provide site planning and design, map the trail, and develop educational opportunities. National Trails Intermountain Region does not own any land on the trail.
What is a national historic trail? Much like a national park, a national historic trail is created by an act of Congress. National historic trails are congressionally designated official routes that reflect the research, review, and recommendation of many trail experts. National historic trails commemorate historic trade, migration, and other routes important to American culture.
How can I learn more about the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and take part in organized activities along the trail? The nonprofit organization that helps research, tour, sign, interpret, and protect the Trail of Tears is the Trail of Tears Association. Visit their website at: Trail of Tears Association.