Lesson Plan

Trails Across America (secondary 8th-12th)

The Sunken Trace along the Natchez Trace Parkway

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Eighth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Colonial History, Commerce and Industry, Community, Design, Entrepreneurs, Geography, Government, Health, Hispanic or Latino American History and Culture, Historic Preservation, History, Immigration, Landscapes, Mexican War, Military and Wartime History, Physical Education, Physical Fitness, Pioneer America, Planning/Development, Recreation / Leisure / Tourism, Recreation Ecology, Social Studies, Sociology, Westward Expansion
2 or more class periods
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
8th Grade:1, 4
MS Studies: 1, 3, 4
World History 1750- Present: 1, 3,4
US History 1877 to Present: 3, 4, 5
World Geography: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
trails, historic trail, scenic trail, human migration, recreation, outdoor recreation, Healthy Parks, healthy parks healthy living


Students will work in pairs to research National Historic and Scenic Trails and develop a compare and contrast report of two trails.  Students will work in pairs to research and compare two scenic trails or two historic trails (see list). They will present their reports orally to the rest of the class. Visual aids are to be encouraged. If display boards are used as part of the assignment, the teacher should obtain permission to display them in the school or at a public library.


For the complete lesson plan, please email natr_education@nps.gov or call 1-800-305-7417. Please indicate whether or not you need an accessible lesson plan.

Enduring Understanding: The United States Government provides services that preserve and protect our cultural and natural resources. 

Essential Question: What can we learn from, and enjoy about our National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails?

The students will:

1) research National Trails System

2) research and develop a comparison and contrast of two National Trails

3) learn how national trails connect to the past and present histories of our country

4) present an oral report


The National Trails System was legislated in 1968. These trails provide for outdoor recreation needs, promote the enjoyment, appreciation, and preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourage public access and citizen involvement.

There are four trail designations in the National Trail System, National Historic Trails (NHT) and National Scenic Trails (NST) are established by Congress. National Recreation Trails (NRT) and connecting/side trails are recognized by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture. The trail designations are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

National Scenic Trails are continuous protected scenic corridors that offer superlative recreational experiences. National Historic Trails commemorate prominent routes of exploration, migration, trade, communication, or military action. Today they generally consist of remnant sites, trail segments, or associated structures. Most are linked together by auto tour routes. National recreation trails recognize existing trails that connect people to local resources and improve their quality of life.

These trails are legislated by the federal government and managed by the National Park Service under the executive branch of the United States government.


1.) "National Trails System Map and Guide" (found at https://www.nps.gov/hfc/carto/nps-trails.htm or call 1800-305-7417 to check hard-copy availability)

2.) Information about the National Trail System (on the back of the map or online at www.nps.gov/nts or available upon request from each trail management unit

3.) Materials to produce a written report

4.) Option: materials to produce visual aids



Students will be graded on the completeness and quality of their reports.

Park Connections

The Natchez Trace Parkway encompasses the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail.


1.) Visit the Natchez Trace Parkway and if possible walk on sections of the National Scenic Trails and the historic Old Trace.

2.) Whenever studying a historical culture, location or event, relate any relevant National Trail.

3.) Have the students develop a hypothetical plan to make a "historic" or "scenic trail" or "recreational trail" on their school grounds or neighborhood.

The mock- plan should include:

1. Trail designation

a. Scenic

b. Historic

c. Recreational

2. Justification for choosing the trail

3. Who would use the trail?

4. What changes in the environment need to be made to build the trail?

5. The length of the trail.

6. A map showing the location of the trail.

7. Who would need to be contacted for permission to make the trail?

8. Option: How much would it cost to build this trail?

Additional Resources

List of National Scenic Trails:

 Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Florida National Scenic Trail

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

New England National Scenic Trail

North Country National Scenic Trail

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

List of National Historic Trails:

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail

California National Historic Trail

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail

Iditarod National Historic Trail

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

Nez Perce National Historic Trail

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

Oregon National Trail

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail


National Scenic Trail, National Historic Trail

Last updated: January 5, 2018