National Trails Day

A busy first Saturday in June

If you’re not doing anything a week from Saturday … it’s nobody’s fault but your own.

A week from Saturday, June 4, the first Saturday in June, is National Trails Day. As it’s been since its inception in 1993, it’s a day set side for us to celebrate our nation’s trails at NTD-designated events, of which there are 368 nationwide.

Actually, that’s just the number of NTD events officially registered with sponsor the American Hiking Society. That does not, for instance, include five NTD events listed on the North Carolina State Parks website, or 27 events on the Virginia State Parks site.

Because not all events are officially registered, it’s difficult to say just how big National Trails Day is. On the celebration’s 20th anniversary in 2012, 2,000 events drew 157,000 participants. And in 2019, a “trail service world record” was set, with 1,164 events and 41,424 participants.

So how was a record set in 2019, when there were 116,000 more “participants” in 2012?

National Trails Day events come in two flavors: play and work. The majority of events celebrate trails with events hiking or paddling them (“blue” trails are also a part of National Trails Day). A smaller percentage involve work: trail building, for instance, or maintenance. Those would be the “trail service” events.

How important is that trail service work, the work of volunteers showing up with pickaxe and pulaski to build trail?

The majority of trails we hike are there because of volunteers. Volunteers play a big role in trail construction, and account for a huge percentage of trail maintenance. For example, in 2020, volunteers logged 27,497 hours of work on the trail. (Using a formula used by N.C. Parks that puts the hourly trail work rate at $27.30, that’s about a quarter of a million dollars in labor cost savings.)

What to expect

The joys of trail maintenance.

If you elect to do a National Trails Day Event, here’s what to expect, from both types of event:

Hiking. In general, these events are more of an introduction to hiking, aimed at beginners and the hiking curious. As such, the hikes tend to be short and slow-paced.There’s often an educational component as well, possibly about the basics of hiking, more often about nature. They usually last an hour or so. Difficulty level: easy

Trail work. Signing up to do a workday has so many benefits:

  • You work with experienced trail builders and thus, can learn the ins and outs of how a trail comes to be.
  • You get to learn new new tools. Not a chainsaw your first time out, but possibly a pickaxe or a pulaski. 
  • Food. There’s typically food associated with workdays, maybe a breakfast to get you started, trail snacks to keep you going.
  • Swag. Occasionally, if there’s a business sponsor involved, you’ll get swag, like a t-shirt or cap.

Work days are typically three hours and you will work, Difficulty: moderate to strenuous. You’ll likely be asked to wear sturdy boots ore shoes and bring gloves.

Where to find events

Here are your prime sources of events.

  • American Hiking Society. For starters, check out the events registered with the AHS, here.
  • As mentioned, North Carolina State Parks and Virginia State Parks have numerous events planned. 
  • Land trusts. Check with your local land trust to see if they have an event planned. Find a list of land trusts here.
  • County and municipal parks. 

So, busy June 4? We thought so.

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