Did you know that a recreational trail actually spans the United States from coast to coast? Called the American Discovery Trail, this massive trail covers more than 6,800 miles in 15 states.

The Discovery Trail officially opened in 2000. It was first proposed in 1989. Now, it is one of the most popular hiking trails in the country.

Whether you want to explore nature, parks, and cities, or just get some fresh air, the Discovery Trail has lots of great things to do.

Spanning the middle of the continental United States, the American Discovery Trail starts in Delaware and ends in California (or, vice versa, if you are a West Coast person!). The Discovery Trail, starting in Delaware, crosses Maryland, enters Washington DC, and then crosses West Virginia into Ohio.

American Discovery trail map

Image via Quad City Times

From there, the trail splits into two branches. You can go south and hit Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. Or, take the northern fork and see Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska before the trail merges again in Colorado.

You’ll go through the heart of Utah and Nevada before ending at the California coast.

Because of all the diverse landscapes along the trail, if you hike the entire trail, you can enjoy mountain vistas, scenic deserts, cool forests, and even American cityscapes.

You can’t take a car on the trail. It is completely non-motorized. You can, however, bike, hike, and ride horses on this amazing, diverse trail.

The Historic First Hike-Through Across the Nation

Joyce and Peter Cottrell were the first hikers to travel the entire route of the American Discovery Trail. They were both over 50 at the time and reached the California coast on August 18, 2003.

Joyce had started hiking in her 40s as a way to recover from surgery. She also used hiking to give her something else to do than smoke. When she wanted to have a cigarette, she’d go for a walk instead.

Some of their amazing adventures on their 5,058-mile journey include traversing seven Colorado mountain passes and weathering a sandstorm. In Illinois, a bobcat ripped their tent, but they were OK. For them, it was the adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Happening on the American Discovery Trail

You don’t have to travel the entire length of the Discovery Trail to get something out of it. Check out any hiking magazine and you’ll probably find something going on at the American Discovery Trail. Here are just a few of options you might want to consider:

1. American Discovery Trail Marathon

Every year on Labor Day, the American Discovery Trail Marathon takes place in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The marathon was launched in the year 2000 and is now in its 18th year in 2018.

In addition to running a full marathon, you can also choose to run a half marathon or 10K. There is also a 1K Kids Run. The marathon begins at Palmer Lake, goes through the United States Air Force Academy, and ends at America the Beautiful Park.

If you want a good ADT time, you’ll want to practice for the marathon early. In 2017, 18-year-old winner Jemil Kassahun broke the age-group course record, previously set at 2:58:23, with his time of 2:50:21.

2. National Trails Day

The National Trails Day is sponsored by the American Hiking Society. Held each year on the first Saturday in June, National Trails Day offers all sorts of fun and exciting events, whether on the Discovery Trail or at another great American trail.

Events can include group bike rides, guided hikes, and overnight camping, and can range from the easy to more challenging.

With the American Discovery Trail covering 15 states, you’ll often find a National Trails Day event in a state near you. The American Hiking Society website has a convenient search option to discover events based on state or zip code.

3. Volunteering at the American Discovery Trail

With such a large trail, people are needed to help with upkeep and maintenance. This doesn’t have to be drudgery and can include fun tasks like helping keep natural habitats in order. You might want to check out American Hiking Society volunteer vacations, as some might include trail restoration in a state near you.

Enjoy the American Discovery Trail

If you are lucky enough to live close to an entry point to the American Discovery Trail, take advantage of it! Or, you can always travel to visit the many different parts of this lengthy and marvelous trail. Whether you want to experience the wilderness, or a city such as Washington, DC, the American Discovery Trail has it all.

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