By Michelle Werts

Hiking Vermont’s Long Trail
Hiking Vermont’s Long Trail. Credit: Adam Franco/Flickr

Tomorrow, Americans across the country will be celebrating the 19th annual National Trails Day, which was started by the American Hiking Society back in 1993 — but the idea of a day for celebrating America’s hiking trails actually goes farther back.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan’s President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors recommended that every person in the country should be able to walk out their front door and reach a trail within 15 minutes. While this might not be a reality for every American yet, the country does boast 200,000 miles of hiking, biking and other types of trails that can be enjoyed tomorrow — and every day. And the benefits they provide are never-ending.

First, there’s the obvious: Physical activity is good for you. Getting out and hiking or biking along a recreational trail helps keep your body in shape. Plus, as featured in American Forests, studies show that being amidst forests helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure and strengthen immune systems.

And, now, a new study is revealing that not only is traipsing through nature good for your body, it’s good for your brain. The study conducted by the University of Kansas’ Ruth Ann Atchley reveals that hikers who have been on a trail for four days are 50 percent more creative than those who haven’t been communing with nature. So get out and enjoy some of America’s trails to benefit your mind and body!

Where to go?

Well, there’s always the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking trails:

  • The Appalachian Trail – 2,000 miles that stretch from Georgia to Maine
  • The Pacific Crest – 2,600-plus miles that traverse the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains from British Columbia down to California
  • The Continental Divide – 3,000 miles along the famous divide from Montana to New Mexico that takes travelers to high-altitude peaks in the Rockies

… or, you can head to some of American Forests’ Best Hiking Trails in the U.S.

… or, urban dwellers can check out National Geographic’s list of the best hiking cities for trails ideas. They also have a list of the best trails in national parks.

… or, you can simply go through your front door and just keep walking. Big trail, small trail, no trail, sidewalk or other walking surface, the spirit of National Trails Day is just to get out and enjoy nature. I’ll see you there.