Photos by Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360
Three national scenic trails have become the country’s newest national parks, raising the total number of existing parks from 425 to 428. The Ice Age, New England, and North Country national scenic trails, all previously established by Congress and administered by the National Park Service as part of the National Trails System, are now also recognized as units of the National Park System.
“The new status for the Ice Age, New England, and North Country national scenic trails will increase public awareness and use of these amazing pathways,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “Their combined 5,500-plus miles travel through parts of 10 states and hundreds of communities, from large cities to rural towns, providing countless close-to-home opportunities for people to easily access green space and enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation.”
These long-distance corridors are lined with natural beauty and history, connecting people to lakes, waterfalls, beaches, mountains, old growth forests, and historic structures. The designation will not result in any immediate changes to the size or structure of the trails which already have access points, signage, operating budgets, superintendents, staff, and dedicated volunteers. Last year, thousands of volunteers contributed more than 150,000 hours to support trail preservation, maintenance and education projects.
The trails join three other national scenic trails – the Appalachian, Natchez Trace, and Potomac Heritage – that are already units of the National Park System. This action aligns with Congressional, stakeholder, and partner desires for clear, consistent and equitable status for all six national scenic trails administered by the National Park Service. There are five additional national scenic trails administered by the U.S. Forest Service.
- The Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin is nearly 1,200 miles long. It’s landscape of lakes, river valleys, gently rolling hills, and ridges are reminders that just 15,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, much of North America lay under a huge glacier.
- The New England National Scenic Trail in Connecticut and Massachusetts stretches 235 miles from the shores of Long Island Sound to scenic mountain summits. It offers panoramic vistas of New England’s natural and cultural landscape, including traprock ridges, historic village centers, farmlands, unfragmented forests, quiet streams, steep river valleys, and waterfalls.
- The North Country National Scenic Trail is expected to be a 4,600-mile continuous path when completed. Traversing sections of Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin, it showcases the varied landscapes of the Lake Superior Region, Adirondacks, Ohio River Valley, and North Dakota plains.
The 428 units of the National Park System are commonly referred to as “parks” since there are more than 25 different name designations, including national park, national battlefield, national monument, national seashore, national historical site, and national scenic trail. Collectively, the parks cover over 85 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.