A scout’s salute to the Appalachian Trail: The 2,180-mile path—likely the world’s longest for hiking only—recently marked its 75th birthday. Trudging the peaks and valleys of 14 states, the white-blazed footpath has been almost completely relocated or rebuilt since 1937 and today boasts more scenic vistas, from Tennessee’s Roan Mountain to Vermont’s Thundering Falls.
The AT’s less popular West Coast sister, the 20-year-old Pacific Crest Trail, is enjoying a higher profile thanks to Wild, a recent best seller and forthcoming Reese Witherspoon movie. Zigzagging from Mexico to Canada, the rugged 2,650-mile path has been completed by fewer through-hikers than have climbed Mount Everest but offers ample entry points for day hikes such as at Burney Falls in northern California.
The 3,500-mile Alaska Marine Highway connects Bellingham, Washington, to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, through the Inside Passage. A product of the 49th state’s gold rush, the chain of ferry routes this year celebrates its 50th—golden—anniversary as the only marine route federally designated an All-American Road.
Fueled by a boom in cycling, the U.S. Bicycle Route System recently expanded for the first time in nearly 30 years, adding six routes in Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Alaska. The goal is an interstate highway network for bicyclists.
What’s your favorite trail in the world? Weigh in by leaving a comment below.
This piece, written by Katie Knorovsky, appeared in the February/March 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler.