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What is the American Discovery Trail?
Where is the ADT?
Why is the ADT important?
Who led the development of the ADT?
How was the route of the ADT determined, and by whom?
Is the ADT just for hikers?
Who funded the development of the ADT?
Who manages the ADT?
Who will use the ADT?
Are guidebooks and maps of the ADT available? Where can I get them?
When will I be able to walk or ride the entire ADT?
What is the National Trails System?
How does the ADT fit into the National Trails System?
What are some of the ADT Society's major accomplishments?
Who do I contact to become an ADT volunteer or member?



What is the American Discovery Trail?
The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is the nation's first coast-to-coast, non-motorized trail. It is a new breed of national trail - part city, part small town, part forest, part mountains, part desert - all in one trail. In 6,800 miles of adventure, discovery and fun, it stretches from Delaware to California. It reaches across America, linking community to community and providing trail users the opportunity to journey into the heart of all that is uniquely American - its culture, heritage, landscape, and spirit.

The ADT is all about connections – people to people, community to community, urban areas to wilderness. It provides the opportunity for the most adventurous to travel from coast to coast, truly discovering the heart of America. More importantly, it provides millions access to a trail system that improves quality of life and protects our natural resources. The ADT connects five National Scenic, 12 National Historic, and 34 National Recreational Trails; passes through urban centers like Cincinnati and San Francisco; leads to 14 National Parks and 16 National Forests; and visits 10,000 sites of historic, cultural, and natural significance. It is truly the backbone of the National Trails System.

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Where is the ADT?
The American Discovery Trail's western terminus is at the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. From there, it traverses California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, where in Denver it splits into two routes. The Northern Midwest route travels through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The Southern Midwest route explores Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. After rejoining just west of Cincinnati, the route continues through Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Delaware, where the eastern terminus is at the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen State Park.

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Why is the ADT important?
The ADT is at the heart of an effort to build a truly national system of trails, a system that will serve all Americans, connect the people and places of the nation, provide diverse experiences while respecting the natural and built environments, and be built through creative partnerships. The ADT combines the qualities of national scenic, historic, and recreational trails, but its real strength is that it provides connections - between trails, between communities and the backcountry, and between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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Who led the development of the ADT?
In 1989, the American Hiking Society (AHS) and BACKPACKER magazine created the idea of a coast-to-coast trail that would be the backbone of the National Trails System. The ADT is currently administered by the American Discovery Trail Society.

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How was the route of the ADT determined, and by whom?
The route of the ADT was selected through the efforts of citizens working with local, state, and federal land managers in the localities through which the trail passes. In 1990-91 a scouting team mapped the route determined by this citizen effort. There is a volunteer coordinator in each ADT state who leads the ongoing effort to refine the route, to incorporate new trails into the route, and to promote and sign the trail.

The route is being constantly improved. For instance, trail improvements in a recent year included: in Nebraska, a major rail-trail bridge across the Platte River, a river crossing that is key to link the recently completed 60-mile trail between Omaha and Lincoln; in Indiana, a 10-mile section of the Cardinal Greenway, the longest rail-trail project in the state; in Kansas, the inaugural section of the Flint Hills Nature Trail near Council Grove. These three projects were all spearheaded locally, but local members of the ADT Society board of directors were key players in making them happen. These local projects all received a major boost because they were part of our greater dream of a coast-to-coast trail. That dream provided a powerful reason for government agencies, foundations, and local groups to fund and build them.

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Is the ADT just for hikers?
No. Every attempt has been made to include multi-use trails in the route. As a result, the entire trail is open to hiking, and the vast majority is bikable, or has alternatives available. Many of the trails are open to horseback riding, although to a lesser extent. Trips should be planned to locate alternate routes for bikes and horses.

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Who funded the development of the ADT?
The development of the ADT has been funded by the members of the American Discovery Trail Society, by the American Hiking Society, and through corporate financial and promotional support. The various land managing agencies and local and regional trail organizations have made significant contributions through their expertise and knowledge of the trails that make up the ADT.

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Who manages the ADT?
The ADT Society, a nationwide non-profit organization, administers the affairs of the ADT and coordinates the efforts of the many local trail organizations that maintain it.

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Who will use the ADT?
Long-distance trails are used mostly by people living close to the trail and by week-enders. Backpacking excursions are normally a few days to a couple of weeks. For example, of the estimated four million users of the Appalachian Trail each year, only about 200-300 walk the entire trail. This will be true of the ADT as well, especially because of its proximity to urban trails where use will be the highest.

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Are guidebooks and maps of the ADT available? Where can I get them?
Guidebooks are available through the ADT Society website merchandise page. For ordering information, click here.

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When will I be able to walk or ride the entire ADT?
A person can walk or ride the entire American Discovery Trail today.

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What is the National Trails System?
The National Trails System was created by federal legislation in 1968 as a framework for a national system of connected scenic, historic, and recreational trails. Today, there are eight National Scenic Trails, which are protected scenic corridors for outdoor recreation located primarily in the backcountry; 15 National Historic Trails, which recognize prominent routes of exploration, migration, commerce, and military actions; and over 1000 National Recreational Trails, which are shorter trails varying in length, difficulty, and accessibility and managed by public and private agencies at the local, state, and national levels.

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How does the ADT fit into the National Trails System?
The American Discovery Trail is being proposed as the first of a new category of long-distance trails that ties together urban and backcountry trails. It provides a backbone for the National Trails System by providing the connections otherwise lacking. And it gives recognition to the significance of urban and metropolitan trails, the popularity of which has boomed over the past 25 years. This new category would recognize that using and enjoying trails close to home is equally as important as traversing remote wilderness trails. The ADT Society has proposed legislation to add the trail to the National Trails System.

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What are some of the ADT Society's major accomplishments?
One of the major accomplishments of the American Discovery Trail project has been to provide an incentive to citizens and local leaders across our nation to become involved in creating and maintaining trails in the communities in which they live and work. A growing number of trails have been developed in large part because the ADT passes through a region or community including the River to River Trail in southern Illinois, Cardinal Greenway in Indiana, South Shore Trail in Maryland, Great River Trail in Iowa and Illinois, Flint Hills Nature Trail in Kansas, North Bend Rail-Trail in West Virginia, and Oak Creek Trail in Nebraska.

Some of the communities that are now actively developing trails at least in part because the ADT passes through their areas are Lewes, Delaware; Bowie, Maryland; Parkersburg, West Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Richmond, Muncie, and Marion, Indiana; Joliet, Illinois; Cedar Falls/Evansdale, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; Canon City, Colorado; and Carson City, Nevada.

One example of how the ADT has brought organizations, agencies, user groups and citizens together to provide a first-class trail in a region is the River to River Trail in southern Illinois. For over 40 years there had been hit and miss efforts to develop this trail between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Parts of it were there, parts were on maps but not there, and some parts did not exist at all. User groups could not get along and the state and federal agencies were taking a hands-off approach. Nothing was getting done. Because of the publicity of the ADT joining with the River to River Trail, people began to talk, meetings were held, and the economic and recreational benefits were identified. That process began in 1991. Today the entire 146-mile trail is complete, maps and a guidebook are available, and a support organization of over 1,000 members is active. In 1997 Backpacker magazine identified it as the best trail in Illinois.

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Who do I contact to become an ADT volunteer or member?
Contact the ADT Society or any of our State Coordinators.

American Discovery Trail Society
PO Box 20155
Washington, DC 20041-2155
Phone: (800) 663-2387
Fax: (540) 720-5489
info@discoverytrail.org



For more information about the ADT Society, please email us at info@discoverytrail.org.

For membership inquires, please email us at membership@discoverytrail.org.

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