What is the American Discovery Trail?
The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is a new breed of national trail part city, part small town, part forest, part mountains, part desert all in one trail. It is 6,300+ miles of adventure, discovery and fun, and stretches from Delaware to California. It reaches across America, linking community to community in the nation's first coast to coast, non-motorized trail. The ADT provides 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, 10 national historic, and 23 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.
Where is the ADT?
The ADT fits the goals of the 1990 Trails for All Americans Report, which envisions trails 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.
Why is the ADT important?
The American Discovery Trail begins (or ends) with your feet in 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 ADT ends (or begins) with your feet in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen State Park.
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. AHS hired a national coordinator who since 1991 has worked through volunteer state coordinators to develop and refine the route. The ADT is currently administered by the American Discovery Trail Society.
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, incorporate new trails into the route, and to promote and sign the trail in their respective state.
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.
Who funded the development of the ADT?
The development of the ADT has been funded by the members of the American Discovery Trail Society, 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.
Who will manage and maintain the ADT when it is complete?
The ADT Society, a nationwide non-profit organization, has been established for the purpose of administering the affairs of the ADT, and to coordinate the efforts of the many local trail organizations that will be maintaining the ADT.
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 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.
Are guidebooks and maps of the ADT available? Where can I get them?
The ADT Explorer's Guide gives an overview of where the ADT is located and what can be experienced along its route. Trails Illustrated/National Geographic Maps, has produced a poster map of the ADT route and detailed maps of some of the route. Ellen Dudley and Eric Seaborg have written a book, American Discoveries, about their adventure in scouting the route of the ADT in 1990-91. Bill and Laurie Foot, who have hiked and biked most of the ADT, have written data books with planning info and detailed description of the route. Brian Stark, who ran most of the ADT, has put together map kits. Contact the ADT Society for ordering information.
When will I be able to walk or ride the entire ADT?
A person can walk or ride the entire American Discovery Trail today. Detailed trail descriptions are available for many states and more will be forthcoming. More than half of the 6,300-mile route is currently marked with ADT signs.
What is the National Trails System?
The National Trails System Act (NTSA) was enacted 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; 12 National Historic Trails, which recognize prominent routes of exploration, migration, commerce, and military actions; and over 800 National Recreational Trails, shorter trails which vary in length, terrain, difficulty and accessibility and are managed by public and private agencies at the local, state and national levels.
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 will give recognition to the significance of urban and metropolitan trails that have developed mostly over the past 25 years, and to backcountry trails. This new category would recognize that using and enjoying trails close to home is equally as important as traversing remote wilderness trails.
What is the process for authorizing the ADT where does it stand?
In 1996 Senator Hank Brown of Colorado introduced Senate Bill S 1725 and Congressman Doug Bereuter of Nebraska introduced House Bill HR 3250. The 104th Congress did not enact these bills in 1996. The House bill was reintroduced by Cong. Bereuter on February 5, 1997 as HR 588 and had 54 cosponsors. A similar bill S 1069, reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Frank Murkowski, passed the Senate on July 17,1998. The House Resources Committee did not send the bill to the House for vote. On March 25, 1999, Sen. Murkowski reintroduced the Senate bill, S 734, which passed the Senate on November 19, 1999. Congressman Bereuter reintroduced the house bill, HR 2339, which passed the National Parks and Public Lands subcommittee but stalled in the Resources committee. On January 3, 2001 Cong. Bereuter reintroduced the House bill, HR 36. The Senate bill will soon be reintroduced. You can help by contacting your Member of Congress and urging his or her support of the National Discovery Trails Act.