The Fifty Trail - Guide to a Trail that Connects the Nation

America's Footpath
Continuous through 49 States and the District of Columbia
Prepared by P.J. Wetzel
Home edition

Fifty States, Fifty Years of trail stewardship, Fifty reasons to get out there and walk.


Welcome to the Fifty Trail. This is a trail with a mission. Well, three missions, really.

First, we make connections: The Fifty Trail is one long hiking path that links 49 states and the District of Columbia using all eleven of America’s National Scenic Trails as well as many of our National Historic Trails.

Second, we honor and publicize the nations’ best trails: The Fifty Trail helps to put boots on the ground, allowing hikers to experience the best footpaths in every corner of this country.

Third, we celebrate our community of trail people and the success they’ve achieved: Hikers, trail builders, maintainers, and advocates.

The Fifty Trail got its name from the 50 national political jurisdictions in North America that it passes through. But the Fifty Trail’s name has another significance. Its founding coincided with, and was inspired by, the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of the signing of the National Trails Act in 1968. The National Trails Act provides federal recognition and support to the best of America’s long distance trails, designating them National Scenic or National Historic Trails. The act helps local volunteers, who are the soul of every trail, in their efforts to build, protect, and maintain these treasured walkways.

The course of the Fifty Trail was established based on two major goals—to incorporate and showcase the best hiking in each of the fifty national political units of the United States within continental North America, and to include significant portions of all of our National Scenic Trails. Here are a few more basic elements that define the Fifty Trail:
  1. It is a footpath. Other uses are incidental. Motorized routes are to be avoided as much as is possible. The primary aim is to motivate people to get out and walk.
  2. It is linear. It isn’t a network of trails, but rather follows one long line from end to end.
  3. It is continuous. The Fifty Trail can be walked from end to end without resorting to any other mode of transportation. For example, no ferry rides or shuttle rides are required.
For a photo album/pictorial introduction to the Fifty Trail check this post.


The Fifty Trail Guide serves two major purposes. First, in large measure, it is a Meta-Guide. Many of the constituent trails have their own published information and maps. For those portions of the Fifty Trail this Guide refers to that material.

The Fifty Trail is the glue that connects these major trails into a seamless whole. Where connecting routes and shorter or less well-documented trails are used, this Guide will strive to provide the primary resource information.

The home edition is an abbreviated on-line version of a full-blown guide book that will include detailed maps and turn-by-turn directions, access and resource information, and contacts for the associated trail organizations.

The trail is divided into Fifty Segments, each one associated with a State or the District. The Guide is organized by these segments—Fifty chapters presenting trail information from west to east across North America.

Within each of the segments, a fifty-mile “Heart of the Trail” section has been designated. Hikers can receive recognition for completing an entire individual (state) segment but there will also be a special award recognizing an individual for completing the HEART OF section. Details are still in the works, but the ‘prize’ will be a patch or sticker and/or a stamp in a passport-style booklet. Hikers can strive to collect as many of the segment completion awards and “HEART OF” awards as they can.


It is hoped that a non-profit parent organization of Fifty Trail enthusiasts can be formed. The purposes would be to advocate for and improve the National Trails System and the Fifty Trail’s connecting routes, and to provide support for and recognition of hikers who use the route.

Initially the group will be a virtual one via social media. Recognition will be given to hikers who complete entire individual segments or the fifty-mile ‘Heart of the Trail’ showpiece of each segment.

Someone, it is hoped, will eventually be able to complete the entire trail. By then perhaps the Group will be ready to hold its first gathering to give proper recognition for such a monumental feat.

So find the segment of the Fifty Trail near you and step out. Feel your energy flow down the length of this continuous path from Alaska to Maine. And feel that energy returned to you a hundredfold. Whether you walk a mile of the Fifty Trail or ten thousand, you’ll feel that sense of connection with evert part of this vast nation: its people, its history, its heartbeat.


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