5 National Historic Trails You Have to Experience

If you illuminated each of the 19 National Historic Trails on a United States map, you would see an intricate web of lines weaving across the country in sporadic patterns, like rivers snaking across the landscape.

These paths tell the stories of human movement and migration, stories of exploration and settlement. These established routes that protect the history of U.S. travel before we had cars and a GPS are a testament to preservation.

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Starting in 1968, National Park Service was tasked to oversee the preservation process. With each park, whether it's a national park, a national lakeshore or a national battlefield, comes a responsibility to preserve that land.

While all trails are to be maintained, not every one path in the woods is automatically given the National Historic Trail designation. Instead, it must fulfill three distinct qualifications: be a historic route that isn't already a discernible trail, be of national significance, and have the potential for public recreational use. Once established, historic trails become part of the National Trail System, which also includes the National Scenic and National Recreation trails.

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You'll recognize many of these trails, at least by name, as many of them are rooted in significant U.S. events and popular culture such as the journey of Lewis and Clark or the migration along the Oregon Trail. Whether you need another road trip stop or just live in the area, don't miss a chance to experience these five trails when the opportunity arises. 

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

This trail commemorates the adventures of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their 1804 journey from Missouri to Oregon, one of the most famous stories in our country's history of western expansion. The trail now preserves 3,700 miles of their route, cutting through 11 different states, and is visited by thousands of tourists each year. The best place to stop for evidence of their travels is Pompey's Pillar National Monument in Montana.

Hike: Sacajawea State Park
Camp: Big Bone Lick State Historical Site

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