- The American Discovery Trail runs across the entire length of the middle of the United States through 15 states and intersects with hundreds of other hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.
- In the middle states, the trail divides into two paths, going north or south out of Ohio and reconnecting in Colorado — or the other way around!
- The United States has a great deal of geographic, climate, and wildlife diversity, and it can all be seen from this trail, including 16 national forest and 14 national parks.
Nothing refreshes the human spirit more than being in touch with the natural environment. As the name suggests, a trail is an unpaved lane, track, or path that typically comes to mind when you think of hiking. Trails tell a story! You may learn about flora and fauna, natural processes in the park, or how the ancestors lived in the area.
There are more than 55,000 miles of trails to bike, hike, ride horseback, snowshoe, snowmobile, and ATV in the United States. According to the National Forest System Trails, over 50,000 miles are attributed to the National Historic Trails, National Recreational Trails, and National Scenic Trails nationwide.
Planning something as epic as riding, biking, or hiking across the country is a significant endeavor. Here is one of the longest trails in the United States that you should try.
Discover the Longest Trail in the United States
|Longest Trail in the U.S.||The American Discovery Trail|
|Location||Traverses California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware|
|Length||6,800 mi (10,900 km)|
|Highest Point||Argentine Pass, Colorado 13,207 ft (4,025 m)|
|Lowest Point||California Delta between Isleton and Antioch -17 ft (-5.2 m)|
|Uses||Mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking|
|Features||16 national forests and 14 national parks|
The American Discovery is the longest trail in the United States. It’s a collection of several recreational trails and roads that form the nation’s coast-to-coast, non-motorized hiking and biking trail. The trail runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. One can begin or end the exploration from either point.
The American Discovery Trail is more than 6,800 miles of continuous trail, including southern and northern center segments. The southern route covers 5,057 miles (8,138 km) across the country, while the northern route covers 4,834 miles (7,780 km). The northern and southern segments separate at Elizabethtown, Ohio, and reconnect in Sheridan, Colorado.
The trail stretches from the eastern terminus at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware, to the western terminus at Point Reyes National Seashore, California. It allows bikers and hikers to journey into a geographic area where weather, landscape, animals, and plants work together to form a bubble of life.
Which Routes Does the American Discovery Trail Pass Through?
The American Discovery Trail is unique because it not only passes through forests and over mountains but also bisects large cities and small towns. The Northern Midwest route traverses Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. The Southern Midwest route travels through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas.
The southern and northern routes then rejoin at the west of Cincinnati, where the trail explores Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Washington, DC. The American Discovery Trail connects the East Coast Greenway Trails, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Appalachian Trail, along with 36 recreational, 12 historical, and five national scenic trails. The trail also coincides with the Colorado Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Buckeye Trail, and the North Country Trail.
The American Discovery Trail passes through 16 national forests and 14 national parks. Some of the forests that the trail completely circles include:
- Shawnee State Forest
- Pike State Forest
- Wayne National Forest
- Scioto Trail State Forest
- Tar Hollow State Forest
- Hocking State Forest.
The trail traverses the following state and national parks:
- Logan State Park
- Hocking Hills State Park
- Davis Memorial
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Shawnee State Park
- Pike Lake State Park
- Indiana Creek Preserve
- Hueston Woods State Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Devou Park
- Burr Oak State Park
- Giant City State Park
- Ferne Clyffe State Park
What Can You Do and See on the American Discovery Trail?
The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is all about connections – urban areas to the wilderness, community to community, and people to people. The ADT incorporates trails designed for mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking. Most trails connecting the American Discovery Trail lead to dazzling glens, caves, tall-grass meadows, and limestone canyons.
One of the ADT’s most alluring qualities is its appeal as an old-fashioned trail – the kind that leads to a Civil War battleground and a monastery that hasn’t changed since the 15th century.
The American Discovery Trail is a great place to get away from the city and explore at your pace, where you may encounter bears, coyotes, foxes, elks, bighorn sheep, moose, and various birds. Keep an eye out for tufted deer while hiking the American Discovery Trail.
Whether you’re set for an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year, the American Discovery will provide you with a memorable experience.
How Long Will it Take You to Hike the American Discovery Trail?
It all depends on your mode of travel – hiking, biking, running, horseback riding, or a combination. Your pace, what level of support you can arrange, and how much time you use to rest also determine the time you will take to hike the trail.
It takes 9 to 14 months to complete the American Discovery Trail if you are doing 20-40 miles daily. It may take you around 56 weeks (390 days) to cover 5,000 miles if you hike 15 miles a day. Horseback riding would require at least a year, while it takes about five months to complete the trail through biking.
Peter and Joyce Cottrell hiked the entire trail in 18 months, while Brian Stark covered the trail in 7 months by running an average of 30 miles daily.
When was the American Discovery Trail Established?
The American Discovery Trail was established in 1989. The trail was actively selected through the efforts of the American Hiking Society and different volunteers working with state, local, and federal land managers in the areas through which the trail traverses.
A scouting team mapped the route in 1990-91 after it was determined. Bill and Laurel were the first people to complete the trail in 1997. The American Discovery Trail Society currently administers ADT.
Where Is the American Discovery Trail Located on a Map?
The American Discovery Trail bisects the entire United States with an east/west line running from Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware, to the western terminus at Point Reyes National Seashore, California. The divergence into two trails, northern and southern segments of central America, begins at Elizabethtown, Ohio, and reconnects in Sheridan, Colorado.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/AndrewSoundarajan
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