A long-distance trail (or long-distance footpath, track, way, greenway) is a longer recreational trail mainly through rural areas used for hiking, backpacking, cycling, horse riding or cross-country skiing. They exist on all continents except Antarctica.
Many trails are marked on maps. Typically, a long-distance route will be at least 50 km (30 mi) long, but many run for several hundred miles, or longer.
Many routes are waymarked and may cross public or private land and/or follow existing rights of way. Generally, the surface is not specially prepared, and the ground can be rough and uneven in areas, except in places such as converted rail tracks or popular walking routes where stone-pitching and slabs have been laid to prevent erosion. In some places, official trails will have the surface specially prepared to make the going easier.
GR footpaths are long-distance footpaths in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal (the Grande Randonnée (French), Grote Routepaden or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Dutch), Grande Rota (Portuguese) or Gran Recorrido (Spanish)).
National Trails are a network of officially sanctioned footpaths in the United Kingdom which are well maintained and well waymarked across England and Wales. Examples are the Pennine Way and the South West Coast Path. The equivalent routes in Scotland are styled as Scotland's Great Trails; they include the West Highland Way and the Speyside Way.
These follow coastlines; examples are the Brittany Coast Path in France, the California Coastal Trail in the US, the South West Coast Path in England, the East Coast Trail in Canada, and the Otter Trail in South Africa.
The England Coast Path, in development by Natural England, will be around 2,700 miles (4,350 km) long. It is expected to open in 2020 as the longest coastal walking route in the world and Britain's longest National Trail.
These may be cross-country paths, or may follow roads or other ways, and often intersect with many other trails. Examples are Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast path in northern England, and the GR 10 in France. The English Coast to Coast route, despite being amongst the best-known long-distance walking routes in England, is not an official National Trail, but simply a series of connected pre-existing rights of way, roads and open country with some informal links between them. There is also a coast-to-coast mountain-bike route in northern England that has the same trailheads as the walkers' path. GR 10 is a French GR footpath that runs the length of the Pyrenees Mountains, roughly paralleling the French–Spanish border on the French side. It runs west to east, from Hendaye on the Bay of Biscay to Banyuls-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean Sea.
The American Discovery Trail is a hiking and biking trail that crosses the continental United States from east to west, across the mid-tier of the United States. Horses can also be ridden on most of this trail. The eastern terminus is the Delmarva Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the western terminus is Point Reyes, on the northern California coast at the Pacific Ocean. The Iditarod Trail connects the coastal cities of Seward and Nome, Alaska: a distance of around 1,000 miles.
The European long-distance paths (E-paths) traverse Europe, passing through many different countries. Among the longest are European walking route E8 and the Iron Curtain Trail (also known as EuroVelo 13). The latter is a partially complete long-distance cycling route which will run along the entire length of the former Iron Curtain. During the period of the Cold War (c. 1947–1991), the Iron Curtain delineated the border between the Communist East and the capitalist West. E8 runs 4,700 km (2,920 miles) across Europe, from Cork in Ireland to Istanbul in Turkey.
Some of the longest walking routes worldwide:
Long-distance mountain trails are of two broad kinds: linear trails and loop trails.
In Europe the Via Alpina consists of five connected hiking trails across the alpine regions of Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, France and Monaco. It is 5,000 km (3,100 miles) long, with 342 day stages. Circular routes include the Tour du Mont Blanc, which passes through the Alps of France, Switzerland, and Italy. In the Balkans region, the Peaks of the Balkans Trail and High Scardus Trail connect Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro or North Macedonia respectively through a network of combined almost 700 kilometres (430 mi).
In the United States, notable linear trails include the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. The first long-distance hiking trail in the US was begun in 1910 and named The Long Trail. Notable circular trails include the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Wonderland Trail (which encircles Mount Rainier).
The Australian Alps Walking Track traverses the alpine areas of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. It is 655 km (407 miles) long, starting at Walhalla, Victoria, and running through to Tharwa, Australian Capital Territory near Canberra.
The Himalayan routes are famous for attracting a large number of trekkers (backpackers). Typical trekking regions in Nepal are Annapurna, Dolpo, Langtang, Manaslu, Kangchenjunga and Mount Everest. In India, the Kashmir Valley is home to several trekking routes that traverse western sections of the Himalayas. Vishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake and Tarsar Lakes are accessible only through different trekking routes. Other popular trekking routes in India include Chandra Taal, Dzongri, Goechala, Gomukh, Hemkund, Kafni Glacier, Kailash-Manasarovar, Kedarnath, Kedartal, Milam Glacier, Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Pindari Glacier, Richenpong, Roopkund, Sar Pass, Satopanth Tal, Saurkundi Pass and the Valley of Flowers.
A long-distance trail network in the southern Andes, the 3,000-kilometre (1,900 mi) Greater Patagonian Trail, was first described in 2014. It currently connects Santiago de Chile with the Southern Patagonian Icefield and explores the remote areas of the Patagonian Andes in the border region between Chile and Argentina. The entire network currently incorporates more than 16,000-kilometre (9,900 mi) of routes and provides many packrafting options.
These routes have been constructed mainly for bicycle touring. Some are restricted to use by only non-motorized bikes while others are multi-use recreational (i.e. hiking, horseback riding, jogging, rollerblading or walking). Some long-distance cycling routes are hundreds of miles long, such as Australia's mainly off-road Munda Biddi Trail, or even thousands of miles, such as the EuroVelo routes.
Some trails follow the towpaths of canal systems. A good example is the 525-mile (845 km) New York State Canal System in New York. There also numerous routes that can be followed in Europe, which may be suitable for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and canoeists.
Many long-distance trails have sections suitable for equestrians, and a few are suitable for horse riding throughout their length, or have been developed primarily for horse riding. The Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) in Australia is the longest marked multi-use trail in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres (3,310 mi) from Cooktown, Queensland, through New South Wales to Healesville, Victoria. This non-motorised trail runs the length of the rugged Great Dividing Range through national parks and private property and alongside wilderness areas. One of the objectives was to develop a trail that linked up the brumby tracks, mustering and stock routes along the Great Dividing Range, thus allowing one legally to ride the routes of stockmen and drovers who once traveled these areas with pack horses. The Bicentennial National Trail is suitable for self-reliant horse riders, fit walkers and mountain bike riders.
In the United Kingdom, the British Horse Society is developing a network of horse trails known as the National Bridleroute Network. A number of long-distance multi-use trails have been created in England, including three National Trails: the Pennine Bridleway, 192 km (119 miles), The Ridgeway, 139 km (86 miles), and the South Downs Way, 160 km (99 miles).
Rail trails (or rail paths) are shared-use paths that make use of abandoned railway corridors. There are also rails with trails in the USA that follow working rail tracks. Most rail trails have a gravel or dirt surface and can be used for walking, cycling, and often horse riding as well. The following description comes from Australia, but is applicable to other rail trails that exist throughout the world:
Following the route of the railways, they cut through hills, under roads, over embankments and across gullies and creeks. Apart from being great places to walk, cycle or horse ride, rail trails are linear conservation corridors protecting native plants and animals. They often link remnant vegetation in farming areas and contain valuable flora and fauna habitat. Wineries and other attractions are near many trails as well as B&B's and other great places to stay.
In the USA, the 27-mile (43 km) Cheshire Rail Trail, in New Hampshire, can be used by hikers, horseback riders, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, or even dog-sledders. In Canada, following the abandonment of the Prince Edward Island Railway in 1989, the government of Prince Edward Island purchased the right-of-way to the entire railway system. The Confederation Trail was developed as a tip-to-tip walking and cycling gravel rail trail which doubles as a monitored and groomed snowmobile trail during the winter months, operated by the PEI Snowmobile Association.
Many cyclists, horse riders and walkers undertake journeys on roads and ground that is not designated as trails.
Long-distance cycling is usually documented in post-journey accounts.
Long-distance walks are documented by individuals who write accounts after the walks, and studies of the effects.
Adventure running is the sport of running over a variety of surfaces (dirt, road, mountain, sand, snow), generally over long distances, where the racer has to overcome nature. Challenges include river crossing, scrambling, snow, extreme high or low temperatures, and high altitudes.
Whilst the origins of Adventure Running involved a non-competitive personal challenge, Adventure Running races are growing in number. The dontgetlost.ca Adventure Running series in Ontario has been running for over a decade. It is the oldest and largest series of Adventure Running races in North America.
Routes are often point-to-point and scenic, a long-distance trail, or canonical for example Land's End to John O'Groats or London to Brighton.
Adventure running is less known than trail running or mountain running.
Adventure running is very similar to the running section from an adventure race ( which can include orienteering).
Examples of adventure running events include:
Great Wall Marathon
Big Five Marathon
Great Tibetan Marathon
Polar circle marathon
The Loco Go Big Or Go Home ChallengeBeara Way
The Beara Way (Irish: Slí Bhéara) is a long-distance trail in Republic of Ireland. It is a 206-kilometre (128-mile) long circular trail around the Beara Peninsula that begins and ends in Glengarriff, County Cork. It is typically completed in nine days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by the Beara Tourism and Development Association.Bluestack Way
The Bluestack Way (Irish: Bealach na gCruach) is a long-distance trail through the Bluestack Mountains in County Donegal, Ireland. It is 65 kilometres (40 miles) long and begins in Donegal and ends in Ardara. It is typically completed in three days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by the Bluestack Way Management Committee.The trail was first proposed by a local environmental group, the Bluestack Environmental Group, and was opened in 2000. It was partly funded by the EU Peace and Reconciliation Fund and construction was carried out by workers on a FÁS Community Employment Scheme. A review of the National Waymarked Trails in 2010 considered that the trail was suitable to be upgraded to a National Long Distance Trail, a proposed new standard of trail in Ireland intended to meet international standards for outstanding trails, and also recommended that the development of looped walks off the main route should be considered.Starting in Donegal Town, the trail heads north to reach Lough Eske before crossing the Bluestack Mountains to the village of Glenties. From Glenties, it follows the course of the Owenea River to the end of the trail at Ardara.The Bluestack Way is proposed to be included in the Irish leg of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), an extension of the Appalachian Trail through Canada to Newfoundland, to all terrain that formed part of the Appalachian Mountains of Pangaea, including Ireland.Burren Way
The Burren Way (Irish: Slí Bhoirne) is a long-distance trail in County Clare, Ireland. It is 114 kilometres (71 miles) long, begins in Lahinch and ends in Corofin, crossing The Burren, one of the largest karst limestone landscapes in Europe.
The trail, typically completed in five days, comprises sections of tarmac road, boreen, droving road, path and forestry track. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by the Burren Way Committee.Colorado Trail
The Colorado Trail is a long-distance trail running for 486 miles (782 km) from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. Its highest point is 13,271 feet (4,045 m) above sea level, and most of the trail is above 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Despite its high elevation, the trail often dips below the alpine timberline to provide refuge from the exposed, storm-prone regions above.
The Colorado Trail was built and is currently maintained by the non-profit Colorado Trail Foundation and the United States Forest Service, and was connected in 1987.Coney's Castle
Coney's Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in Dorset, England. The name Coney is from the Old English for rabbit (Latin cuniculus), suggesting medieval use as a domestic warren, as at nearby Pilsdon Pen.
The fort is on a narrow north-south ridge reaching a height of 210 m,
with linear ramparts across the ridge, steep natural slopes to the west,
and a high artificial rampart with ditch to the east.
A small lane runs along the ridge, bisecting the fort.
The lane is also part of the Wessex Ridgeway long distance trail.
There is a convenient car park next to the north rampart.
Lambert's Castle is about 1.5 km to the north.Dingle Way
The Dingle Way (Irish: Slí Chorca Dhuibhne) is a long-distance trail around the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. It is a 162-kilometre (101-mile) long circular route that begins and ends in Tralee and is typically completed in eight days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by the Dingle Way Committee and Kerry County Council.East Clare Way
The East Clare Way is a long-distance trail in County Clare, Ireland. It is a 180-kilometre (112-mile) long circular route that begins and ends in Killaloe. It is typically completed in eight days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by East & Mid Clare Way Limited and the East Clare Way Committee.The circular route explores the hills and lakes to the west of Lough Derg and takes in the towns and villages of Kilbane, Broadford, O'Callaghans Mills, Tulla, Feakle, Flagmount, Mountshannon and Scarriff. The northern sections of the trail cross the Slieve Aughty Mountains.A review of the National Waymarked Trails in 2010 found the proportion of road walking on the East Clare Way (53%) to be high and recommended that work be undertaken to take more of the trail off road.Geopark Way
The Geopark Way is a waymarked long-distance trail located within the counties of Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, England. It runs 109 miles (175 km) from Bridgnorth to Gloucester.Kerry Way
The Kerry Way (Irish: Slí Uíbh Ráthaigh) is a long-distance trail in County Kerry, Ireland. It is a 214-kilometre (133-mile) long circular trail that begins and ends in Killarney. It is typically completed in nine days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by Kerry County Council, South Kerry Development Partnership and the Kerry Way Committee. The Way circles the Iveragh Peninsula and forms a walkers' version of the Ring of Kerry road tour. It is the longest of Ireland's National Waymarked Trails.Longdendale Trail
The Longdendale Trail is an English long-distance trail following the former Woodhead railway line, which used to run between Manchester and Sheffield (and closed east of Hadfield in 1981). It has shallow gradients and a smooth surface that makes it popular with families and cyclists.
The Trail, which opened in May 1992, forms part of the longer Trans Pennine Trail, NCR 62, that runs from coast to coast across the UK (Liverpool to Hull). This in turn is part of the E8 European long distance path, which runs for 4,700 kilometres (2,900 mi) from Cork in Ireland to Istanbul in Turkey.Lough Derg Way
The Lough Derg Way is a long-distance trail in Ireland. It is 68 kilometres (42 miles) long and begins in Limerick City and ends in Dromineer, County Tipperary. It is typically completed in three days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by Shannon Development, Tipperary County Council and Tipperary Integrated Development Company. The trail was reconfigured and relaunched in 2011 with many sections taken off road aided by an investment of €115,000 under the Comhairle na Tuaithe Walks Scheme, which supports landowners to maintain trails that cross their land.The trail follows the River Shannon and its associated canals from Limerick City to Dromineer on the banks of Lough Derg. Along the way it passes the towns and villages of Clonlara, O'Brien's Bridge, Killaloe, Ballina and Garrykennedy. The trail connects with the East Clare Way at Killaoe.Mid Clare Way
The Mid Clare Way is a long-distance trail in County Clare, Ireland. It is a 148-kilometre (92-mile) long circular route that begins and ends in Newmarket-on-Fergus. It is typically completed in six days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by East & Mid Clare Way Limited and the Mid Clare Way Committee. The trail was developed over a six-year period and opened on 31 May 1999 by Síle de Valera, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands.The trail makes a circuit of the countryside surrounding the town of Ennis, taking in the villages of Quin, Spancil Hill, Doon, Ruan, Connolly, Lissycasey and Clarecastle. The trail connects with the East Clare Way at the townland of Gortnamearacaun.A review of the National Waymarked Trails in 2010 found the condition of the route to be poor and usage to be low with a high proportion of the route (65%) to be on roads. The report recommended that format of the trail be examined and consideration given to the development of a series of shorter walks.Monaghan Way
The Monaghan Way (Irish: Slí Mhuineacháin) is a long-distance trail in County Monaghan, Ireland. It is 65-kilometre (40-mile) long and begins in Monaghan Town and ends in Inniskeen. It is typically completed in three days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by Monaghan County Council and the Monaghan Way Committee.The trail begins in Monaghan Town and travels east towards Castleblayney, via Castleshane and Clontibret. From Castleblayney the route passes Lough Muckno and Lough Ross before following the alignment of a disused railway line along the River Fane to reach the end at Iniskeen.Mountains-to-Sea Trail
The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (MST) is a long-distance trail for hiking and backpacking, that traverses North Carolina from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. The trail's western endpoint is at Clingman's Dome, where it connects to the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its eastern endpoint is in Jockey's Ridge State Park on the tallest sand dune on the east coast. The trail is envisioned as a scenic backbone of an interconnected trail system spanning the state. As such, the trail's route attempts to connect as many trail systems and natural scenic areas as practicable. A little over half of the trail is complete in multiple segments across the state.
The Mountains-to-Sea State Park Trail was made an official land-based unit of the state park system by the General Assembly on August 2, 2000. Since that time, the State Trail unit has grown to encompass 691 acres (280 ha) in three tracts and 87 acres (35 ha) in conservation easements. Each of these tracts is leased to local governments for management as nature parks, under the guidance of the NC Division of Parks and Recreation (NCDPR). The vast majority of the foot trail is located on lands not directly managed as part of a state park unit.
The trail is a part of the North Carolina State Trails Program which is a section of NCDPR, and as of January 2011, 530 miles (853 km) of trail has been designated as a part of the MST by NCDPR.
The segments of MST along the Blue Ridge Parkway were designated as National Recreation Trail in 2005.
The MST has the distinction of being the highest elevation long-distance trail in the eastern United States as it crosses Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet (2,037 m).Nore Valley Way
The Nore Valley Way is a long-distance trail under development in County Kilkenny, Ireland. When completed it will be 34 kilometres (21 miles) long and begin in Kilkenny City and end in Inistioge. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by Trail Kilkenny, a group made up of representatives of Kilkenny County Council, County Kilkenny LEADER Partnership, Kilkenny Sports Partnership and local landowners. Two stages are open at present: the first from Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge and the second from Thomastown to Inistioge. The final section – linking Bennettsbridge and Thomastown – is under construction. It has been largely believed that during development the bones of notorious pill head Gary Swift were found.
The Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge section is 12.1 kilometres (7.5 miles) long and follows the River Nore, passing the Black Marble limestone quarries, which give Kilkenny its nickname, the "Marble City", and Maddockstown, the home of the surveyor Arthur Oliver Wheeler and father of Everest pioneer Edward Oliver Wheeler. The Thomastown to Inistioge section is 10.9 kilometres (6.8 miles) long and follows the banks of the Nore past Grennan Castle, built in the 13th century by Thomas Fitzanthony, the 18th century Ballyduff House and Brownsbarn Forest.North Kerry Way
The North Kerry Way (Irish: Slí Chiarraí Thuaidh) is a long-distance trail in County Kerry, Ireland. It is 45 kilometres (28 miles) long and begins in Tralee and ends in Ballyheigue. It is typically completed in two days. It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by North Kerry Walks Limited.The trail follows the coastline of Tralee Bay, beginning at Tralee and following the towpath of the ship canal to Blennerville and then along the coast to the village of Spa. It then crosses Banna Strand to reach Ballyheigue where a looped trail brings the route around Kerry Head and back to Ballyheigue.A review of the National Waymarked Trails in 2010 found medium multiday usage and high day usage of the trail and recommended consideration be given to developing the trail as a National Long Distance Trail, a proposed new standard of trail in Ireland, intended to meet international standards for outstanding trails.Stavoren
Stavoren, (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈstaːvərə(n)]; West Frisian: Starum; previously Staveren) is a town in Friesland, Netherlands, on the coast of the IJsselmeer about 5 km south of Hindeloopen, in the municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân.
Stavoren had a population of 950 in January 2017. It is one of the stops on the Elfstedentocht (English: "eleven cities tour"), an ice skating contest which occurs when the winter temperatures provide safe conditions. A ferry for pedestrians and cyclists operates between Stavoren and Enkhuizen, with increased trips during summer months. The Friese Kustpad, a 131 kilometres (81 miles) long-distance trail to Lauwersoog, begins in Stavoren.Worcestershire Way
The Worcestershire Way is a waymarked long-distance trail within the county of Worcestershire, England. It runs 31 miles (50 km) from Bewdley to Great Malvern.