American Trails Recognizes Nation's Best Trails

Missouri comes out on top with the 2013 Best Trails State Award, recognizing innovative and successful trail sharing efforts, programs and systems.

| June 17, 2013

  • Scenic bike trail
    Trails are vital for recreation and health, to connect people with nature, and to protect and manage a state's natural resources.
    Photo by Fotolia/Jack Chabraszewski

  • Scenic bike trail

Reposted with permission from American Trails.

Missouri, best known as the “Show-Me State” and “Gateway to the West,” is home to an extensive trail system that allows users to explore the varied natural landscapes of the state. From the St. Francois Mountains in the south to the transitional plains in the north, users get the chance to see it all on trails.

Missouri’s comprehensive recreational trail system, maintained by federal, state and local agencies as well as private organizations, offers trails for all users, including hikers, backpackers, bicyclists, equestrians, paddlers and off-road vehicle riders. Missouri recognizes that trails are an important component of an outstanding and strong state, and vital for recreation and health, to connect people with nature, and to protect and manage Missouri’s natural resources.

A leader in this trail effort is Missouri State Parks, which offers almost 1,000 miles of managed trails and 2,900 acres of motorized riding areas in 87 state parks and historic sites. Missouri State Parks has been recognized as one of America’s best state park systems as a finalist in the 2011 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation Administration. Missouri is also home to many other state and federal agencies that maintain trails, including the National Park Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Forest Service, which manages 700 miles of trail through Mark Twain National Forest; and the Missouri Department of Conservation, which manages 600 miles of trail in over 800,000 acres of conservation areas. A multi-agency effort, led by Missouri State Parks and the Ozark Trail Association, manages the 240-mile Ozark Trail that crosses some of Missouri’s most dramatic landscapes. Additionally, there are thousands of trail miles maintained by various municipalities, local park districts, schools, colleges, churches, private entities, not for profit groups, and other local groups throughout the state. Missouri also offers over 500 miles of designated National Recreation Trails.

Missouri includes numerous significant trails. Lewis and Clark, Trail of Tears and the Santa Fe National Historic Trails pass through Missouri and the Pony Express, California, and Oregon National Historic Trails begin on its western border. Other nationally significant trails include the Mississippi River Trail, TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft Route, Historic Route 66, and Katy Trail, the longest developed rail-trail in the nation. As the “Gateway to the West,” the state offers historic places like Westport and Arrow Rock, and pioneers such as Daniel Boone and Kit Carson began their trail adventures in Missouri.

Missouri’s trail system would not be possible without the financial commitment and support of agencies and the public. In addition to using its regular funding, Missouri State Parks has been successful in using federal Recreational Trails Program and Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to build and maintain award-winning trails. They have enhanced this effort with assistance from the State Parks Youth Corps, recognizing the value of recreation in economic recovery by putting young people to work in state parks to build and maintain trails.

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