American Discovery Trail


Sign at Cape Henlopen in Delaware
American Discovery Trail: Sign at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware
Map of the American Discovery Trail

The American Discovery Trail is the only non-motorized coast-to-coast trail in the mid-tier of the United states. The eastern terminus is at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, the western terminus at Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. As the trail is made up of interconnected recreational trails and roads, the route from Ohio to eastern Colorado is actually split into two parallel sections. Point to point, it is about 5,000 miles to hike from one coast to the other while hiking all the route of the trail is closer to 6,800 miles. Hiking is allowed over the entire route of the trail, biking is allowed on the majority of it (and alternative routes are readily available) while horseback riding is allowed on most of the route.

The American Discovery Trail passes through the District of Columbia and 15 states, touching 16 National Forests, 14 National Parks, more than 10,000 sites of natural, historic and/or cultural significance and intersecting with 34 National Recreation Trails, 12 National Historic Trails, 5 National Scenic Trails and many other local and regional trails along the way. It can be said that the American Discovery Trail is the backbone of the National Trails System. The American Discovery Trail is a new kind of National Trail in that it has come about through the work of dedicated volunteers and has been fully funded through private means. The ADT also brings new significance to the presence of urban and metropolitan trails as large sections of the ADT are via urban and metropolitan trails as opposed to the normal National Scenic Trail that almost completely avoids any and all contact with "civilization" other than when it has to cross roads or rivers.

Fossil Ridge area, Dinosaur National Monument
Trail to Fossil Ridge on Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado
Lower photo is courtesy of the National Park Service
Map and upper photo are in the public domain