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Long-distance footpath

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Long-distance footpath

Long-distance trails (or long-distance tracks, paths, footpaths or greenways) are the longer recreational trails mainly through rural areas, used for non-motorized recreational travelling (walking, backpacking, cycling, horse riding or cross-country skiing).

Any route named as a "trail" (or "way", in the UK) will probably be marked, or identified on a map, but it will usually only be described as "long-distance" if it takes the average user more than one day to travel from end to end. Typically, a "long-distance" trail, way or path will be at least 50 km (31 mi) long, but some in Britain are several hundred miles long, and many in the US are much longer.

In some countries, official "trails" will have the surface specially prepared to make the going easier.

In the UK long-distance paths are simply existing rights of way (over private land) "joined together" (perhaps with specially negotiated linking sections) to make a named route. Generally the surface is not especially prepared (which can come as a surprise to walkers from abroad, who find their distance-covering estimates need to be rethought to take rough ground into account) except in special places such as converted rail tracks, or some "busy" hilly areas where stone slabs are laid to prevent erosion.


Bicycle trails

These are used by bicyclists. Some are restricted to use by only non-motorized bikes while others are multi-use recreational (hiking, horseback riding, jogging, rollerblading or walking). Bike trails can range in length from under a mile to hundreds of miles, such as the Bike Trails in North America.

Canal system trails

These follow canal systems. A good example is the 525-mile (845 km) New York State Canal System in New York.

Coastal trails

These follow coastlines; good examples are the South West Coast Path, the Isle of Wight Coastal Path in England, the West Coast Trail in Canada and the Otter Trail in South Africa. A shorter example is the Gold Coast Oceanway in Australia. The Wales Coast Path is an 870 miles (1,400 km) long-distance walking route around the whole coast of Wales from Chepstow to Queensferry, opened in 2012.[2]

Coast-to-coast trails

These may be cross-country paths, or may follow roadways, or other ways, and often intersect with many other trails in the process. A good example is the Coast-to-Coast path in northern England, which—despite being perhaps the most famous long-distance walking route 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. A similar example, this time for mountain bikes, is The Coast to Coast MTB route (first devised by Tim Woodcock in 1992) that has the same trailheads as the Coast-to-Coast path in northern England, and enjoys an equivalent reputation amongst UK mountain bikers, but takes a mostly different course.

The American Discovery Trail crosses the continental United States from east to west. The Iditarod Trail, at over 1,000 miles, spans Alaska and connects the coastal cities of Seward and Nome. The 220-mile (350 km) Michigan Shore-to-Shore Trail crosses the state from one Great Lakes shore to another.

Horse trails

Many long-distance trails have sections suitable for horse riding, and a few are suitable for horse riding throughout their length, or have been developed primarily for horse riding. The longest horse trail is the National Trail in Australia. In the United Kingdom the British Horse Society is developing a network of horse trails known as the National Bridleroute Network.[3]

Mountain trails

Long-distance mountain trails are of two broad kinds, linear trails and loop trails. Notable linear examples include the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. Notable loop examples include the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Wonderland Trail (which encircles Mount Rainier), and the Tour du Mont Blanc (which passes through the Alps of France, Switzerland, and Italy). The first long-distance hiking trail in the US was created in 1910 and named The Long Trail. The Great Himalaya Trail is proposed to follow the Greater Himalaya Range from Namche Barwa in Tibet to Nanga Parbat in Pakistan forming the world's highest mountain trail.

National Trails

National Trails are a network of officially sanctioned, well-maintained and well-waymarked routes across England and Wales. Examples are the Pennine Way, and the South West Coast Path. The equivalent routes in Scotland are Long Distance Routes such as the West Highland Way.

Peninsular trails

The Kerry Way in south-west Ireland circumnavigates the highest mountain range in Ireland. Along with the adjoining Dingle Way it is noted for its scenic views of the Atlantic, loughs and mountains.

Cross-country trails

Among the longest are;

Cross-continent trails

Among the longest is the European walking route E8.

Rail trails

Rail trails are trails on old railway rights of way. There are two major kinds, rails to trails and rails with trails. In the UK rail trails generally are rather short; an example is the Longdendale Trail. In the US rail trails generally are among the longer trails apart from the major cross-continent trails.

See also


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