Support for American Discovery Trail sought in Congress

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Would you like to see a trail that bicyclists can use to ride from coast to coast? One already exists. It’s called the American Discovery Trail.

American Discovery Trail

American Discovery Trail

Stretching for 6,800 miles across 15 states, most of the route is on non-motorized trails across public or private land with permission. Where a trail ends, the route-makers use low-traffic roads. The trail passes through parks, small towns and major cities.

Trail backers are trying to bring more recognition to the American Discovery Trail by getting Congress to pass the National Trails Discovery Act of 2014.

U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced the bill last month. “The American Discovery Trail connects trails in state parks and federal lands with county roads in rural areas and sidewalks in towns and communities from coast to coast,” wrote Coons.

National Trails System

The bill would make the trail part of the National Trails System and enable trail workers to post signs to help bicyclists, hikers and equestrians to navigate the route.

Congress created the National Trails System in 1968 to establish and promote trails in both urban and remote areas. At the end of last year, 11 national scenic trails and 19 national historic trails had been designated with a combined length of some 54,000 miles. In addition, 1,200 national recreation trails had been established.

There is an online list of the major trails in the National Trail System, as well as a map. Not all of the trails, such as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian, allow bicycling.

American Discovery Trail, Nevada, via

American Discovery Trail, Nevada, via

Coast to coast

Sponsors of the National Trails Discovery Act note that none of those trails go from coast-to-coast. Adding a long-distance “discovery trail” category to the scenic and historic trails in the 1968 law would create connections between urban and areas, parks, and public lands.

The trails runs from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

Senator Kirk also notes that adding the American Discovery Trail to the National Trails System would “drive tourism, boost local economies and bring national attention to (Illinois’) vast environmental treasures.”


The bill faces opposition, especially in the west where landowners are worried about federal intrusions on land. Peter Schoettle of the American Discovery Trail Society told the Associated Press that westerners in particular have a tendency to view any sort of federal designation as an expansion of the federal government.

He emphasizes that the bill wouldn’t create for any curtailments of building, mining, grazing or other uses of land adjacent to the trail.

Ted Oxborrow, 72, of Carson City considers the Nevada section one of the trail’s highlights, but most congressmen from the state are noncommittal toward the bill.

Oxborrow has ridden the Nevada section of the trail a dozen times, and wants to put up signs along the route to direct travelers as soon as Congress acts of the measure.

We’re hoping this bill to designate the American Discovery Trail as part of the National Trail System makes it through Congress.

Check the American Discovery Trail website for complete information about the trail, including state-by-state cue sheets.


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    • Laurel Foot on June 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm
    • Reply

    I just found your blog and think it’s terrific. My husband and I bicycled the American Discovery Trail in 1997 and 1998 (about 6900 miles except for the 700 miles or so that we backpacked since it wasn’t allowed or practical to bicycle in those areas). We used mountain bikes equipped with paniers. It was a great experience on trails or lightly traveled roads and we everyone we met was friendly to bikes. Since we did the ADT, even more of it is off roads.

    We are asking everyone we know to contact their Congressman and Senators to support the House and Senate versions of the bill and your posting of this article should help get the word out. Thanks.

  1. Here we are almost 5 years later and there is still no National Discovery Trail designation. But there is some good news, Senate bill S47 the Natural Resources Management Act passed in the senate 92-8. The bill contains a section authorizing the placement of ADT signs on federal land, signage is an important aspect of the ADT both for safety and publicity reasons. The ADTS is still working on the creation of a National Discovery Trail designation.

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