History buff and hiker? Satisfy your curiosity by hiking along the paths of these four historic American journeys.
The Pony Express
In April 1860, the Pony Express made history by using horse-and-rider relay teams to shuttle mail along a 2,000-mile route between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The company operated for only 19 months before Western Union completed the transcontinental telegraph system, which rendered their services obsolete. But during that year and a half, the riders and their horses had delivered some 35,000 items of mail—and reshaped the history of the Wild West. Today, the Pony Express is re-enacted in western movies, novels, and American imaginations.
The Pony Express National Historic Trail traces the route of the famed riders and offers a variety of hiking opportunities, including the Rock Creek Station in Nebraska, Devil’s Gate in Wyoming and the 125-mile South Pass Segment in Oregon.
The Trail of Tears
When President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, he created what would become known as one of the great tragedies of American history: the forced removal of almost 50,000 Native Americans from their ancestral homelands east of the Mississippi River. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail follows the path along which the Cherokee and other tribes were forced to march between 1830 and 1850. Thousands of men, women, and children died from exposure, disease, and starvation, irrevocably changing the course of American history.
As the National Park Service writes, “This is a story of racial injustice, intolerance, and suffering, but it is also a story of survival.” Visitors can hike sections of the trail in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, or Oklahoma. Check out their Interactive Trail Map to plan your trip.
You probably think of the Iditarod as Alaska’s infamous 1,150-mile dogsled race, which commemorates the winter trails that first connected ancient Native Alaskan villages and provided access to the frontier for the last great American gold rush. But did you know that in the summer, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maintains 150 miles of the trail for public use? There are even five public shelter cabins, all available to adventurous hikers.
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail
In honor of the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812, this 560-mile trail traces the land and water route connecting Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It commemorates the events that led to the Battle for Baltimore, the aftermath of which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the American National Anthem.
The historic trail is relatively new, having been established by Congress in 2008. It traces the movements of American and British troops, highlights the Chesapeake region’s distinctive waterways, and—with the help of informational displays and online information—guides visitors through reflections on how local communities were affected by war.