The early morning June sun begins cresting the ridgeline, shining into the valleys and painting the earth with the most beautiful hues of green that the human eye can perceive. Wildflowers blossom along the roads and in the potting beds of our homes. Aspens and maples shine brightly with their bright green leaves clapping in the wind, all mixed in with spruce and pine in our national forests. With the mountain peaks glowing in orange as the sun announces its arrival. It’s going to be a beautiful day.
With coffee poured, and day’s calendar gloriously empty, what’s one to do? Sit around and watch the news? Scroll the day away on social media? No, a day like this is special, meant to be spent outside, a national treasure that one shouldn’t take lightly. Here in Montana, there is no shortage of trails for the backpacker, trail runner, hiker, fisherman, mountain biker, or wanderer to get lost and discover on this day.
From the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide to the grassy hills and flatlands of Eastern Montana, cities, communities, and ranches, there are trails galore. Our state boasts National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments, Preserves, National Forests, and Reservations, all with miles of uncharted trails through beautiful mountains, canyons and meadows. Land that we all worked hard for so that we could enjoy it on this very special National Trails Day.
National Trails Day was created in 1968 when President Johnson signed the National Trails System Act into law. This act ultimately established the national trails system and the governmental organization of outdoor recreation and trail construction.
Twenty years later, in 1987, President Reagan allocated the resources to conduct a professional review of the nation’s trails to protect and expand trails throughout the country. That same year, National Geographic, the National Parks System, the Conservation Association, and senators from numerous states all joined the national effort to protect and improve America’s trails.
In 1991, in honor of the historical work that had been done to preserve and expand the national trails in America, the American Hiking Society dubbed June 5th National Trails Day. They wanted June 5th to be recognized as a day to celebrate and protect both the trails and the places they go through.
Organizations like the National Forest Service, Montana Wilderness Association, and Montana Conservation Corporation all lead volunteer trail crews to re-build, repair, and construct all trails throughout Montana. They lead everything from multi-day backcountry builds to simple, single-day trash collections, all with the guiding principals that President Johnson established over 50 years ago.
Today marks the 28th anniversary of this special day, and I hope every Montanan takes advantage of this gorgeous day. I suggest they grab their cameras and head out to enjoy the wonders of trekking any of the thousands of miles of dirt paths that wind through Montana.
You’ll be pleased that you do when you’re stunned by any of the multitude of scenic views, lakes, waterfalls, peaks, and ridges that remind us why we’re so lucky to call Montana home.