Last year, the American Hiking Society reported a 200 percent increase in hiking trail use in US cities from 2019. It appears that Americans are relieving their pandemic stress by discovering local hiking. And new ways are being built to meet the increased demand. We’ve rounded up some of the newest take-off routes around the country that make us hike, run, and cycle enthusiastically. Of course, responsible recovery is key during these times. So make sure to read local regulations, what you pack, unpack, and make room for others along the way.
Long Canyon Trail, California
(Photo: welcomia / iStock)
Visitors to Joshua Tree National Park can now explore a new 12-mile hiking route, the Long Canyon Trail, through the Coachella Valley. It begins in the town of Desert Hot Springs and meanders through the park and Sand to Snow National Monument, a designated wilderness zone that is one of the most biodiverse regions in Southern California, before moving into the town of Yucca Valley on the western edge of Southern California ends park. Although the trail is currently open, signposts and trail markings will follow shortly.
Redhead Mountain Bike Park, Minnesota
(Photo: Courtesy of the Minnesota Discovery Center)
Abandoned iron ore mines in Minnesota’s iron chain have been converted into a new network of trails for mountain bikers and hikers. Called the Redhead Mountain Bike Park, around 40 km of new routes were opened in 2020 after ten years of land reclamation, and more are in preparation. The trailhead begins at the Minnesota Discovery Center in the town of Chisholm and offers summer biking for all abilities, plus kayaking, canoeing, and paddling in the park’s 400-foot-deep, water-filled mine pit.
Palisade plunge, Colorado
(Photo: Courtesy of the CO Tourism Office)
The 32-mile Palisade Plunge is one of the most anticipated new mountain bike trails of the year and will be considered one of the longest single-track downhill trails in the country when it is completed in the summer of 2021. From the top of western Colorado from Grand Mesa (elevation 10,719 feet), the route travels over 6,000 feet through lava fields and aspen forests to the town of Palisade.
Spruce Railroad Trail, Washington
(Photo: Courtesy John Gussman)
At Olympic National Park, an upgraded 10-mile multi-purpose trail was completed on the north shore of Lake Crescent in December and is now open to the public. The Spruce Railroad Trail, formerly a historic railroad, connects to existing trails on the east and west sides of the lake and is part of the 130-mile Olympic Discovery Trail which, when completed in a few years, will connect the Olympic Peninsular towns of Port Townsend on Puget Sound and La Push on the Pacific.
Caliente mountain bike trails, Nevada
(Photo: Jennifer Agster / iStock)
This year, around 60km of new bike lanes are expected in southern Nevada near Caliente (about 150 miles north of Las Vegas), which is positioning itself as an emerging hub for mountain bikers. Already open are 13 miles of single track in Barnes Canyon and 13 more miles and one downhill trail in Kershaw-Ryan State Park, as well as a kid-friendly skills park in town. A ten-mile trail connecting the canyon and park is slated to open this year, and a 20-kilometer downhill trail from the top of 7,479-foot Ella Mountain is in the works for 2022.
Green Chile flow path, New Mexico
(Photo: Courtesy of Taos Ski Valley)
If you’re a mountain biker, there’s so much to love about the new 3.5 mile Green Chile Flow Trail, which opened in July 2020 as Taos’ first purpose-built downhill trail. First of all, you can take the lift there: Lift 4 of the Taos Ski Valley serves this route all summer. Second, it’s an addressable flow trail (read: no mandatory 20-foot tabletops) that riders of most levels can enjoy. The view of the Sangre de Cristos on the way down is lovely too. Other local mountain bike trails are being created by bike park builders from Whistler, British Columbia.
Crozet Tunnel Greenway, Virginia
(Photo: Courtesy Virginia Tourism Corp.)
The new Crozet Tunnel Greenway is located about 30 minutes from Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge Mountains and opened in November 2020 after almost two decades of construction. The 2.25-mile trail includes a nearly mile-long former rail tunnel that was first built in the 1850s and was once lauded as the longest rail tunnel in North America. Efforts to restore the historic tunnel as a path for hikers, bikers, and history buffs began in 2001. Bring a spotlight – the tunnel is not lit.
Babbitt Ranch Singletrack, Arizona
(Photo: Courtesy Larry Simkins)
If you hiked the Arizona Trail between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, you had to cover a large section of ranch roads as you traversed private land between Coconino and Kaibab National Forests. After many years of discussion, the Babbitt Ranch finally allowed the Arizona Trail Association to build single trails on their property, and the new 14 mile Babbitt Ranch single track, completed in August 2020, cuts through the juniper forest and overlooks the San Francisco Peaks. It’s a welcome new option for those hiking the 800 mile Arizona Trail or interested in a day or overnight excursion.
Lonely Mountain Trail, Texas
(Photo: Marcus Evans / iStock)
If you’ve ever driven to the Panther Junction Visitor Center in the north corner of Texas’s Big Bend National Park to experience the immediate area by bike or on foot, there has been no going there yet. The upcoming Lone Mountain Trail will change that. The three mile loop runs through the Chihuahuan Desert and circles the base of volcanic Lone Mountain. The National Park Service started planning the trail back in 2010. Construction is expected to start in 2022.
Main Photo: Courtesy of the Minnesota Discovery Center