National Recreation Trail (NRT) is a designation given to existing trails that contribute to health, conservation, and recreation goals in the United States. Over 1,148 trails in all 50 U.S. states, available for public use and ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles (781 km) in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately owned lands. Trails may be nominated for designation as NRTs each year. The NRT online database includes information on most designated trails. National Recreational Trails are part of the National Trails System.
The National Park Service (part of the United States Department of the Interior) and the United States Forest Service (part of the United States Department of Agriculture) jointly administer the National Recreation Trails Program with help from a number of other federal and nonprofit partners, notably American Trails, the lead nonprofit for developing and promoting NRTs.
The National Trails System Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-543) authorized creation of a national trail system composed of National Recreation Trails and National Scenic Trails. National Historic Trails were added in 1978. While National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization. Through designation, these trails are recognized as part of America's national system of trails.
The National Recreation Trail Program, an independent advocacy organization, supports designated NRTs with an array of benefits, including promotion, technical assistance, a newsletter, email alerts, and networking. Its goal is to promote the use and care of existing trails and stimulate the development of new trails to create a national network of trails and realize the vision of "Trails for All Americans." A state-by-state index provide photos and details on featured trails. The first-ever NRT Photo Contest was sponsored in 2003 by American Trails and is continuing each year. A Request for Proposals for art projects on National Recreation Trails was also undertaken.