national recreation trail


Well-shaded portion of the trail by Richard O'Neill


Short video of a beautiful 5 mile loop hike I did in the Marin Highlands. I loved the rolling hills and seaside cliffs which gave a relatively short hike lots of variety.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, May 2017


On this day in 1946, the General Land Office and the Grazing Service merged and became the Bureau of Land Management within the Department of the Interior (@americasgreatoutdoors).  With historical roots spanning 200+ years, the BLM now manages many places – like ghost towns, mining camps, and homesteads – that give visitors a glimpse of our nation’s history.

And we manage national monuments, wilderness, wild and scenic rivers and other specially-designated areas as well as recreation areas - from backyard to backcountry - with an eye to the future.

Today, on our 69th “birthday,” we share a few of those amazing landscapes.  


Take the Backroads – #mypubliclandsroadtrip explores the sights along the Steese Highway in Alaska!

Modern day travelers can follow historic mining trails on the Steese Highway that once guided a torrent of prospectors to Interior Alaska’s goldfields.  Here you can explore the vast landscape of the Great Interior, traditional home of the Athabascan people, and encounter local people who still hunt, trap, and mine in the same spirit as earlier Alaskans.

The 175-mile-long Steese Highway (Alaska Route 6) connects Fairbanks with the small town of Circle on the bank of the mighty Yukon River. Only the first 80 miles of the Steese Highway are paved, but the road is maintained year-round.

In addition to its own scenic and historic attractions, the highway also provides access to a world of outdoor adventure on BLM-managed public lands north of Fairbanks. From the Steese Highway, you can explore the Steese National Conservation Area, the White Mountains National Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River, and Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River

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In honor of yesterday’s #GoldenGlobes!

The sun sets over the stunning Fisher Towers, a BLM National Recreation Trail and iconic hiking destination, in this photo by Jerry Sintz. The hiking trail hugs the cliffs under the soaring Fisher Towers in Utah, the tallest of which is called “The Titan”. The Fisher Towers trail is 2.2 miles long (4hrs round-trip) and features a ladder which helps hikers negotiate a difficult section. Off in the distance you see the Colorado River, Castle Valley, Fisher Mesa, and the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah.

The towers are composed of Moenkopi and Cutler sandstones, and have eroded into many fantastical shapes. Hike this trail and you’ll find yourself in a location which has “starred” in many movies and commercials, from John Wayne’s Commancheros and Wagon Train to Billy Crystal’s City Slickers II and John Carter of Mars.


On the way to Zion National Park, mountain bikers can check out singletrack, ladder bridges and flow trails on BLM Utah #mypubliclandsroadtrip stops!

Gooseberry Mesa

Gooseberry Mesa National Recreation Trail, located in southern Utah’s red rock country, is designed for technical mountain biking. Singletrack and slickrock wind across the mesa top in a series of interconnected trails bisected by a dirt road. Rising to the north are the massive sandstone sentinels of Zion National Park. Spread out below the west rim is a panorama of colorful desert mesas and water carved canyons. (Photo by Leslie Kehmeier, International Mountain Biking Association)

Three Peaks Recreation Area

Three Peaks Recreation Area offers mountain biking and more – places to camp, rock crawl, disc golf, ride OHVs and fly model air planes.  Within the approximately 25 miles of mountain bike trails, unique ladder bridges can be ridden as optional lines.(BLM Utah photo)

Iron Hill Trail System

One of the newest trails built in southern Utah is the Lichen It and Lava Flow loop. This is a 4.5 mile loop with a 2.5 mile gentle uphill ride with a fast 2 mile downhill flow trail. These two trails are the first of many more miles being planned and built so stop in often and ride the new trails as the system grows! (BLM Utah photo)


Check Out the August #conservationlands15 “Top 15″:  15 Amazing Urban Escapes on BLM’s National Conservation Lands! Close to Home, but A World Away.

1. Alaska, Steese National Conservation Area, Pinell Mountain Trail. Just over 2 hours from Fairbanks, this northernmost of U. S. National Recreation Trails traverses 27 miles of rolling tundra offering day hiking and backpack opportunities.  Come for the summer solstice to view the midnight sun.

2. Arizona, Hells Canyon Wilderness, Spring Valley Trail. A short 25 mile drive from Phoenix, this trail’s relatively gentle grades is great for the whole family. In addition to an array of Sonoran Desert wildlife, the resident burros may be seen along the trail.

3. California, California Coastal National Monument, Point Arena-Stornetta Unit. A 2-½ hour scenic drive from San Francisco through California’s wine country  enables San Francisco residents to escape the city for the small hamlet of Point Arena and its spectacular coastal headlands.  

4. California, North Fork American Wild and Scenic River. Follow the 49’rs and pan for gold in this crystal clear stream just an hour from Sacramento. 

5. Colorado, Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area.  Just an hour from Colorado Springs and 2 hours from Denver, Beaver Creek offers miles of trail as well as fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Its lower elevation allows for an extended hiking season in comparison to Colorado’s high-country.

6. Florida, Jupiter Inlet Outstanding Natural Area. Less than 2 hours from Miami and even closer to Fort Lauderdale lies this historic lighthouse and surrounding restored coastal habitats.  Take a gentle walk along a trail and boardwalk to learn about the site’s important role in World War II.  

7. Idaho, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Just south of Boise, this bird-watching mecca is close enough for an after work trip and boasts one of the highest concentration of raptors in the world.

8. Virginia, Potomic Heritage National Scenic Trail. Just over 20 miles from the U. S. Capitol, the Meadowood Recreation Area provides a segment of the trail in a pastoral setting.

9. Montana, Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. Drive a short ½ hour from Billings to learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the interpretive center then have a picnic along the cottonwood lined banks of the Yellowstone River.

10. Nevada, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. The entrance to Sloan Canyon, one of the most significant cultural resources in Southern Nevada, is almost within sight of the Las Vegas Strip. The area contains a concentration of over 300 petroglyphs.

11. New Mexico, Tent Rocks National Monument. Just an hour from Albuquerque and Santa Fe is an area of magical rock formations that seem to defy gravity. Hike through the unique array of hoodoos and a narrow slot canyon, and then enjoy a picnic under the pinyons. 

12. Oregon, Deschutes Wild and Scenic River. Two hours from Portland, the Deschutes is Central Oregon’s playground. Visitors can fish for steelhead and salmon or raft the exciting whitewater.

13. Utah, Cedar Mountain Wilderness. This vast 100,000 acre area is only an hour west of Salt Lake City.  It is a true wilderness experience with no formal trails.  Hardy-well prepared visitors will be rewarded with solitude and expansive vistas of the Great Basin.

14. Washington, San Juan Islands National Monument. Take a ferry from Seattle and escape to this archipelago of fir clad islands.  The National Monument includes several lighthouses, hiking trails and sea kayak campsites. 

15. Wyoming, National Historic Trails Visitor Center. Located right in Casper, Wyoming off of highway I-25. The Trails Center offers extensive interpretive materials and programs describing the emigrant trails that led to settling of the west.

Join us next month for the September #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover and our Top 15 - Wilderness Adventures on National Conservation Lands.


@AmericanHiking’s Takeover Continues on My Public Lands Instagram! Check out their information with extra photos here. 

“Did you know #AmericanHikingSociety hosts over 50 trail stewardship trips every year?  In 2014 alone, we organized 57 trail projects across the country working with federal land agencies like #BLM to identify areas that need the most care.  We equipped 449 volunteers with the tools they needed to put some love back into our trail system.  That comes out to 17,960 hard working hours put in by volunteers.  The success of these volunteers can be seen across 285 miles of trails that were improved, including the BLM’s Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument pictured here!

The monument is a remarkable location to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick.  A national recreation trail and the wheelchair-accessible Veterans Memorial Trail offer unique hikes and picturesque views. Volunteers spent the week building water diversions on a one-mile section of this heavily used trail.  These water diversions will help prevent continued trail erosion and ensure that the trail is accessible and safe for future hikers.”

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


“Biking With a View" 

Developed in the late 1990's through cooperative efforts, this system of Bureau of Land Management trails, sweeping across Gooseberry Mesa in southern Utah, received National Recreation Trail status in 2006. At an elevation of 5,200 feet, views from the mesa rims are spectacular. Rising to the north are the massive sandstone sentinels of Zion National Park. Spread out below the west rim is a panorama of colorful desert mesas and water carved canyons. 

Photo: BLM St George Field Office


The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The national monument, on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, includes a national recreation trail and ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level.

The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a “pyroclastic flow.” In close inspections of the arroyos, visitors will discover small, rounded, translucent obsidian (volcanic glass) fragments created by rapid cooling.

The complex landscape and spectacular geologic scenery of the National Monument has been a focal point for visitors for centuries. Before nearby Cochiti Reservoir was built, surveys recorded numerous archaeological sites reflecting human occupations spanning 4,000 years. During the 14th and 15th centuries, several large ancestral pueblos were established and their descendants, the Pueblo de Cochiti, still inhabit the surrounding area. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the traditional Keresan language of the Pueblo.


Meet Karen Deatherage – BLM Interpretive Park Ranger and recreational musher

Karen’s first grade teacher traveled to Alaska, sparking in her a dream to move to this amazing state when she grew up. To get to Alaska, she traveled over a year throughout the United States and Canada, visiting public lands and parks across both countries. During the summer, Karen works for the BLM in Coldfoot along the Dalton Highway, made famous by the reality show “Ice Road Truckers.” Karen had an Alaskan Malamute (the Alaska state dog) for 14 years. 

She skijored (had her dog pull her on skis) for many years and took the opportunity to mush anytime she could borrow some dogs. She also hosted Iditarod racing teams in her backyard in downtown Anchorage from 2006-2008, as well as handled dogs for the mushers at the starting line. She patrolled Denali National Park with a sled dog team, and most recently adopted a retired husky from the park’s kennel. Chinook is a fantastic all-purpose sled dog who can skijor, kick sled and lead any team of sled dogs down a mushing trail. “If you have a dog that likes to pull, you can do all kinds of fun recreational activities with them, including skijoring, kick sledding, biking or mushing,” Karen says. “I’ve seen Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and even Schnauzers pull people on skis or small sleds. My first leader on a team was an 8-month old black lab”. Karen’s dream is to someday rescue abandoned sled dogs and build a small recreational mushing team.

Fairbanks District Office employee Deke Naaktgeboren starts the Yukon Quest 300 sled dog race in downtown Fairbanks on Saturday. The 300-mile race is a qualifying event for the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, which started earlier Saturday, as well as the upcoming Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The race course follows Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River at several points before ending in the community of Central. Good luck to Deke and all of the Quest mushers!

Enjoy Your Public Lands!

The Bureau of Land Management, in conjunction with other agencies within the Department of the Interior, will waive recreation-related fees for visitors to the National System of Public Lands for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 20).

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The national monument, on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, includes a national recreation trail and ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level.

Photo: Bob Wick, BLM-California