On certain special hiking routes across the country, Scouts can look back even as they move forward.
That’s the promise of the BSA Historic Trails, a collection of nearly 300 hiking paths from 38 states, nine foreign countries and the District of Columbia designed to help young people connect with history in an immersive way.
You’ll find Historic Trails all over the United States — from the Iditarod Historic Trail in Alaska to the Barefoot Mailman Hike in South Florida. The list includes the Gettysburg Heritage Trails in Pennsylvania, the President Gerald R. Ford Trail in Michigan and the Mission Historic Trail in San Antonio.
Some of these trails follow the original journey or route taken by an important individual or expedition in history. Others connect several specific locations of particular historical significance.
“Experiencing the unique history of the areas we explore outside adds a deeper appreciation to adventures that Scouting provides and allows Scouts to learn the history that is right outside their doors,” says Andrea Watson, the BSA’s director of outdoor programs and properties. “We are so blessed to have so many well-preserved historic places to explore.”
All the trails on the official list:
- meet the BSA’s safety guidelines
- have genuine historic significance and/or wilderness beauty
- have elements that will appeal to young people, including something that can be seen, felt, walked through or experienced
Many of these trails are maintained by the local Scout councils in which they reside. If your council is on the official list (linked below), that’s a good place to start. Other trails are administered by non-Scouting public or private groups.
Hiking or camping near one of these trails is its own reward. But if it’s more tangible recognition you’re after, you’re going to want to earn the Historic Trails Award.
About the Historic Trails Award
The BSA’s Historic Trails Award is one manifestation of the connection between Scout units and historic societies.
Cub Scouts, Scouts, Venturers, Sea Scouts and adult leaders are eligible to earn the award by completing these three requirements:
- Locate a historic trail or site and study information relating to it. (The information may be obtained from an adult historic society, public library, or people living near the trail or site. You can find BSA Historic Trails here.)
- Hike or camp two days and one night along the trail or in the vicinity of the site. Options include an area hotel or the home of other Scouts.
- Cooperate with an adult group such as a historic society to restore and mark all or part of this trail or site. (This may be done during the hike or overnight camp.) Or cooperate with such a group to plan and stage a historic pageant, ceremony, or other public event related to this trail or site—such an event should be large enough to merit coverage by the local press. Your unit leader must then file the Historic Trails Award application with your local council service center
While you aren’t required to use one of the BSA Historic Trails to earn this award, doing so is strongly encouraged.
More about the BSA Historic Trails
Each trail on the list was vetted by BSA volunteers and professionals at least once every five years.
To submit a new trail for consideration, volunteers must use the official application (linked below), which gets thoroughly reviewed before a trail can be added.
Reviewers will consider the trail’s historical significance, its layout, and who is responsible for its upkeep.
Approved trails aren’t just those that are suitable for hiking. You can also experience the BSA Historic Trails program by camping nearby.
Links you need
- List of BSA National Historic Trails, sorted alphabetically by state
- Map of BSA National Historic Trails
- Historic Trails Award application
- BSA Historic Trails specifications and application
- Historic Trails Renewal Application, required every five years