Best Recreational Trail (2021)


This period of social distancing has many people looking for ways to get active in the great outdoors. Thanks to an ever-growing network of recreational trails across the country, staying active is easier than ever.

  • Chuck Huckelberry Loop

    Chuck Huckelberry Loop

    The Chuck Huckelberry Loop in Tucson comprises 130 miles of paved paths and bike lanes (with more on the way). The path is open to cyclists, walkers, runners, horseback riders or skaters and connects parks and trailheads throughout the city.
    Photo courtesy of Pima County

  • Virginia Creeper Trail

    Virginia Creeper Trail

    Extended for 34.3 miles, the Virginia Creeper Trail follows the path of the historic steam engine that once wound into the Iron Mountains. The rail-to-trail path winds through two counties – a favorite among hikers and bikers.
    Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

  • Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

    Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

    This 10-mile hike-and-bike trail meanders along the banks of Lady Bird Lake in the middle of Austin. The trail sees some 4.4 million visits a year, a mix of travelers who come to take in the views and locals who love the space as a place to recreate in the fresh air.
    Photo courtesy of The Trail Foundation

  • Swamp Rabbit Trail

    Swamp Rabbit Trail
    Greenville, South Carolina

    This trail in South Carolina is named after a railroad that was named after a type of rabbit, and now that the railroad no longer runs, this trail follows its path, along the Reedy River. The Swamp Rabbit Trail snakes nearly 19 miles across Greenville, from picnic areas and parks to schools and businesses. It’s a popular geocaching hotspot, too. 
    Photo courtesy of Firewater Photography/Kris Decker

  • Ke Ala Hele Makalae

    Ke Ala Hele Makalae
    Kauai, Hawaii

    This paved trail along Kauai’s Royal Coconut Coast covers 8 miles in two segments. It’s possible to rent bicycles in Kapaa Town, through visitors can also navigate the trail on foot. The name translates to “The Path that Goes by the Coast.”
    Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman / @hbgoodie

  • Buffalo Bayou

    Buffalo Bayou

    The multilevel trails of Buffalo Bayou Park follow Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive from Sabine Street in downtown to Shepherd Drive. This recreational path links several smaller parks and attractions. Walkers, joggers and cyclists enjoy a series of public art installations, as well as an innovative “musical scavenger hunt” using QR codes posted along the trails.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

  • Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

    Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

    The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail (a.k.a. the American River Bike Trail) is a popular, paved trail in Sacramento for outdoor recreation and also commuting around town. In fact, many residents use this 32-mile trail as their main path for transportation. It’s recognized as one of the nation’s longest, paved bike-specific paths in the nation. The trail will bring you all the way from downtown Sacramento (the Sacramento River) to the city of Folsom (specifically, Folsom Lake).
    Photo courtesy of Sacramento County

  • C&O Canal Towpath

    C&O Canal Towpath
    Washington, DC and Maryland

    The C&O Canal Towpath runs for 184.5 miles along the historic C&O Canal, once used by canal mules to tow boats along the waterway. This dirt and stone path makes it possible to walk, run or bike between Georgetown and Cumberland, Maryland.
    Photo courtesy of NPS photo

  • Great Allegheny Passage

    Great Allegheny Passage
    Maryland and Pennsylvania

    The gorgeous Great Allegheny Passage provides more than 150 miles of almost flat hiking and biking trail connecting Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Maryland. It was the first trail to earn a spot in the National Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
    Photo courtesy of Allegheny Trail Alliance

  • Katy Trail

    Katy Trail

    Katy Trail State Park represents the longest rails-to-trails conversion project in the nation. The largely flat 240-mile trail passes through the Missouri countryside – a popular option for runners, walkers and cyclists. The path has 26 trailheads and four fully-restored railroad depots along the way.
    Photo courtesy of Lokibaho / iStock


The top 10 winners in the category Best Recreational Trail are as follows:

  1. Chuck Huckelberry Loop - Tucson
  2. Virginia Creeper Trail - Virginia and North Carolina
  3. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail - Austin
  4. Swamp Rabbit Trail - Greenville, South Carolina
  5. Ke Ala Hele Makalae - Kauai, Hawaii
  6. Buffalo Bayou - Houston
  7. Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail - Sacramento
  8. C&O Canal Towpath - Washington, DC and Maryland
  9. Great Allegheny Passage - Maryland and Pennsylvania
  10. Katy Trail - Missouri

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning trails!

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James Brasuell

James Brasuell

James Brasuell

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Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman

Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman

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10Best Editors

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