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Excellent idea: The Great Plains Trail

May 6, 2015

You’ve probably heard of the famous Appalachian Trail, right? The AT runs about 2,180 miles through the eastern part of the United States, from Georgia to Maine, and was completed in 1937.

How about the Pacific Crest Trail? A lot of people have heard about that trail now, as it featured in a recent book and film. The PCT is newer, officially completed in 1993. It runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada down the western edge of the U.S.

Then there’s the Continental Divide Trail. Not as many non-hikers have heard of the CDT, probably because this 3,100-mile trail from Canada to Mexico down the mountainous spine of the American West has not been fully completed yet.

Taken together, the AT, PCT, and CDT are considered the “triple crown” of distance hiking in the United States. All of three of these trails take advantage of scenic, mountainous regions of the country: the Appalachians, the Sierra Nevada and Coastal Ranges, the Rocky Mountains.

But, hang on a minute – America’s not all about mountains. Our patriotic songs clearly indicate that the plains and prairies are just as important as the tall, pointy bits of the country.

God Bless America lyrics:

From the mountains, TO THE PRAIRIES,
To the oceans white with foam,

America the Beautiful lyrics:

For purple mountain majesties

Definitely something lacking here . . .

But – never fear – this is America, where All Things Are Possible.

A visionary group of people is already working to make a Great Plains Trail a reality! Even better, from my point of view – the potential route goes through western Nebraska!!

The GPT is proposed to include some sites I know and love (and have tagged as keywords on this blog): Toadstool Geologic Park, Oglala National Grassland, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, the Wildcat Hills, and, as the “about” section of the Great Plains Trail blog calls it, the “famous” Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Here is a very general proposed route for the GPT, downloaded from the Great Plains Trail blog May 2015. It’s best to go directly to the blog page, as the numbers on the map are explained on the text there, and I don’t plan to update this post as changes happen in the GPT planning.


In case you’re not good at identifying the square states out West, the potential states along the trail are, in sequence: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Colorado again, New Mexico, and Texas. (Sorry, Wyoming. You get left out this time.)

Think the Great Plains is boring flyover country not worth a distance trail? I recommend that you watch the PBS documentary “Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild.” Prepare to be amazed. (I love Michael Forsberg’s work.) Also, check out these classy posters from the Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition, which describe some of the wonders of the outdoors out this-a-way.

To learn more about the trail and the effort to make it a reality, check out the Great Plains Trail Alliance website.

I love this most excellent idea!

UPDATE: The editor of our local paper likes the idea, too. Ambitious Great Plains Trail would pass through our patch of paradise.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw, map image belongs to the GPTA

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