Great Plains to Interior Highlands Trail

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A Mile Zero Trail Association Key Project: The Link Trail

Three North-South trails - the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail - are considered the "Triple Crown of Hiking" in the United States. Making connections between them, however, is the future of access and use for these visionary projects in the nation. The Mile Zero Trail Association believes the greatest opportunity exists in the project we proposed and named "Southern Great Plains to Interior Highlands Trail," or the "Link Trail."

The complex window into the future - how we will use trails and how we will use time - is developing now.



Facts and
Highlights

Project Highlights

The Link Trail connects two nationally and internationally prominent trails - the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

The Link Trail connects the Southern Great Plains with the Interior Highlands, spanning from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the Appalachian Foothills.

The Link Trail connects other significant trails, including the Natchez Trace between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi.

The Link Trail advances a national trail system similar to the 15,000 mile Trans Canada Trail ("Great Trail") and 37,000 mile Grande Redonnee ("GR footpath") in France.

The Link Trail will privide a continental bridge to someday connect Florida's trail network with Arizona's trail network.

The Link Trail utilizes 650 miles of existing trails, including the Ouachita National Recreation Trail and the Arkansas River Trail.

The Link Trail utilizes visionary rails-to-trails projects, including the Tanglefoot Trail in Mississippi and Northeast Texas Trail.

The Link Trail connects other regional trails, including the Ozark Highlands Trail and Buffalo National Wild and Scenic River in Arkansas.

The Link Trail passes through the Southern Great Plains, including national grasslands, monuments and wildlife refuges.

The Link Trail passes through the Mississippi Delta region, Red Clay Hills and Appalachian Foothills.

The Link Trail may be considered the nation's first National Cultural Trail, a cross section of cultures of the American South and Southwest.

The Link Trail includes and connects over 20 percent of the nation's most iconic (natural, cultural, industrial and monumental) places.

The Link Trail includes about 33 percent of the nation's most iconic places when considering cities and regions uniquely connected to the trail.

The Link Trail connects cultural history, including Civil Rights monuments, Civil War battles, the Trail of Tears, ancient mound sites, and more.

The Link Trail connects diverse cultures, music history, folklife traditions, arts, architecture, religions, languages and other cultural interests.

The Link Trail offers a phenomenal cross section of the continent's geological and physiographic features, and promotes interest in nature and science.

The Link Trail presents opportunities for education and scientific study, including ecology, environmental studies, ornithology, wildlife biology, botany, forestry, and archaeology.

The Link Trail passes through 16-18 unique ecoregions, designated by the EPA, offering exposure to diverse landscapes, vegitation, wildlife and waterways.

The Link Trail may serve a population of more than 36 million people living on or near the trail, possibly hosting local civic events.

The Link Trail will benefit at least 360,000 local people annually if only 1 out of 100 people utilize any section of it each year.

The Link Trail will pass near, but not directly through many populated cities, including Albuquerque, Amarillo, Dallas, Fort Worth, Nashville and Atlanta.

The Link Trail is anticipated to pass directly through very few cities, like Little Rock, Arkansas, but to provide easy access to many others.

The Link Trail provides access for over 14 million Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Houston area residents to nearby mountain ranges.

The Link Trail passes through many of the Southwest, Central and Southeast regions' sparsely populated rural and agricultural areas.

The Link Trail presents many opportunities for economic benefits from tourism, markets and new local business activities.

The Link Trail generates interest in historic and cultural sites and unique environments along "roads less traveled" and in underutilized parks.

The Link Trail presents opportunities for thru-hiking and bicycle touring, as well as month-long, week-long and weekend travel.

The Link Trail offers a 10-month window for recreation, compared with the shorter 6-month to 8-month window of the North-South trails.

The Link Trail presents possibilities for sectional "loop tours", making it possible to plan exciting road trips or hikes in stages.

The Link Trail connects to the rugged Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, a challenging trail utilized by the annual Ride the Divide competition.

The Link Trail serves as an ideal route for a bike tour, perhaps even a multi-stage competitive bike event, that crosses an exciting series of American landscapes.

The Link Trail concept presents the opportunity to build the nation's first Intermodal Trail, supporting parallel driving, hiking, and bike/wheelchair access, along with provisions for future forms of transit and multimodal connections between attractions.

More information is available in Planning Details and Frequently Asked Questions.

North Texas Landscape


Stages of
Development

Project Stages

Describe the route as a "Roads-Less-Traveled" Auto Tour, so that it may be utilized within just a few months of launching the organization.

Advocate for approximately 100 miles needed to connect Dallas (leaving from DART connections in Plano, TX) to Little Rock and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Develop and promote member benefits, including travel, travel advice (such as custom loop tours that utilize the Link Trail), publications and merchandise.

Develop an annual or biennial conference to promote education and development of the trail, with ideal cities considered to include central locations, like Hot Springs and Memphis.

Develop Mile Zero Trail Association chapters to examine the feasibility of routes between Denton, Texas and Taos, New Mexico, and Little Rock, Arkansas and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Advocate for the future of some flexible trail sections to include intermodal travel, particularly by providing a parallel route for bikes and wheelchairs.

Promote interest in trails, from historic ones, like the Silk Road, El Camino Real and Underground Railroad, to modern ones, the Appalchian Trail and Trans Canada Trail.

Promote and participate in recreational activities that utilize the central section of trail from Plano, Texas to Hot Springs and Little Rock, Arkansas (400 miles).

Promote knowledge and interest in the dozens of historic trails that intersect the Link Trail and other modern transportation connections.

Promote recreation and education travel on the trail with specific campaigns that raise awareness of its unique resources, lands, cultures and opportunities.

Develop activities, such as mini-festivals, crafts fairs and farmers markets, to promote visitor interests and the cultural significance of the trail in communities like Medicine Park, Oklahoma and Raton, New Mexico.

Produce campaigns to promote health and educational uses, as well as environmental benefits, of the trail for local and long-distance use.

Advocate for and develop environmetally-beneficial projects, like the historic Shelterbelt program that protected the Great Plains with trees.

Develop a youth program and possible permanent youth camp site location to provide health and educational opportunities, and promote access to the national parks and trails.

Develop key facilities where needed, including campgrounds, backpackers quarters, visitor centers and other useful spaces as needed.

Promote a vision for sections of the trail that includes bike tours, benefits, environment and health education, and Shelterbelt tree programs.

Develop a Conservancy Organization for the Link Trail that should merit participation with the Partnership for the National Trails system.

Study the feasibility and promote an international, competitive bike race to take place in stages, similar to the ~2,200 mile Tour de France, that will utilize the full length of Link Trail B (LTB).


View more Planning Details and Frequently Asked Questions.


North Texas Landscape


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