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About the PHNST

National Designation

The National Trail System (NTS) was established through enactment of the National Trail System Act of 1968 (82 Stat. 919, Public Law 90-543) (the Act). The legislation also authorized "feasibility studies" for additional components of the National Trails System, including the Potomac Heritage Trail; such a study was completed in 1974 by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (this later was incorporated into the National Park Service).


A 1983 amendment to the Act (77 Stat. 43, Public Law 90-543) designated the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (’’the Trail" or PHNST) as a component of the National Trails System, recognized a corridor for the Trail, and assigned administration of the federal interest in the Trail to the Secretary of the Interior, which role is delegated to the National Park Service (NPS) to "enter into such agreements with landowners, States, local governments, private organizations, and individuals for the use of lands for trail purposes".


The Trail Today

The PHNST currently spans close to 900 miles and is a braided trail network from the Laurel Hills Highlands Trail in western Pennsylvania to the mouth of the Potomac River through five physiographic provinces and the Nation’s capital. Partnerships are at the heart of the Trail concept, creating a locally-managed, non-motorized trail network for outdoor recreation, education, transportation, health and heritage tourism. NVRC's 2022 Health, Social Equity, and Economic Impact Study highlights many of these benefits for the trail's surrounding communities. See below for an executive summary of the study. 

The PHNST blends outdoor recreational opportunities with rich ecological, historical and cultural environments. The trail network is intended for non-motorized modes of travel including, variously, foot, bicycle, boat, horse and cross-country skis.

Click on the image to the left to download the National Park Service's complete map of the PHNST.

Screenshot of Executive Summary page for the 2022 Health, Social Equity, and Economic Impact Study.

Visit the National Park Service website to learn about the trail corridor's... 

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail Map of network from Pennsylvania to the mouth of the Potomac River at the Chesapeake Bay
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