A Brief History of National Take a Hike Day

An African American man takes a hike on a trail

November 17 is National Take a Hike Day, an unofficial holiday that encourages people to get outside and onto nature trails across the country to celebrate the day. The event is currently championed by the American Hiking Society, and receives support from other organizations, including the National Recreation and Park Association and Palmetto Conservation Foundation. With more than 18,000 miles of trails in the National Park System, the opportunities to take a hike are endless.

In 1968, the National Trails System Act called for trails in both urban and rural settings to encourage greater public access to nature. Since 1968, 45 long-distance trails have been studied for inclusion into the system and 30 trails have been designated — the first of which you may have heard of, including the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail. All trails are maintained by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

Outside of these agencies, there are multiple nonprofits dedicated to protecting local trails in their communities. For example, The Trail Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing and connecting the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.

Robert F. Smith’s Efforts to Promote Outdoor Education and Recreation

Robert F. Smith has been a supporter of the Trail Foundation, as well as other environmentally-conscious nonprofits. One of the four principles of Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, focuses on conservation, outdoor education and providing the benefits of the outdoors to all people, regardless of age or background.

In 2018, Smith pledged $1.25 million to help fund The Trail Foundation’s Bridge at Congress Avenue project, in Austin, Texas, which was completed in the same year.

“Those of us lucky enough to call Austin home, and the many visitors to this city, use the Butler Trail at Lady Bird Lake every single day,” Smith said at the project’s groundbreaking. “An investment in the Trail is an investment in Austin’s future — one that will keep our most cherished outdoor asset safe, accessible and enjoyable for many years to come.”

This was not the first of Smith’s efforts to protect America’s outdoor resources. In 2007, Smith created Lincoln Hills Cares with entrepreneur Matthew Burkett. The charitable organization provides young adults and families from marginalized backgrounds the opportunity to access Colorado’s great outdoors for education and recreation, cultural history exploration and workforce advancement.

In 2019, Fund II Foundation made a significant donation to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the National Parks Service. This grant helped The National Park Service purchase the homes where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised in order to be preserved as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

Learn more about Smith’s efforts to protect the environment and other philanthropic outdoors initiatives he has supported over the years.