Two people in outdoorswear walking across a wooden bridge into a dense forest. To the right is the logo for the 2023 Year of the Trail initiative.

Discover the Natural Wonders of North Carolina: The Year of the Trail

Author: Secretary Reid Wilson

In North Carolina, 2023 is officially the Year of the Trail. They passed a law that says so. Really.

But for me, every year is the Year of the Trail. My body and mind need me to hike and bike in natural outdoor spaces. There’s something about breathing in the fresh air, taking in natural beauty, soaking up the smells of the earth and the sound of wind in the trees, and elevating the heart rate that nourishes every part of me. I feel great during it, and even better afterward.

I see the same kind of response in the folks I encounter out there; everyone’s in a better place when they’re done with their hike, bike ride, run, or paddle, no matter how tired they might be.

We instinctively know that this connection to nature improves our physical and mental health and our spirit. The proof -- consecutive record visitation in our state parks during the first two years of the pandemic. People needed to get away from all the stress, strain, uncertainty, and grief, and our state’s network of parks, trails, and greenways provided that escape and respite.

If you’re an infrequent hiker or biker, right now the Year of the Trail is a great time to kick it up a notch. You won’t regret it! Or maybe you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast looking for different places to recreate. Either way, we’ve got helpful information for you. Go to our Parks and Trails for Health (PATH) website –, or to, for lots of ideas for places to enjoy the outdoors.

Our PATH initiative is designed to encourage physical activity in North Carolina’s parks, greenways, and other outdoor spaces. PATH connects people to nature by promoting physical activity, fostering an appreciation for the life-sustaining role of parks and natural areas, promoting diverse experiences and voices in the outdoors, and helping people lead healthier and happier lives.

There are hundreds of state, local, federal, and non-profit trails, parks, greenways, blueways, and nature preserves throughout our state. They’re all good. These public recreational spaces are literal common ground for the people of North Carolina – places where everyone is welcome. But the main thing is to get out there on the trails and in the parks – it will enhance your quality of life, guaranteed.

And if you’ve got kids, definitely take them along. It’ll help establish a lifelong connection to the outdoors that will sustain their health throughout their lives.

Make this YOUR Year of the Trail.

Related Topics: