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Hikers Can Soon Circumnavigate the U.S. on the 12,000-Mile American Perimeter Trail

Rue Mckenrick

More and more of us are realizing that escaping into nature is good for the mind, body, and soul. A weekend car-camping trip or even a multi-day backcountry hike is enough to help us recharge. The most rabid nature-lovers, however, demand more — like a months-long thru-hike along the Appalachian Trail. But, for some, even that isn’t enough.

What happens when America’s longest long-distance trails just aren’t long enough? Rue McKenrick is dreaming big — bigger than the Appalachian Trail’s 2,190 miles and bigger still than the Continental Divide Trail’s epic 3,100 miles. The Bend, Oregon-based hiker is scouting routes that could form the American Perimeter Trail. Once completed, McKenrick sees a new 12,000-mile National Scenic Trail that roughly circumnavigates the continental United States along existing hiking trails, scenic roads, and yet-to-be-carved backcountry paths. Most importantly, he said in an interview with Fox 17, “It’s really important for me to get a buffet of everything around, not just something that has guidebooks written about it.”

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The seeds of the trail were planted for McKenrick more than ten years ago. Back then, he completed the long-distance Triple Crown by hiking the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trails — a total of almost 8,000 miles. It was a life-long goal, but he realized he wanted more. So, he began toying with the idea of an ultra-long-distance trail. In this case, he envisioned one that stitched together the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails with hundreds of smaller trails in-between.

America trail map
Rue Mckenrick

Designing a trail on this scale is dizzying. McKenrick is currently scouting routes in the Midwest while hiking west toward Oregon along the U.S.-Canadian border. Once home, he plans to form a nonprofit and begin formalizing the trail. If the history of the Appalachian Trail is any indication, it’s a process that will likely take decades. But, McKenrick admits that he’s fine with that: “I imagine this is just kind of gonna be my life’s work.”

What started as a passion project has evolved into a lifelong goal to preserve and protect large swaths of the U.S. for future generations. In a recent interview on Gaia GPS’s Out and Back podcast, McKenrick said he wants “to create a protected corridor of land and natural resources that will be available for recreational use.” He hopes that “even if you don’t care about conservation, maybe you care about hiking.”

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