On the 50th Anniversary of the National Trail System Act, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke May 31 recognized Corona Arch Trail as an official National Recreation Trail (NRT) along with 18 other trails. The system aims to preserve, celebrate and increase the nation’s outdoor recreational opportunities and access to public lands.
“By designating these new national trails, we acknowledge the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Secretary Zinke. “Our network of national trails provides easily accessible places to exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities across the country.”
There are more than 1,000 NRTs located throughout all 50 states. “The BLM Moab Field Office is pleased to have the Corona Arch Trail recognized as a National Recreation Trail,” said Lance Porter, BLM Canyon Country district manager. “We encourage people to visit, explore and help take care of our natural resources and trails.”
The timing of the announcement coincided with the June 2 American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day wherein hundreds of organized activities, from hikes to educational programs and trail rehabilitation projects, took place across the country. Trails of the National Recreation Trails system range from less than a mile to 485 miles in length and have been designated on federal, state, municipal and privately owned lands.
The Corona Arch trail is a three-mile round trip and leads to an impressive 140- by 105-foot opening and the adjacent Bow Tie Arch. The trailhead is about 14 driving miles from Moab along the Colorado River. The BLM acquired Corona Arch in May 2014 from the Utah State Trust Lands Administration as part of a larger land exchange. Since the acquisition, BLM has focused on how to integrate the public lands into a recreational hiking area that protects the area from damage. This includes the permanent restriction of roped activities in 2016 from activities such as climbing, rappelling and creating a rope-swing.
Corona Arch received an uptick in public attention in 2012 when the popular YouTube account DevinSuperTramp uploaded a video titled “World’s Largest Rope Swing.” It followed a group of friends as they swung from the arch, and to date, has received more than 27 million views. The viral video created a number of “copy cat” repeaters, including a 22-year-old Utah resident, Kyle Lee Stocking, who fell to his death in 2013 from the arch. He had miscalculated the length of rope needed to swing from the top of the arch. “The BLM has received many complaints that roped activities, including swinging from the arches, conflicts with other visitors’ use and enjoyment of the arches,” wrote Edwin L. Roberson, Utah State Director in the official documentation for permanent restriction of rope activities in 2017. “People setting up and using swings and rappels from the arches endanger both themselves and those viewing from below.”
In order for an area to become recognized as an NRT, the trail must be open to the public for at least ten consecutive years and be maintained to a standard that keeps up with anticipated uses. The benefits of the title include access to funding opportunities for trail improvements from NRT partners and the state government. The trail will also be on a national online database sponsored by americantrails.org.
The Moab Field Office has two other trails that are part of the National Recreation Trail System: Moab Slickrock Bike Trail and Fisher Towers Trail.
While national scenic trails and national historic trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, national recreation trails may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture in response to an application from the trail’s managing agency or organization.
The National Recreation Trails Program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trails website.
In a press release about National Trails Day, National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said, “The network of national recreation trails offers expansive opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System, I hope everyone will take advantage of a nearby national trail to hike or bike.”