• Outdoors Outdoors

Amtrak revives partnership with National Park Service to offer nationwide 'Trails & Rails' program — here's why it matters

"I'm glad they're bringing it back."

"I'm glad they're bringing it back."

Photo Credit: Amtrak

If you love riding trains and visiting national parks, the Trails & Rails program hosted by National Park Service volunteers offers something else to get excited about on your next trip, if you travel with Amtrak. 

The unique educational program has existed since 2000 but took a two-year hiatus in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Park Service

The partnership between Amtrak and the NPS allows thousands of park volunteers to share information and stories about national parks and historical and cultural places of interest with passengers on select Amtrak routes. 

According to the NPS, the Trails & Rails 2024 operating season runs from May to December at various parks, and programs are offered on 11 routes through national parks, recreation areas, and historically significant sites across the United States.  

These include Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, the National Parks of New York Harbor — where you can see the world-famous Statue of Liberty — and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta. 

Not only is the Trails & Rails program a fun way to engage passengers with public parks and historic monuments, but it also encourages eco-friendly transportation. According to Our World in Data, train travel is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to get around, producing far less pollution than flying, driving (even if it's an electric car), or taking a bus. 

And with Amtrak testing a fleet of high-speed trains on the Northeast Corridor that can carry 25% more passengers, train travel will be even cleaner in the future. Amtrak also partnered with Texas Central to develop a plan to create a high-speed railway linking Dallas and Houston in just 90 minutes, which would reduce planet-warming pollution by 100,000 tons annually.

The NPS renewed its agreement with Amtrak through 2029, per Trains.com, giving riders plenty of opportunities to take part in the Trails & Rails program. And who knows — you just might get to ride on a high-speed, fully electric train on your trip. 

"The Trails & Rails program itself is a unique opportunity to expose new audiences to the attractions of national parks, from the geographic, historic, or human side of the park," Dr. Bill Pollard, a longtime volunteer, said in an Amtrak Facebook post

"That is so cool! I'm glad they're bringing it back," another Facebook user said of the program. 

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