USA Today names Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail on the Alabama coast best in the nation

Gulf State Park
(Outdoor Alabama)

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Baldwin County is the top recreational trail in the nation, according to the 2023 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Established in 2003, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail connects Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Gulf State Park with 29 miles of trails. What makes it unique is its system of paved and unpaved paths and boardwalks, each providing trail users with access to several distinct ecosystems and outdoor recreational opportunities.

“We are excited for the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail to receive this award,” said Greg Lein, State Parks Director for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “We’ve worked together with our partners in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to offer access to some of the most unique habitats and recreational opportunities along the Gulf Coast. Thank you to everyone who voted for the Backcountry Trail as the best recreational trail in the country.”

The south Alabama trail beat out nine other trails located throughout the U.S., including Missouri’s 240-mile Katy Bike Trail – one of the longest Rails-to-Trails projects in the country – and the Great Allegheny Passage that connects Cumberland, Maryland, to downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Here are the 2023 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards for best recreational trail results.

Alabama Trails 

The brewpub will lay along the Chief Ladiga Trail. (Trail Link / Facebook)

Alabama has a number of nationally recognized multi-use trails across the state. 

Here is a short list:

  • Pinhoti Trail (Alabama Section) – Pinhoti National Recreation Trail – one of the top backcountry hiking trails in the country – stretches 171 miles from Coosa County to Cherokee County and continues into Georgia before connecting with the Appalachian Trail.
  • Chief Ladiga Trail – Begins near Anniston, this rail-to-trail travels 33 miles through Calhoun and Cleburne counties to the Georgia state line where it connects with the Silver Comet Trail.
  • Alabama State Lands Canoe Trails – Not all trails are footpaths. State Lands has created a canoe trail system that includes a 19-mile stretch of the Perdido River and the Bartram Canoe Trail on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. BONUS: Add the Alabama Scenic River Trail to the list too.
  • Oak Mountain State Park and Forever Wild’s Coldwater Mountain – Both trail systems have been recognized by the International Mountain Biking Association as offering some of the best mountain biking in the Southeast.

Alabama’s systems of recreational trails continue to grow. Be on the lookout for new and ambitious initiatives such as the planned Singing River Trail is a 200-plus mile greenway system that will connect the town of Bridgeport in the northeast part of the state with Sheffield, Alabama.

“This recognition from USA Today puts a spotlight on just how important recreational trails are to our communities,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “Trails like the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail help connect cities and residents with the natural environment and provide recreational opportunities that are important to our well-being and economy.”

Do you have a favorite trail in Alabama? Tell us on social media in the comments section by tagging us at @thebamabuzz

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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