2024 NextGen Trail Leaders Celebrate National Trails Day®

From clean ups, to group hikes, and enjoying a cool down under a waterfall, American Hiking Society’s NextGen Trail Leaders brought their communities together on the trail in celebration of National Trails Day®!

American Hiking Society’s NextGen Trail Leaders serve as ambassadors to the hiking community, building a nationwide stewardship movement, and championing conservation, equity, and inclusion. The NextGen Trail Leaders’ National Trails Day® events united their respective communities on the trails for a day of fun, exploration, togetherness, and stewardship on the trails.

Brianna Cunningham (Meet Brianna!)

Brianna held a trail clean up event in Riverside, CA at Mount Rubidoux. Brianna remarked that Rubidoux was cleaner than remembered (which is great to hear!), so there wasn’t too much trash to clean up in the area. Still, seven volunteers joined for a group clean up and two hikers in the area who spotted them on the trail joined them in their efforts.

Brianna shared that organizing this event and celebrating National Trails Day® with her community was an amazing experience, and one that she’ll continue to build upon. She already has plans to work with the City of Riverside next year to draw in more trail stewards, and hopes to also reach high schoolers looking for community service hours.

Jonathon Flores (Meet Jonathon!)

The days Leading up to the 32nd Annual American Hiking Society National Trails Day® was one of sheer excitement. This was my first time participating, but it will not be the last. For this year’s event, I wanted to host it at a location that I was familiar with, but the attendees weren’t. Almost everyone who hikes or not knows about Eaton Canyon Falls, that is why it’s a popular trail. I prepared to host 35 individuals on this day hike, who the majority have never even heard of Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park and Nature Center in Pasadena, CA. Let alone that there was a waterfall at the end of the trail, but as the time approached for the celebration of our trails the attendance numbers began to dwindle which is usually common when an individual or group hosts an event such as this. By the time National Trails Day® arrived, we had six total attendees but it didn’t stop us from enjoying this beautiful gem. The seven of us embarked on a fun filled morning, identifying the local fauna and flora, treading through the brisk water from the waterfall, making memories and celebrating such a significant day. 

The day was gloomy, with a trail that was heavily trafficked, but arriving to the falls and seeing it cascade over the rock face into the plunge pool below. To our advantage, not many people were getting into the water, they were very much trying to avoid from the several water crossings to the waterfall and pool itself. Then again the temperature was a high of 63 degrees and the water was under 40 degrees, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We walked through the crystal clear pool to the waterfall and let it wash over us as if it was a hot summers day. The yelps and laughs from everyone getting their turn under the waterfall was what this day was all about. Not only celebrating the outdoors and National Trails Day®, but living life and taking in all that nature had to offer us that day. I managed to pick up some trash at the falls, not so much on trail: from empty plastic water bottles, socks that were left behind, beer bottles, soda cans and other snack wrappers, in total it was about 23 lbs all together. Thank you again American Hiking Society for not only the opportunity to be a NextGen Trail Leader, but for also giving us this opportunity to educate and show others around our local trails for National Trails Day® 2024! (Written by Jonathon)

Natalie Matias (Meet Natalie!)

I really enjoyed celebrating National Trails Day® and getting to connect with other queer folks in the Bay Area. Together, we were able to help maintain a bioswale at the Booker T Anderson Community Center in Richmond, CA that was put in place to help clean water before entering Baxter Creek, which eventually enters the San Fransisco Bay.

Shortly after, we shared laughs and stories over lunch and Athletic Brewing Co. drinks that were chowed down quickly! To walk off our meal and continue the party, we went for a leisurely stroll along the Bay Trail and spotted some pelicans, snowy egrets, and beautiful native plants. Many participants have reached out to me since the event to let us know they formed new friendships, learned something new about watersheds, and had a great time during the event. Thanks to AHS and all their partners, The Watershed Project, and everyone who participated for helping put on a great event! (Written by Natalie)

Blanca Moreno (Meet Blanca!)

A trail clean up, a tremendous group hike (see their group photo above!), and lunch? Blanca brought her community together for a fun and impactful day in the outdoors! Blanca shared, “Our National Trail Day® event was a very nice experience for everyone. I was quite surprised at how many people came, some of the comments we heard were that it was a good initiative, and that they hope that we continue doing these types of events, and that keeping the trails clean is very important to have healthy and beautiful mountains. Im grateful to American Hiking Society for supporting me in this event.”