America’s neglected hiking trails are more popular than ever—but they’re struggling

Our great walking paths deal with problems from climate change to lack of maintenance. Here’s how we can save them.

Magdalena Balazova looks out over a valley near the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Yosemite National Park, California.

My summer place is priceless: Not even Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates could buy it today. It sits on the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon, near the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s at timberline, where stunted trees give way to delicate alpine meadows bursting with flowers. A glacier-fed creek serenades me as I sleep at night.

I’ve been visiting my summer place since I was 14. Most of the year it’s covered in deep snow, but even in winter it reassures me from a distance. If I have trouble sleeping, I conjure the scene, and nature lulls me.

Fortunately it’s in my family, and I hope my unborn grandchildren will one day play in the brook as well. Yet, while it’s in my family, it’s also in yours. It’s my land and your land. It’s public land, part of a wilderness called Paradise Park.

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