ROYALSTON - Three of America's picturesque hiking trails are now considered national parks, and one of them cuts through Massachusetts.
The 235-mile New England National Scenic Trail, which stretches from the Long Island Sound shoreline in Connecticut to the New Hampshire border, is now recognized as a unit of the National Park System.
The other trails also receiving the new titles are the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin and the North County National Scenic Trail that cuts a 4,600-mile path from Vermont to North Dakota. The Park Service says this designation will "increase public awareness and use of these amazing pathways."
In Massachusetts, the New England Trail takes hikers through Mount Tom State Reservation, Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Mount Grace State Forest and Royalston Falls. The hikes along the trail range from just over half a mile to 13 miles.
"The trail offers panoramic vistas and close-ups of New England's natural and cultural landscape: traprock ridges, historic village centers, farmlands, unfragmented forests, quiet streams, steep river valleys and waterfalls," the National Park Service says.
The New England Trail has existed for more than 50 years and received federal designation in 2009. It includes portions of the Mattabesett, Menunkatuck and Metacomet Trails in Connecticut and the Metacomet-Monadnock trail in Massachusetts.
The new designations bring the total number of existing national parks to 428. Three other trails, the Appalachian, Natchez Trace and Potomac Heritage, were already considered national parks.
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