The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Baldwin County, Alabama, has been chosen as the top recreational trail in the country in the 2023 USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. The south Alabama trail took first place over 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. The awards were announced Friday, February 17.
“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.”
Established in 2003 as a multi-use recreational trail connecting Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Gulf State Park, the trail is a system of paved and unpaved paths and boardwalks providing trail users with access to several distinct ecosystems and outdoor recreational opportunities. Named in honor of Hugh Branyon, who served as superintendent of Gulf State Park for more than 30 years, the Backcountry Trail system features 29 miles of trails that are located within the park.
Recreational opportunities along the trail include biking, hiking, wildlife watching, playgrounds, fishing, camping and more.
“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.”