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American Roads: Site Map > Auto Trails > Auto Trails Introduction

America's Auto Trails


A national system of auto trails was created in the United States beginning in about 1911. The system of roads grew out of the Good Roads Movement. The Good Roads Movement was founded in 1880, when bicyclists and bicycle manufacturers formed the League of American Wheelmen. The League promoted a system of good roads with their publicationGood Roads Magazine. With the rise of the popular automobile in the 1900s, good roads enthusiasts formed auto trail associations, starting with the National Old Trails Association in 1911, and the Lincoln Highway Association in 1912. By 1926, when the U.S. governement created the U.S. highway system, auto trails numbered in the hundreds. Some of these had little reality except on paper, but others were well known and well signed. Most of these auto trails began life as wagon roads, post roads, or cattle trails.


National and Transcontinental Auto Trails

The best known trails covered several states, or even stretched across the North American continent. The auto trails were not established by the U.S. or state governments. Instead, associations of auto clubs, businesses, and local governments worked to explore, map, sign, and improve the trails. There was great rivalry between most of these auto trail associations. They were competing for tourists dollars, and the attention of politicians handing out road improvement funds. Today's historic auto trail associations are much friendlier, and this site features a forum where common issues and interests are discussed.


Local Auto Trails

Many American states had auto trails that only existed within the state, or connected two states together. Although smaller, many of these local auto trails were just as important as the national trails. California's El Camino Real and Wyoming's Yellowstone Highway are well known examples. Quite a few of these local auto trails became incorporated into larger, national trails.


List of Trails

This site does not attempt to be exhaustive. It lists some of the better known American auto trails, and includes history, maps, photos, and information on their modern-day supporters and associations.



Copyright © S. Varner 2006