Urban Trail Loops: Connecting Communities

There is no shortage of research that confirms what most of us intuitively know – that urban trails make our communities better. People use trails to travel safely to nearby destinations, spend time in nature, spend time with loved ones, and for recreation. Trails also provide an economic benefit to nearby businesses by increasing customer visits, home prices tend to be higher closer to trails, and people often factor in greenspace when choosing where to settle down or relocate for a job, attracting a larger workforce.

While urban trails are fairly common, urban trails that form a loop are less common. Tucson, AZ, has the 131-mile Tucson Loop; Atlanta, GA, has its 33-mile BeltLine; and Denver, CO, is home to the 50-mile Urban Trails Loop. Anchorage has 250 miles of trails and about 32 miles of them connect to form the Moose Loop – a network of the Coastal, Chester, Campbell, and Ship Creek Trails that runs through majority of Anchorage. Not only is it a fun way to get outside, but the connected trails form one of Anchorage’s most well-known wildlife, which you are also likely to see while walking, running, or rolling along the Moose Loop.

An image of the Moose Loop trails connecting to form the head and back of a moose.
Anchorage’s Moose Loop

Urban Trail Loops: Community & Economic Benefits

Trail loops provide the same benefits as urban trail systems – increased safe non-motorized mobility, great access to the outdoors and improved mental health, and a greater sense of community belonging. They also provide a destination experience for tourists and encourage visitors to stay in a new city for an extra day or two by providing a unique place-based experience that shows off a city’s character and culture.

Pima County has an interactive map to help people plan their Tucson Loop experience. The map calls out lending libraries, farmers markets, restrooms, public art, special events, and exercise stations. It also provides construction updates, detour information, and the types of trail surfaces. Below is a screenshot or you can view the interactive map here. This allows for people to create the experience they desire and participate in whichever cultural events attract their attention.

A map of the Tucson Loop with icons showing interesting points, markets, cultural events, and more.
Pima County’s Tucson Loop Interactive Map helps people plan their trail experience.

The Atlanta BeltLine’s tagline is “Wherever you want to go, Atlanta BeltLine takes you there”. And with 33-miles of planned trails circumnavigating the heart of Atlanta, the BeltLine really can help you get wherever you need to go. Part of its mission is to make Atlanta a global beacon for equitable, inclusive, and sustainable city life and this is achieved by focusing on increasing affordable housing and economic opportunities for the people of Atlanta. The loop serves as a catalyst for equitable economic development that benefits all residents of Atlanta, allows for the exchange of cultural ideas and experiences, and the loop increases people’s ability to travel safely to access opportunities.

Multiple blocks showing the project goals of the Atlanta BeltLine.
The Atlanta Beltline’s project goals. Source:

A Unique Experience for Each Trail User

Loops can be intimidating for some beginner trail users, but they also provide a lot of options and opportunities for exploration. People can participate how and when works best for them, by walking smaller segments of the loop or tying in visits to playgrounds if they are recreating with children. More experienced recreational users can make a day of the experience, stopping along the way for food, beverages, rest, view public art, and take photos.

The Moose Loop is creating opportunities for Anchorage residents and visitors alike to spend time outside, be active, learn more about city’s cultural heritage via interpretive signage, and connect with others. If you’d like to explore more of Anchorage’s urban trails, the Anchorage Park Foundation is hosting the Moose Loop Virtual Race September 23rd – 30th. Choose between 5k, 10k, Mini Moose (12.75k), or Mighty Moose (51.5k) options to find the best experience – and every dollar raised by APF supports Anchorage parks and trails.

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