Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail nominated again for “Best Recreational Trail” in USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards

Vote to make Alabama’s Gulf Coast trail #1 in the nation again

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Kay Maghan • Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
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Alabama Beaches’ Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is nominated for the second consecutive year for USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice “Best Recreational Trail” Award category.

As part of this nationwide competition, the 28+ mile trail – spanning nine ecosystems through Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park and Orange Beach – is up against a lengthy list of national competitors, including the Great Allegheny Passage (Cumberland, Md. to Pittsburgh, Penn.), Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho, and the Colorado Riverfront Trail.

“It is such an honor that USA Today’s editors have chosen the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail inside Gulf State Park as a nominee for ‘Best Recreational Trail’ for the second consecutive year,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Alabama has a wide diversity of natural landscapes, and our recreational trails are the best way to explore the state from its mountainous northeast to its coastal habitats. We strongly encourage people to vote to make our Backcountry Trail the top recreational trail again this year!”

Online voting for the Best Recreational Trail category is open now and ends at 11:00 a.m. (Central Time) on Monday, April 8. Votes can be submitted once daily per device (like a cell phone, tablet, or computer). The ten nominees with the highest votes will be selected as the 10Best for that category. Vote for the Backcountry Trail here: 

Nominees for all categories in the 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards are chosen by a panel of relevant experts, which include a combination of editors from USA TODAY, editors from, relevant expert contributors, and sources for both these media and other Gannett properties. The nomination panel for each award category is displayed on its associated contest page. 

“This makes the fourth category that Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are nominated for in the 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards this year,” explained Beth Gendler, President & CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. “For our beautiful Backcountry Trail to be nominated again after winning this category last year speaks to the quality of our trail and its attraction to people who want to be active in the outdoors. Being nominated again is a testament to the vision and partnerships of our two cities, Gulf State Park, and our state conservation and natural resources team.”

Gendler added, “I remember when the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail program started, and to watch as it has grown in mileage and popularity shows the value of and interest in outdoor recreation activities among our residents and visitors. It is such a tremendous asset to our community.”

For one Orange Beach city employee, the development of the trail and its continued recognition is personal.

“Once again, we are incredibly honored and excited to have the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail nominated for 2024’s Best Recreational Trail in the U.S.A.,” said Phillip West, Coastal Resources Director for the City of Orange Beach. “This trail, which began just over 20 years ago, has proven to be a game-changer for our area, creating jobs, growing tourism and enhancing the daily lives of our residents.”

West continued, “We are particularly proud of the fact that this unique recreational trail system is so wonderfully accessible to people of all physical abilities and affords everyone the chance to get outside and explore the backcountry environs throughout Gulf State Park from Orange Beach to Gulf Shores. So, a tremendous ‘THANK YOU’ from our team, which maintains the Orange Beach portion of the trail, to the folks at Gulf State Park, the USA Today 10Best editors panel, and all our great friends on the trail!”

For Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft, the Backcountry Trail provides a vital balance between development and nature.

“The Backcountry Trail provides the opportunity to experience the way the Alabama Gulf Coast was prior to the development of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach,” said Craft. “Gulf State Park and the Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail system are an amazing buffer to the developed coast and creates a vital balance between the natural environment and our developed communities.”

In addition to the Backcountry Trail’s nomination for Best Recreational Trail in the USA Today awards program, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are both nominated under the Best Small Towns category. Voting for Best Small Towns ends at 11:00 a.m. (Central Time) on Monday, April 1: 
•    Gulf Shores for Best Small Town
•    Gulf Shores for Best Coastal Small Town  
•    Orange Beach for Best Small Town Food Scene

About Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism:

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism serves as the official destination marketing organization for the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in addition to the unincorporated area of Fort Morgan. To learn more about Alabama’s 32 miles of white-sand beaches, visit either or This convention and visitors bureau is an accredited Destination Marketing Organization.

About the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Learn more at

About the City of Gulf Shores

The City of Gulf Shores is Alabama’s SMALL TOWN, BIG BEACH community dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents, guests, and businesses. Located on Alabama’s beautiful coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the City strives to be a desirable place to live, work, retire and visit through cultivating a safe, clean and family-friendly atmosphere. Learn more about the City of Gulf Shores at

About the City of Orange Beach:

The City of Orange Beach prides itself on being the steward of Alabama's beaches. Incorporated in 1984, Orange Beach has grown from a fishing village to one of the South’s premiere coastal communities, providing a superb quality of life and amenities for residents along with a safe and pristine environment for visitors to enjoy. As the city motto states, “Life Is Better Here." Learn for yourself and find more information about the City of Orange Beach at

Kay Maghan
Kay Maghan (36 Posts)
Primary contact for all media and travel writers