The plan to develop a trail through the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Region began to take shape in the early 1990’s when the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference began a multi-year effort to establish the NY/NJ Highlands Trail, covering over 160 miles from the Hudson River near Storm King Mountain to the Delaware River at Riegelsville, PA.
In 2006, AMC initiated discussions about extending the Highlands Trail into Pennsylvania when it convened two Roundtable Meetings at Nolde Forest and Kings Gap Environmental Education Centers. Participants included county planners, state park managers, land conservancies and recreational groups. These discussions helped to gauge the potential interest for a PA Highlands Trail Network (PHTN).
An outcome of the Roundtable Meetings was the formation of a region-wide PA Highlands Trail Steering Committee, which was created in 2007 with participants representing land trusts, state parks, trail organizations, and county planning commissions from across the PA Highlands Region.
The PA Highlands Trail Network Steering Committee developed a conceptual PHTN trunk route, focused on making connections between existing trails found throughout the PA Highlands region. This conceptual trail route was in part based on the realization that co-aligning with a network of existing trail systems in the PA Highlands would facilitate connectivity and provide opportunities to link some of the outstanding natural and cultural features in the region, including several state parks, national historic sites and landmarks, numerous water trails, scenic vistas and revitalized downtowns.
AMC and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference co-hosted a trail celebration in Riegelsville, PA in 2009 to mark the official beginning of efforts to develop the PHTN. A Highlands Trail marker was installed at the new footbridge over the Delaware Canal in Rieglesville. This event catalyzed efforts to continue the trail through Pennsylvania.