They were 48 and one dog strong Saturday morning, gathered at Katama Point, the start of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank’s annual cross-Island hike. The route would take them through 20 miles of land bank trails, ancient byways, paved roads and some private properties from Katama to Lambert’s Cove Beach.

“I don’t expect to see all of your faces there, but I hope that you enjoy the portions that you choose to walk,” said hike leader Bill Veno.

The first hike took place 21 years ago. “It was the inspiration of John Potter, the land bank’s foreman at the time. We wanted to commemorate National Trails Day somehow; most conservation groups in the country seemed to be enlisting it as a volunteer labor day but we wanted to do something coruscating,” recalled land bank executive director James Lengyel. “John had been raised in Weston and remembered with fondness Weston’s regular cross-town hike. We tried it in 1993, it was well-subscribed and we kept it up.” Mr. Lengyel has participated in every hike since.

The hike draws a diverse group of Islanders and visitors alike. This year hikers came from Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana, New York and Connecticut, just to name a few. Many, but not all, are veteran hikers. “It’s wonderful,” said Mike Snider, who was doing the hike for the fifth time. “You meet a lot of nice people, it’s beautiful terrain and you get to see different parts of the Island.” Dorothy Packer has done every hike but could not complete this year’s hike due to a twisted ankle right around the mid-point.

The route changes every year, with the start being the finish point of the previous year’s hike. The route is about 18 miles and is designed to be completed either in its entirety or in segments. A detailed map marks break locations so hikers have the freedom to join or leave at several points along the way.

“As with most of our endeavors we try to be hands off or low key and let the public come to their own appreciation of nature,” said Matthew Dix, conservation lands foreman and hike guide. “We only set a few basic guidelines.”

As they walked, hikers made new friends, caught up with old friends and admired the landscape. “Did you notice how many plowed fields we passed? Livestock? Stone walls? Brooks?,” said Mr. Lengyel. “Plenty to admire.”

After walking for more than six hours, 25 of the 48 original hikers (and more who joined along the way) made the slow and triumphant walk down the path to Lambert’s Cove Beach, where high fives and hugs were shared.

As tired hikers took off their boots, peeled off their clothes and jumped in the ocean, many said they planned to hike again next year. “It’s the best ever!,” said Lily Frankel, 18, who completed the hike with three friends from Yardley, Pa. “I’d do it again right now if I could.”

“Somehow when you’re walking through the forest you forget that you’re walking so far,” first-time hiker and Washington, D.C. resident Joan Nathan commented after cooling her feet in the ocean.

Felix Ocasio, who was on the Island working in Katama for the weekend, joined his boss on the hike. Growing up in Providence, Mr. Ocasio hadn’t been exposed to hiking before. “I’ve never done anything like this. I love it,” he said. “Next time though, I’m not wearing my street shoes.”

For more photos of the annual hike, visit Cross Island Hike 2013.