Trail Standards

"The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." Andrew S. Tanenbaum (computer scientist)

This quote applies equally to trails. What standards to apply depend on the purpose of the trail, who the trail users are, the required protection of the trail, and many lesser criteria. The group decided to take a flow chart approach to deciding which standards apply, starting from a high level triumverate:

  • Trail Purpose
  • Resource Protection
  • Trail Experience 


From these lofty goals, we will eventually boil down to the low level details about permited grades, surface, width, clearance, and sideslope. These parameters are well documented and don't need to be invented. What does need doing is classifying our trails starting from the triumverate above. This classification determines which standard applies to any particular trail segment and allows the assessment process to proceed to determine if that segment meets the standard.

Orthogonal to the triumverate above, we have three topics that require different standards:

  • Trail Maintenance
  • Trail Construction/Repair
  • Trail Design 


The Trail Conference defines maintenance a little differently from most agencies/organizations. A trail maintainer strives to retain the conditions of the trail in as good or better condition than when s/he took on the responsibility for a section. They are expected to seek help when they can't achieve that goal, either because of natural causes, or insufficient skills or time. The Trail Mainenance Guide spells out what standards they should meet (subject to revisions mostly related to our expanded user groups and trail classifications). In particular they are not responsible for improving the trail to meet a higher standard. For this reason we have separated them off as a  separate issue.

Trail Construction/Repair and Trail Design are a cooperative effort between our partners, trail crews and trail management volunteers. They work from the trail assessment reports of trails or sections of trails that don't meet the standards of the classification. Both are highly constrained by the "possible", both in terms of manpower and funding available. The goals to meet trail construction standards must be stated in terms of utilizing the expected hours per crew member; thus increasing the size or number of crews and expending all the budgeted funds. Having all trails meet the standards of their classification is in the realm of a hundred year plan not a 3 year plan. Thus priorities are the important issue about what gets done in any given year. The alternative is to reclassify trails so that they already meet the standard of the new class.

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Trails standards, including


Trails standards,including trail quality, trail access, and trail information, will be refinedand further developed to meet the needs of non-motorized users.   At least 70 % of our trails will meet these standards by 2012



Trail Function

I.                   Enjoy Natural Beauty

A.     Walking

B.     Hiking

C.     Bird Watching

D.     Photography

E.      Observe Nature

F.      Health

G.     Interpretation/Historical/Cultural (signage, pamphlet, guide)


II.                Recreational Opportunities

A.     Hiking

B.     Mountain Biking

C.     Running

D.     RockClimbing

E.      Speed Walking/Trail Running

F.      Equestrian

G.     Education

H.     Snowshoeing

I.      Cross Country Skiing

J.       Hunters

K.    Geocaching/orienteering


III.              Destinations

A.     View Points/ High Points

B.     Waterfalls/lakes/ponds

C.     Thru-hiking

D.     Trail Connections

E.      Historic Locations

F.      CulturalHeritage

G.     Geologicalformations

H.     Habitat (unique, varied)

I.       Unique vegetation


Trail Experience

I.                   Safety (ADA)

II.                Noise Interactions (positive /negative)

III.              Aesthetics

A.     Good Design and Trail Construction

B.     Passes viewpoint/something of interest/ historical/cultural

IV.             Social Interaction (also safety and design issue)

A.     Interaction between user groups

B.     Noise of others

C.     Improper use


Resource Protection

I.                    Good Trail Design and Construction

II.                Buying Wood land and protecting wetlands

III.              Easements/trail connections to create biotic corridors.


Trail Signage (see if any in USFS, bring in Signage Committee research).

Trail Access (see if any in USFS....)