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A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, path or
footpath A footpath (also pedestrian way, walking trail, nature trail) is a type of thoroughfare that is intended for use only by pedestrians and not other forms of traffic such as Motor vehicle, motorized vehicles, cycles, and horseback, horses. They c ...

footpath
is the preferred term for a walking trail. The term is also applied in North America to routes along rivers, and sometimes to
highway A highway is any public or private road A road is a wide way leading from one place to another, typically one with a specially prepared surface which vehicles and bikes can use. Roads consist of one or two roadways (British English: ...

highway
s. In the US, the term was historically used for a route into or through wild territory used by emigrants (e.g. the
Oregon Trail The Oregon Trail was a east–west, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail in the United States that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of what is now the state of Kansas ...
). In the USA "trace" is a synonym for trail, as in
Natchez Trace The Natchez Trace, also known as the "Old Natchez Trace", is a historic forest trail within the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous Unit ...
. Some trails are single use and can be used only for walking, cycling, horse riding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing; others, as in the case of a
bridleway A bridle path, also bridleway, equestrian trail, horse riding path, ride, bridle road, or horse trail, is a path, trail A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, path or fo ...

bridleway
in the UK, are multi-use, and can be used by walkers, cyclists and equestrians. There are also unpaved trails used by
dirt bike Dirty Dicks is a Bishopsgate pub named after Dirty Dick who once owned it and was notoriously filthy.">Dirty_Dick.html" ;"title="Bishopsgate pub named after Dirty Dick">Bishopsgate pub named after Dirty Dick who once owned it and was notorious ...
s and other
off-road vehicles An off-road vehicle sometimes refer to as an overland or adventure vehicle is considered to be any type of vehicle which is capable of off-roading, driving on and off Pavement (material), paved or gravel surface. It is generally characterized b ...
, and in some places, like the
Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest and most extensive mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt ...

Alps
, trails are used for
moving cattle and other livestock
moving cattle and other livestock
.


Usage

In Australia, the term track can be used interchangeably with trail or walk, and can refer to anything from a
dirt road A dirt road or track is a type of unpaved road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two Location (geography), places that has been Pavement (material), paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by foot or by some form of ...

dirt road
to an unpaved
pedestrian path
pedestrian path
. In New Zealand, the terms track or
walkwayImage:Legaransegget.jpg, left, The Legaran Segget walkway in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. In American English, walkway is a composite or umbrella term for all engineered surfaces or structures which support the use of trails. ''The New Oxford American Di ...

walkway
are used almost exclusively except when referring to
cross-country skiing Cross-country skiing is a form of skiing where skiers rely on their own locomotion to move across snow-covered terrain, rather than using ski lifts or other forms of assistance. Cross-country skiing is widely practiced as a sport and recreati ...

cross-country skiing
: "walkways vary enormously in nature, from short urban strolls, to moderate coastal locations, to challenging tramps
ikes
ikes
in the high country ountains. Walkway is used similarly in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, where the " Grand Concourse", is an integrated walkway system. In the United Kingdom, the term trail is in common usage. Longer distance walking routes, and government-promoted long-distance paths, collectively known as
National Trails National Trails are long distance footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales. They are administered by Natural England, a statutory agency of the UK government The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her ...
, are also frequently called ways as in the
Pennine Way The Pennine Way is a National Trail in England, with a small section in Scotland. The trail stretches for from Edale, in the northern Derbyshire Peak District, north through the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park and ends at Kirk ...
and
South Downs Way The South Downs Way is a long distance footpath and bridleway running along the South Downs The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Ham ...
. Generally, the term footpath is preferred for pedestrian routes, including long-distance trails, and is used for urban paths and sometimes in place of
pavement
pavement
. Track is used for wider paths (wide enough for vehicles), often used for hiking. The terms
bridleway A bridle path, also bridleway, equestrian trail, horse riding path, ride, bridle road, or horse trail, is a path, trail A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, path or fo ...

bridleway
, byway,
restricted byway A byway in the United Kingdom is a track, often rural, which is too minor to be called a road. These routes are often unsurfaced, typically having the appearance of 'Green lane (road), green lanes'. Despite this, it is legal (but may not be physica ...
are all recognised legal terms and to a greater or lesser extent in general usage. The increased popularity of
mountain biking Mountain biking is a sport of riding bicycle Classic bell of a bicycle A bicycle, also called a bike or cycle, is a human-powered or motor-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle A single-track vehicle is a vehicle that leaves a si ...

mountain biking
has led to a proliferation of mountain bike trails in many countries. Often these will be grouped to form larger complexes, known as trail centers. In the early years of the 20th century, the term
auto trail The system of auto trails was an informal network of marked routes that existed in the United States and Canada in the early part of the 20th century. Marked with colored bands on utility poles, the trails were intended to help travellers in the e ...
was used for a marked highway route, and trail is now used to designate routes, including highway routes, designated for tourist interest like the
Cabot Trail upView of the commercial and residential establishments that exist at Pleasant Bay, along the Cabot Trail's northernmost segment The Cabot Trail is a highway and scenic roadway in northern Victoria County and Inverness County on Cape Breton I ...

Cabot Trail
, Nova Scotia, Canada and the Quilt Trails in the US. The term trail has been used by developers and urban planners for a variety of modern paved
roads A road is a wide way leading from one place to another, typically one with a specially prepared surface which vehicles and bikes can use. Roads consist of one or two roadway A carriageway (British English British English (BrE) is the ...

roads
, highways, and
boulevards A boulevard (French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located i ...

boulevards
, in these countries, and some highways continue to be officially called a trail, such as the Susquehanna Trail in Pennsylvania, a designation that varies from a two-lane road to a four-lane freeway. An unusual use of the term is in the Canadian province of
Alberta ("Strong and free") , image_map = Alberta in Canada 2.svg , Label_map = yes , coordinates = , official_lang = English , capital = Edmonton , largest_city = Calg ...

Alberta
, which has multi-lane
freeways network. A controlled-access highway is a type of highway A highway is any public or private road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two Location (geography), places that has been Pavement (material), paved or ...
called trails.


History

Animals created the first trails, which were "later adapted by humans". Subsequently, farmers moved cattle to market along
drove road , South Gloucestershire South Gloucestershire is a Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority area in South West England. It comprises multiple suburban areas to the north and east of Bristol as well as a large rural hinterland. South Gl ...
s and between
winter and summer grazing
winter and summer grazing
creating trails. More recently, former industrial routes, such as railway rights of way and canal
towpath A towpath is a or on the bank of a , , or other inland waterway. The purpose of a towpath is to allow a land , beasts of burden, or a team of human pullers to tow a , often a . This mode of transport was common where was impractical due ...
s, have been turned into recreational trails. Many historic routes, like the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was and is a network of trade routes connecting the Eastern world, East and Western culture, West, from the 2nd century BCE to the 18th century CE. It was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions ...

Silk Road
, the
Amber Road File:Baltis amber road.jpg, 250px, The route from the Baltic Sea The Amber Road was an ancient trade route for the transfer of amber from the coastal areas of Sicily and later from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Prehis ...

Amber Road
and the
Royal Road The Royal Road was an ancient highway A highway is any public or private road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two Location (geography), places that has been Pavement (material), paved or otherwise improved to a ...
of the
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, , translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient based in founded by . Ranging at its greatest extent from the and proper in the west to the in the east, it ...
, existed before the
Christian era The terms (AD) and before Christ (BC) are used to label or number years in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a ...
and covered great distances. The
Post Track The Post Track is an ancient causeway A causeway is a track, road or railway on the upper point of an embankment Embankment may refer to: Geology and geography * A levee, an artificial bank raised above the immediately surrounding land t ...
, a prehistoric
causeway A causeway is a track, road or railway on the upper point of an embankment (earthworks), embankment across "a low, or wet place, or piece of water". It can be constructed of earth, masonry, wood, or concrete. One of the earliest known wooden c ...

causeway
in the valley of the
River Brue The River Brue originates in the parish of Brewham Brewham is a civil parish in Somerset, England, consisting of the villages of North Brewham and South Brewham, on either side of the river in the River Brue, Brue Valley east of Bruton and sout ...
in the
Somerset Levels The Somerset Levels are a and area of , England, running south from the to the . The Somerset Levels have an area of about and are bisected by the ; the areas to the south are drained by the , and the areas to the north by the rivers an ...
, England, is one of the oldest known constructed trackways and dates from around 3838 BC. The idea of following a path or track for exercise or pleasure developed during the 18th century in Europe and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature associated with the
Romantic movement Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1 ...
. In earlier times, walking generally indicated poverty and was associated with vagrancy. In previous centuries long walks were undertaken as part of religious
pilgrimages A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, aft ...
and this tradition continues throughout the world.


Types

Trails can be located in different settings for various uses. These can include: *
Disability A disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the world around them (socially or materially). These conditions, or impairments, may be Cognitive disability, cogn ...

Disability
and wheelchair accessible paths in
sensory gardenImage:Blindengarten.jpg, Entrance to a sensory garden in Bremen. The 'Blind People's Garden' (''Blindengarten'') in :de:Knoops Park, Knoops Park is designed to allow people with visual impairments to find their way around the garden and experience it ...
s and all the above settings. * Gardens and designed landscapes: in private gardens and in public areas; and at park
visitors center
visitors center
s as natural history interpretive
nature trails A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, path or footpath is the preferred term for a walking trail. The term is also applied in North America to routes along rivers, and some ...
in designed
wildlife garden A wildlife garden (or wild garden) is an Biophysical environment, environment created by a gardener that serves as a sustainable haven for surrounding wildlife. Wildlife gardens contain a variety of habitats that cater to Native species, native ...
s. * A type of trail that was quite popular in the 1970s and 1980s but is less popular today is the exercise trail (also known as trim trail), which combines running with exercise stations. *
Jogging Jogging is a form of trotting or running at a slow or leisurely pace. The main intention is to increase physical fitness with less stress on the body than from faster running but more than walking, or to maintain a steady speed for longer periods o ...

Jogging
or running paths. Many
runners Sneakers (also called trainers, athletic shoes, tennis shoes, gym shoes, kicks, sport shoes, flats, running shoes, skate shoes, or runners) are shoes primarily designed for sports or other forms of physical exercise but that are now also wide ...

runners
also favor running on trails rather than pavement as they provide a more vigorous work-out and help them to develop better agility skills, as well as providing a more pleasant exercise environment. *
Parks A park is an area of natural, semi-natural or planted space set aside for human enjoyment and recreation Recreation is an activity of leisure Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or as free time. Free time is tim ...

Parks
: including
public spaces In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept to the sociological concept of the ''Öffentlic ...
, urban parks, neighborhood parks,
linear park A linear park is a type of park A park is an area of natural, semi-natural or planted space set aside for human enjoyment and recreation Recreation is an activity of leisure Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experien ...

linear park
s,
botanic gardens A botanical garden or botanic gardenThe terms ''botanic'' and ''botanical'' and ''garden'' or ''gardens'' are used more-or-less interchangeably, although the word ''botanic'' is generally reserved for the earlier, more traditional gardens. is a ...

botanic gardens
,
arboretum An arboretum (plural: arboreta) in a general sense is a botanical collection composed exclusively of trees. More commonly a modern arboretum is a botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants and is intended at least in part for s ...

arboretum
, and regional parks. *
Sculpture garden The Esplanade Ernest-Cormier, a sculpture garden in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with Melvin Charney's work ''Colonnes allégoriques''.A sculpture garden or sculpture park is an outdoor garden dedicated to the presentation of sculpture Sculpture ...
s and open-air museums, as
sculpture trail A sculpture trail - also known as "a culture walk" or "art trail" - is a walkwayImage:Legaransegget.jpg, left, The Legaran Segget walkway in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. In American English, walkway is a composite or umbrella term for all engineered su ...
s and historic interpretive trails. *
Educational Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion ...
and
Themed trail A themed walk is a walk Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gaits of terrestrial locomotion among legged animals. Walking is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in ...


Segregated trail

Trail segregation, the practice of designating certain trails as having a specific preferred or exclusive use, is increasingly common and diverse. For example, bike trails are used not only on roads open to motor vehicles but also in trail systems open to other trail users. Some trails are segregated for use by both equestrians and mountain bikes or by equestrians or mountain bikes alone. Designated "wilderness area" trails may be segregated for non-wheeled use permitting backpacking and horses but not permitting mountain bikes and motorized vehicles. Often, trail segregation for a particular use is accompanied by prohibitions against that use on other trails within the trail system. Trail segregation may be supported by signage, markings, trail design and construction (especially the selection of tread materials), and by separation between parallel treads. Separation may be achieved by "natural" barriers including distance, ditching, banking, grading, and vegetation, and by "artificial" barriers including fencing, curbing, and walls.


Bicycle trail

Bicycle trails encompass a wide variety of trail types, including shared-use paths used for commuting, off-road
cross-country Cross country or cross-country may refer to: Places * Cross Country, Baltimore, a neighborhood in northwest Baltimore, Maryland * Cross County Parkway The Cross County Parkway (CCP) is a parkway in lower Westchester County, New York, in the Uni ...
trails and downhill mountain bike trails. The number of off-road cycle trails has increased significantly, along with the popularity of
mountain bikes A mountain bike (MTB) or mountain bicycle is a bicycle designed for off-road cycling. Mountain bikes share some similarities with other bicycles, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain, which ma ...

mountain bikes
. Off-road bicycle trails are generally function-specific and most commonly waymarked along their route. They may take the form of single routes or form part of larger complexes, known as trail centers. Off-road trails often incorporate a mix of challenging terrain, singletrack, smooth fireroads, and even paved paths. Trails with an easy or moderate technical complexity are generally deemed cross-country trails, while trails difficult even to experienced riders are more often dubbed all-mountain, freeride, or downhill. Downhilling is popular at ski resorts like
Mammoth Mountain Mammoth Mountain is a lava dome In volcanology, a lava dome is a circular mound-shaped protrusion resulting from the slow Extrusive rock, extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano. Dome-building eruptions are common, particularly in converge ...

Mammoth Mountain
in California, or
Whistler Blackcomb Whistler Blackcomb is a ski resort located in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. By many measures it is the largest ski resort in North America and has the greatest uphill lift capacity. It features the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for moving between Wh ...
in British Columbia, where
ski lifts A ski lift is a mechanism for transporting skiers up a hill. Ski lifts are typically a Lift ticket, paid service at ski resorts. The first ski lift was built in 1908 by German Robert Winterhalder in Schollach/Eisenbach, Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, H ...
are used to get bikes and riders to the top of the mountain.
EuroVelo ''EuroVelo'' is a network of currently 17 long-distance cycling routes criss-crossing Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any s ...

EuroVelo
bicycle routes are a network of (currently 17)
long-distance cycling route Long distance or Long-distance may refer to: *Long-distance calling *Long-distance operator *Long-distance relationship *Long-distance train *Long-distance anchor pylon, see dead-end tower Footpaths *Long-distance trail *European long-distanc ...
s criss-crossing Europe in various stages of completion; more than was in place by 2020. EuroVelo is a project of the
European Cyclists' Federation European Cyclists' Federation (ECF) is an umbrella federation for national cycling organizations (organizations that promote bike for urban mobility and urban transport) throughout Europe. ECF was founded in 1983 by 12 bicycle Users' group, use ...
(ECF). EuroVelo routes can be used for
bicycle touring Bicycle touring is the taking of self-contained cycling Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, Physical exercise, exercise or sport. People engaged in cycling are referred to as "cyclist ...

bicycle touring
across the continent, and by local people making short journeys. The routes comprise both existing national bike routes, such as the Dutch LF-Routes, the German D-Routes, and the British
National Cycle Network The National Cycle Network (NCN) is the national cycling route network of the United Kingdom, which was established to encourage cycling and walking throughout Britain, as well as for the purposes of bicycle touring. It was created by the cha ...
, and existing general-purpose roads, together with new stretches of cycle routes to connect them. Off-road cycling can cause
soil erosion Soil erosion is the displacement of the upper layer of soil File:Stagnogley.JPG, Surface-water-Gley soil, gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that togeth ...

soil erosion
and
habitat destruction Habitat destruction (also termed habitat loss and habitat reduction) is the process by which a natural habitat In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the rela ...
if not carried out on established trails. This is true when trails are wet, though overall, cycling may not have more of an impact as other trail users.


Cross-country skiing trail

In cross-country skiing, a trail is also called a track or piste. Recreational cross-country skiing is also called touring, especially in Europe. Some skiers stay out for extended periods using
tents A tent () is a shelter Shelter often refers to: * Shelter (building), a basic architectural structure or building that provides cover * Animal shelter, a facility that houses homeless, lost, or abandoned animals; mostly dogs and cats * Homeless ...

tents
and equipment similar to bushwalkers and hikers, whereas others take shorter trips from ski resorts on maintained trails. In some countries, organizations maintain a network of huts for use by cross-country skiers in wintertime. For example, the
Norwegian Mountain Touring Association Image:DNT T.jpg, 200px, The red T marking the path; hall-mark of the tourist organization The Norwegian Trekking Association ( no, Den norske turistforening, DNT) is a Norwegian association which maintains mountain trails and cabins in Norway. The ...
maintains over 400 huts stretching across hundreds of kilometres of trails hikers use in the summer and skiers use in the winter.


Equestrian trail

Horse riding and other
equestrian The word equestrian is a reference to Equestrianism, horseback riding, derived from Latin ' and ', "horse". Horseback riding (or Riding in British English) Notable examples of this are: *List of equestrian sports, Equestrian sports *Equestrianism, ...

equestrian
uses of trails continue to be a popular activity for many trail users.The Bicentennial National Trail, Welcome to One of the World's Great Natural Adventures Horses can usually negotiate much the same grades as hikers, but not always, although they can more easily clear obstacles in the path such as logs. The
Bicentennial National Trail The Bicentennial National Trail (BNT), originally known as the National Horse Trail, is one of the longest multi-use, non-motorised, self-reliant trail A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the ...

Bicentennial National Trail
(BNT) in Australia is one of the longest marked multi-use trail in the world, stretching from
Cooktown, Queensland Cooktown is a coastal town and locality in the Shire of Cook, Queensland Queensland ( ,) is a state situated in northeastern Australia, and is the States and territories of Australia, second-largest and third-most populous Australian stat ...
, through
New South Wales New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...
to
Healesville, Victoria Healesville is a town in Victoria (Australia), Victoria, Australia, 52 km north-east from Melbourne's Melbourne city centre, central business district. Its Local government areas of Victoria, local government area is the Shire of Yarra Range ...
. This trail runs the length of the rugged
Great Dividing Range The Great Dividing Range, also known as the East Australian Cordillera or the Eastern Highlands, is a cordillera A cordillera is an extensive chain of mountains A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust 350px, Plates in ...

Great Dividing Range
through
national park#REDIRECT National park A national park is a park in use for Conservation (ethic), conservation purposes, created and protected by national governments. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state dec ...

national park
s, private property and alongside of
wilderness area A wilderness area is a region where the land is in a natural state; where impacts from human activities are minimal—that is, a wilderness Wilderness or wildlands (usually in the plural), are natural environments on Earth that have not bee ...
s. One of the objectives was to develop a trail that linked up the
brumby A brumby is a free-roaming feral horse A feral horse is a free-roaming horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms a ...

brumby
tracks,
mustering Muster may refer to: Military terminology * Muster (military), a process or event for the accounting for members in a military unit * Muster list, list of the functions for team members * A mustering, in military terminology, is a specialised for ...
and
stock route A stock route, also known as travelling stock route (TSR), is an authorised thoroughfare for the walking of domestic livestock such as sheep or cattle from one location to another in Australia. The stock routes across the country are colloquially ...
s along the Great Dividing Range, thus providing an opportunity to legally ride the routes of stockmen and drovers who once travelled these areas with
pack horse A packhorse, pack horse, or sumpter refers to a horse, mule, donkey, or pony used to carry goods on its back, usually in sidebags or panniers. Typically packhorses are used to cross difficult terrain, where the absence of roads prevents the use of ...
s. This Trail provides access to some of the wildest, most remote country in the world. The Bicentennial National Trail is suitable for self-reliant horse riders, fit walkers and mountain bike riders. Within the United States National Trail Classification System, equestrian trails include simple day-use bridle paths and others built to accommodate long strings of pack animals on journeys lasting many days. Trail design parameters for these uses include trail base width and material, trail clear width, trail clear height, access to water suitable for stock (not human) use, and trail routing.


Footpath

A footpath is a type of
thoroughfare A thoroughfare is a primary passage or way as a transit route through regularly trafficked areas, whether by road on land, dry land or, by Extension (semantics), extension, via watercraft or aircraft. On land, a thoroughfare may refer to anythin ...
that is intended for use only by
pedestrians of Alinga Street and Northbourne Avenue, Canberra Canberra ( ) is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the Federation of Australia, federation of the colonies of Australia as the seat of government for the new nation, it is ...

pedestrians
either within an urban area or through the countryside. An urban footpath is usually called an alley or lane and often paved (see also:
sidewalk A sidewalk (North American English), pavement (British English), footpath (Oceania, Oceanian English), or footway, is a path along the side of a road. Usually constructed of concrete or asphalt, it is designed for pedestrians. A sidewalk may acc ...

sidewalk
and ). Other public
rights of way Right of way is "the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another", or "a path or thoroughfare subject to such a right". A similar ''right of access'' also exists on l ...
, such as
bridleways A bridle path, also bridleway, equestrian trail, horse riding path, ride, bridle road, or horse trail, is a path, trail A trail is usually a path, track or unpaved lane or road. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, path or f ...
, byways, towpaths, and green lanes are also used by pedestrians. In England and Wales, there are rights of way on which pedestrians have a legally protected right to travel.
National parks#REDIRECT National park A national park is a park in use for Conservation (ethic), conservation purposes, created and protected by national governments. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state dec ...

National parks
, nature preserves,
conservation area Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the ena ...

conservation area
s and other protected
wilderness Wilderness or wildlands (usually in the plural), are natural environments on Earth that have not been significantly modified by human activity or any nonurbanized land not under extensive agricultural cultivation. The term has traditionally re ...

wilderness
areas may have trails that are restricted to pedestrians. Footpaths can be connected to form a
long-distance trail A long-distance trail (or long-distance footpath, track, way, greenway (landscape), greenway) is a longer recreational trail mainly through rural areas used for hiking, backpacking (wilderness), backpacking, cycling, horse riding or cross-coun ...
or way, which can be used by both day hikers and backpackers. Some trails are over long. In the US and Canada, where
urban sprawl Urban sprawl (also known as suburban sprawl or urban encroachment) is the unrestricted growth in many urban area An urban area, or built-up area, is a human settlement with a high population density and infrastructure of built environment. ...
has struck even rural communities, developers and local leaders are currently striving to make their communities more conducive to non-motorized transportation through the use of less traditional trails. The
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is an American philanthropic Philanthropy consists of "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life". Philanthropy contrasts with business initiatives, which are private initi ...
in the US has established the Active Living by Design program to improve the
livability Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United ...

livability
of communities in part through developing trails, The Upper Valley Trails Alliance in
Vermont Vermont () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Vermont
has done similar work on traditional trails, while the
Somerville Community Path The Somerville Community Path is a paved rail trail signage in Victoria, Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Austral ...
in
Somerville, Massachusetts Somerville ( ) is a city located directly to the northwest of Boston, and north of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2020 United States Census, the c ...
, and related paths, are examples of urban initiatives. In St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada the "Grand Concourse", is an integrated walkway system that has over of walkways, which link every major park, river, pond and green space in six municipalities.


Motorized trail

Motorized trail use remains very popular with some people, particularly in the US. Such terms as
off-road vehicle An off-road vehicle sometimes refer to as an overland or adventure vehicle is considered to be any type of vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physical system with ordered structural and functional pr ...

off-road vehicle
(ORV), four-wheeling, all-terrain vehicle, and others actually have highly specific meanings. The Recreational Trails Program defined as part of the
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-240; ISTEA, pronounced ''Ice-Tea'') is a United States federal law that posed a major change to transportation planning and policy, as the first U.S. federal legislation o ...
of 1991 mandates that states must use a minimum of 30 percent of these funds for motorized trail uses. Some members of the US government and environmental organizations, including the
Sierra Club The Sierra Club is an environmental organization An environmental organization is an organization coming out of the Conservation movement, conservation or environmental movements that seeks to protect, analyse or monitor the environment against m ...
and The Wilderness Society. have criticized off-road vehicle use on
public land In all modern states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Colum ...
. They have noted several consequences of illegal ORV use such as
pollution Pollution is the introduction of contaminant Contamination is the presence of a constituent, impurity, or some other undesirable element that spoils, corrupts, infects, makes unfit, or makes inferior a material, physical body, natural en ...

pollution
, trail damage,
erosion In earth science Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific ...

erosion
,
land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment A biophysical environment is a life, biotic and Abiotic component, abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that ...
, possible , and habitat destruction which can leave hiking trails impassable. ORV proponents argue legal use taking place under planned access along with the multiple environmental and trail conservation efforts by ORV groups will mitigate these issues. Groups such as the BlueRibbon Coalition advocate Treadlightly, which is the responsible use of public lands used for off-road activities.
Noise pollution Noise pollution, also known as environmental noise Environmental noise is an accumulation of noise pollution that occurs outside. This noise can be caused by transport, industrial, and Sport, recreational activities. Noise is frequently desc ...
is also a concern, and several studies conducted by
Montana State University Montana State University (MSU) is a public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a different concept ...
,
California State University The California State University (Cal State or CSU) is a public university #REDIRECT Public university #REDIRECT Public university#REDIRECT Public university A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state ow ...
, the
University of Florida The University of Florida (Florida or UF) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organisati ...
and others have cited possible negative behavioral changes in wildlife as the result of some ORV use. Several US states such as Washington have laws to reduce noise generated by off-road and non-highway vehicles.


Water trail

Water trail Water trails (also known as blueways) are marked routes on navigable waterway such as river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into t ...
s, also referred to as blueways or paddling trails, are marked routes on
navigable waterway A waterway is any navigable body of water ( Lysefjord) in Norway Norway ( nb, ; nn, ; se, Norga; smj, Vuodna; sma, Nöörje), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe whose ma ...
s such as
rivers A river is a natural flowing watercourse A watercourse is the channel Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path ...

rivers
,
lakes A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable ove ...

lakes
,
canals Canals are waterways channels Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path of a narrow body of water. Australia * ...
and coastlines for people using small non-motorized
boats A boat is a watercraft of a large range of types and sizes, but generally smaller than a ship, which is distinguished by its larger size, shape, cargo or passenger capacity, or its ability to carry boats. Small boats are typically found on inl ...

boats
such as
kayaks A kayak is a small, narrow which is typically propelled by means of a double-bladed paddle. The word kayak originates from the word ' (). The traditional kayak has a covered deck and one or more cockpits, each seating one . The cockpit is som ...

kayaks
,
canoes A canoe is a lightweight narrow watercraft, vessel, typically pointed at both ends and open on top, propelled by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers facing the direction of travel and using a single-bladed paddle. In British English, the t ...

canoes
,
rafts '' A raft is any flat structure for support or transportation over water. It is usually of basic design, characterized by the absence of a Hull (watercraft), hull. Although there are cross-over types that blur this definition, rafts are usually kep ...
, or . Some trails may be suitable for or developed in concert with motorized use. They include: signs and route markers; maps; facilities for parking, boat ramps or docks, and places to camp and picnic. There are also state programs and other promotion for water trails in the United States. The
American Canoe Association The American Canoe Association (ACA) is the oldest and largest paddle sports organization in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Contin ...
has compiled a database of water trails in the United States. The
National Park Service The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Institutions can refer to mecha ...
Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program has compiled a list of water trail resources, success stories, and statewide contacts for water trails.


Shared-use trail

Shared use may be achieved by sharing a trail easement, but maintaining segregated and sometimes also separated trail treads within it. This is common with
rail trails A rail trail is the conversion of a disused railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people o ...
. Shared use may also refer to alternate day arrangements, whereby two uses are segregated by being permitted every other day. This is increasingly common on
long-distance trails , Vancouver Island Vancouver Island, often simply "the Island" to residents of southwestern BC, is in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, and part of the Canadian Provinces and territories of Canada, province of British Columbia. The island is in l ...
shared by equestrians and mountain bike users; these two user communities have similar trail requirements but may experience difficult encounters with each other on the trail. The
Trans Canada Trail The Trans Canada Trail, officially renamed The Great Trail in September 2016, is a cross-Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend f ...
can be used by cyclists, hikers, horseback riders, and walkers, as well as cross-country skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers in winter. In the United States, the East Coast Greenway from Key West to the Canadian border and the September 11th National Memorial Trail, a triangular loop connecting the three 9/11 memorial sites, are two long-distance multi-use paths for cyclists, runners, walkers, even equestrians. In Belgium RAVeL network, RAVeL, French for ''réseau autonome de voies lentes'' (''autonomous network of slow ways''), is a Wallonia, Walloon initiative aimed at creating a network of route itineraries reserved for pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and people with reduced mobility. The network makes use of towpaths on river banks and disused Rail transport, railway or vicinal tramway lines ( narrow-gauge tramways). Old railway lines have been leased by the Walloon Government for 99 years using emphyteutic lease contracts. Where necessary, new paths are created to link parts of the network. In England and Wales a bridleway is a trail intended for use by equestrians, but walkers also have a right of way, and Section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968, permits the riding of bicycles on public bridleways, though the act says it "shall not create any obligation to facilitate the use of the bridleway by cyclists". Thus the right to cycle exists even though it may be difficult to exercise on occasion, especially in winter. Cyclists using a bridleway must give way to other users on foot or horseback. The seawall in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is popular for walking, running, cycling, and inline skating. There are two paths, one for skaters and cyclists and the other for pedestrians. The lane for cyclists and skaters goes one-way in a counterclockwise loop. Foreshoreway (also oceanway) is a term used in Australian English, Australia for a type of Greenway (landscape), greenway that provides a public right-of-way along the edge of the sea open to both walkers and cyclists.


Forest road

A forest road is a type of rudimentary access road, built mainly for the forest industry. In some cases they are used for backcountry recreation access. There is open access to most Forestry Commission roads and land in Great Britain for walkers, cyclists and horse riders and, since the Countryside Bill of 1968, it has become the largest provider of outdoor recreation in Britain. The commission works with associations involved in Ramblers, rambling, cycling, mountain biking and horse riding to promote the use of its land for recreation. The trails open to the public are not just forest roads. A notable example of the commission's promotion of outdoor activity is the 7stanes project in Scotland, where seven purpose built areas of mountain bike trails have been laid, including facilities for disabled cyclists.


Holloway

A Holloway (also hollow way) is a Sunken lane, sunken path or lane, i.e., a road or track that is significantly lower than the land on either side, not formed by the (recent) engineering of a road cutting but possibly of much greater age. Various mechanisms have been proposed for how holloways may have been formed, including erosion by water or traffic; the digging of embankments to assist with the herding of livestock; and the digging of double banks to mark the boundaries of estates. These mechanisms are all possible and could apply in different cases.


Rail trail

Rail trails or paths are shared-use paths that take advantage of abandoned railway corridors. They can be used for walking, cycling and horseback riding. They exist throughout the world. RailTrails Australia describes them as:
Following the route of the railways, they cut through hills, under roads, over embankments and across gullies and creeks. Apart from being great places to walk, cycle or horse ride, rail trails are linear conservation corridors protecting native plants and animals. They often link remnant vegetation in farming areas and contain valuable flora and fauna habitat. Wineries and other attractions are near many trails as well as B&B's and other great places to stay.
Most trails have a gravel or dirt surface suitable for walking, mountain bikes and horses. In the USA the Cheshire Rail Trail, in New Hampshire, can be used by hikers, horseback riders, snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, and even dog sled, dogsledders. In Canada, following the abandonment of the Prince Edward Island Railway in 1989, the government of Prince Edward Island purchased the right-of-way to the entire railway system. The Confederation Trail was developed as a tip-to-tip walking/cycling gravel rail trail which doubles as a monitored and groomed snowmobile trail during the winter months, operated by the PEI Snowmobile Association. A considerable part of the Trans Canada trail is repurposed defunct rail lines donated to provincial governments by the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways rebuilt as walking trails. Much of the Trans Canada Trail development emulated the successful Rails-to-Trails initiative in the United States. The Trail is multi-use and depending on the section may allow hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers.


Towpath

A
towpath A towpath is a or on the bank of a , , or other inland waterway. The purpose of a towpath is to allow a land , beasts of burden, or a team of human pullers to tow a , often a . This mode of transport was common where was impractical due ...
is a road or path on the bank of a river, canal, or other inland waterway. The original purpose of a towpath was to allow a horse, or a team of human pullers, to tow a boat, often a barge. They can be Road surface, paved or unpaved and are popular with cyclists and walkers; some are suitable for equestrians. Equestrians have legal access to all towpaths in Scotland, and there is a campaign for similar rights in England and Wales. In snowy winters in the USA they are popular with cross-country skiers and snowmobile users. Most canals were owned by private companies in Britain, and the towpaths were deemed to be private, for the benefit of legitimate users of the canal. The nationalisation of the canal system in 1948 did not result in the towpaths becoming public rights of way, and subsequent legislation, such as the Transport Act of 1968, which defined the government's obligations to the maintenance of the inland waterways for which it was now responsible, did not include any commitment to maintain towpaths for use by anyone.Screen, Andy. "Leisure Facilities on the Towpath". Inland Waterways Association. Retrieved 2012-02-03. However, some ten years later British Waterways started to relax the rule that a permit was required to give access to a towpath, and began to encourage leisure usage by walkers, anglers and in some areas, cyclists. The British Waterways Act of 1995 still did not enshrine any right of public access, although it did encourage recreational access of all kinds to the network, although the steady development of the leisure use of the canals and the decline of commercial traffic had resulted in a general acceptance that towpaths are open to everyone, and not just boat users. The concept of free access to towpaths is enshrined in the legislation which transferred responsibility for the English and Welsh canals from British Waterways to the Canal & River Trust in 2012. Not all towpaths are suitable for use by cyclists, but where they are, and the canal is owned by British Waterways, a permit is required. There is no charge for a permit, but it acts as an opportunity to inform cyclists about safe and unsafe areas to cycle. Some areas including London are exempt from this policy, but are covered instead by the London Towpath Code of Conduct and cyclists must have a bell, which they ring twice when approaching pedestrians. Parts of some towpaths have been incorporated into the National Cycle Network, and in most cases this has resulted in the surface being improved. In France it is possible to cycle, rollerblade, and hike along the banks of the Canal du Midi. A paved stretch of from Toulouse to Avignonet-Lauragais and another between Béziers and Portiragnes are particularly suited to cycling and rollerblading. It is possible to cycle or walk the entire Canal des Deux Mers from Sète to Bordeaux. Other French canals provide walkers "with many excellent routes, as they are always accompanied by a towpath, which makes a pleasant off-road track, and have the added virtues of flatness, shade and an abundance of villages along the way", though walking a canal can be monotonous, so that "a long trip beside a canal is better done by bicycle".


Urban trails


Urban Trail

An urban trail is a citywide network of non-motorized, multi-use pathways that are utilized by bicyclists, walkers and runners for both transportation and recreation. Urban trails average ten foot in width and are surfaced with asphalt or concrete. Some are striped likes roads to designate two-way traffic. Urban trails are designed with connections to neighborhoods, businesses, places of employment and public transport stops.


Alley

Urban pedestrian footpaths are sometimes called alleys or lanes and in older cities and towns in Europe and are often what is left of a medieval street network or rights-of-way or ancient footpaths. Similar paths also exist in some older North American towns and cities, like Charleston, South Carolina, New Castle, Delaware, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Such urban trails or footpaths are narrow, usually paved and often between the walls of buildings. This type is usually short and straight, and on steep ground can consist partially or entirely of steps. Some are named. Because of geography stairs, steps are a common form of footpath in hilly cities and towns. This includes Pittsburgh (see Steps of Pittsburgh), Cincinnati (see Steps of Cincinnati), Seattle, and San Francisco in the United States, as well as Hong Kong, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and Rome. Stairway trails are found in a number of hilly American cities. This includes the Stairway Trails in Bernal Heights, San Francisco, California, Bernal Heights, East San Francisco.


Trail system layout


Linear-trail system

A linear trail goes from one point to another without connecting trails. These trails are also known as "out-and-back" or "destination" trails. Rail trails and long-distance trails are examples of linear trails. Linear trails usually follow long distances. A shorter linear trail is a spur trail, which takes a user to a particular point-of-interest, such as a waterfall or mountain summit.


Looped-trail system

A looped trail allows a user to end up where they started with either minimal or no repeating parts of the trail. Looped-trail systems come in many permutations. A single-looped trail system is often used around lakes, wetlands, and other geological features. A series of looped trails is a stacked-loop trail system. A stacked loop trail system has several interconnected looped trails. This creates an efficient, compact design with many route options. In a multiple-loop system, each loop extends from a single trailhead. Trail systems often combine linear trails with looped trails. In a spoked-wheel system, linear trails connect a central trailhead with an outer loop. In a primary-and-secondary loop system, linear trails connect a primary loop with secondary loops. Last, a maze system incorporates both loops and linear trails. Maze systems provide users many choices; however, some users may find navigation difficult.


Administration


Europe

A group of public and private organisations from the eight Alpine countries in Europe created the Via Alpina in 2000, receiving EU funding from 2001 until 2008. It was initiated by the Association Grande Traversée des Alpes in Grenoble, which hosted the Via Alpina international secretariat until January 2014, when it was transferred to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps CIPRA, in Liechtenstein. There are national secretariats (hosted by public administrations or hiking associations) in each country. Its aim is to support sustainable development in remote mountain areas and promote the Alpine cultures and cultural exchanges. The Grande Randonnée (French), ''Grote Routepaden'' or ''Lange-afstand-wandelpaden'' (Dutch), ''Grande Rota'' (Portuguese) or ''Gran Recorrido'' (Spanish) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Many GR routes make up part of the longer European walking routes which cross several countries. In France alone, the trails cover approximately . In France, the network is maintained by the ''Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre'' (French Hiking Federation), and in Spain by the Spanish Mountain Sports Federation.


UK and Ireland

In England and Wales, many trails and footpaths are of ancient origin and are protected under law as Rights of way in the United Kingdom, rights of way. In the Republic of Ireland, the Keep Ireland Open organization is campaigning for similar rights. Local highway authorities, in England and Wales, (usually county councils or Unitary authority#United Kingdom, unitary authorities) are required to maintain the definitive map of all public rights of way in their areas, and these can be inspected at council offices. If a path is shown on the definitive map, and no subsequent order (e.g. a stopping up) exists, then the right of way is conclusive in law. But just because a path is not on that map, does not mean that it is not a public path, as the rights may not have been recorded. The Countryside Agency estimated that over 10% of public paths are not yet listed on the definitive map. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides that paths that are not recorded on the definitive map by 2026 and that were in use prior to 1949 will automatically be deemed stopped-up on 1 January 2026. In Scotland, Rights of way in Scotland, a right of way is a route over which the public has passed unhindered for at least 20 years. The route must link two "public places", such as villages, churches or roads. Unlike in England and Wales, there is no obligation on Scottish Local government of Scotland, local authorities to signpost or mark a right of way. However, the charity Scotways, formed in 1845 to protect rights of way, records and signs the routes. There is no legal distinction between footpaths and bridleways in Scotland, as there is in England and Wales, though it is generally accepted that cyclists and horseback riders may follow rights of way with suitable surfaces. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established a general presumption of access to all land in Scotland, making the existence of rights of way less important in terms of access to land in Scotland. Certain categories of land are excluded from this presumption of open access such as railway land, airfields and private gardens. Northern Ireland has very few public rights of way and access to land there is more restricted than other parts of the UK. In many areas, walkers can enjoy the countryside only because of the goodwill and tolerance of landowners. Northern Ireland shares the same legal system as England, including concepts about the ownership of land and public rights of way, but it has its own court structure, system of precedents and specific access legislation. In England and Wales a National Trails system of long-distance footpaths also exists administered by Natural England and the Natural Resources Wales, statutory agencies of the UK government, UK and the Welsh Governments, respectively. These include Hadrian's Wall Path, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, the Pennine Bridleway (bridleway), the South West Coast Path (South West Way) (the longest), and the Thames Path, and many more. Together these are over long. In Scotland, the equivalent trails are called Scotland's Great Trails and are administered by NatureScot. The first, and probably the most popular, is the West Highland Way, which is long and was opened in 1980. Sustrans is a British Charitable organization, charity that promotes sustainable transport, and it works on projects to encourage people to walk, bicycle, cycle, and use public transport, to give people the choice of "travelling in ways that benefit their health and the environment".

United States

In 1968, the United States' National Trails System, which includes National Scenic Trails, National Historic Trails and National Recreation Trails, was created under the National Trails System Act. The most famous American long trails are the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The Appalachian Trail is a marked hiking route in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain, Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia, and Mount Katahdin, Maine.Gailey, Chris (2006)
"Appalachian Trail FAQs"
Outdoors.org (accessed September 14, 2006)
The trail is approximately long. The Pacific Crest Trail is a long-distance hiking and equestrian trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada (U.S.), Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range, Cascade mountain ranges, which lie east of the US Pacific coast. The trail's southern terminus is on the US border with Mexico and its northern terminus on the US-Canada border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia, Canada; its corridor through the US is in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington (state), Washington. It is long. The land management agency in charge of a trail writes and enforces the rules and regulations for it. A trail may be completely contained within one administration (e.g. a State Park) or it may pass through multiple administrations, leading to a confusing array of regulations, allowing dogs or mountain bikes in one segment but not in another, or requiring National Wilderness Preservation System, Wilderness Permits for a portion of the trail, but not everywhere. In the United States agencies administering trails include the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, State Park systems, County Parks, cities, private organizations such as land trusts, businesses and individual property owners. New trail construction by an agency must often be assessed for its environmental impact and conformance with State or Federal laws. For example, in California new trails must undergo reviews specified by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).


Universal-access trails

All trails and shared use paths—indeed, any areas open to pedestrians—that are owned or operated by a public or private entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are subject to federal regulations on Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices ("OPDMDs"). These rules potentially greatly expand the types of vehicular devices that must be permitted on trails, shared use paths, other routes, and other areas open to the public. This publication discusses ways to manage access by these vehicles. There are many types of non-motorized, land-based recreational trails and shared use paths: hiker and pedestrian trails, mountain biking trails, equestrian trails, and multi-use trails designed for several user types. The companion guide to this publication, the ''2013 Pennsylvania Trail Design and Development Principles: Guidelines for Sustainable, Non-Motorized Trails'' (the "Pennsylvania Trail Design Manual"), provides guidance and detailed information about the characteristics of the various types of trails and paths. The publication is a resource to help evaluate, plan, design, construct, and manage a route on a site. The publication ''Universal Access Trails and Shared Use Paths: Design, Management, Ethical and Legal Considerations'' focuses on the accessibility aspects of the most commonly constructed types.


Construction

While most trails have arisen through common usage, the design and construction of good quality new paths is a complex process that requires certain skills. When a trail passes across a flat area that is not wet, brush, tree limbs and undergrowth are removed to create a clear, walkable trail. A bridge is built when a stream or river is sufficiently deep to make it necessary. Other options are culverts, Step-stone bridge, stepping stones, and shallow fords. For equestrian use, shallow Ford (crossing), fords may be preferred. In wet areas an elevated trailway with fill or a boardwalk is often used, though boardwalks require frequent maintenance and replacement, because boards in poor condition can become slippery and hazardous.


On slopes

Trail gradients are determined based on a site specific assessment of soils and geology, drainage patterns of the slope, surrounding vegetation types, position on the slope of a given trail segment (bottom, mid-slope, ridgeline), average precipitation, storm intensities, types of use, volume and intensity of use, and a host of other factors affecting the ability of the trail substrate to resist erosion and provide a navigable surface. Trails that ascend steep slopes may use hairpin turn, switchbacks, but switchback design and construction is a specialized topic. Trails that are accessible by users with disabilities are mandated by the U.S. Federal Government to have slope of less than 12%, with no more than 30% of the trail having slope greater than 8.33%. Trails outside of wilderness areas have outward side-to-side gradients less than 8%,. A flat or inward-sloping trail collects water and causes extra trail maintenance. The ideal path is built almost, but not quite, level in cross-section. To achieve a proper slope in hilly terrain, a sidehill trail is excavated. This type of trailway is created by establishing a line of a suitable slope across a hillside, which is then dug out by means of a mattock or similar tool. This may be a full-bench trail, where the treadway is only on the firm ground surface after the overlying soil is removed and sidecast (thrown to the side as waste), or a half-bench trail, where soil is removed and packed to the side so that the treadway is half on firm old ground and half on new packed fill. In areas near drainages, creeks and other waterways, excavation spoils are taken away in bulk and deposited in an environmentally benign area. Trails are established entirely on fill in problem areas. In such cases, the soil is packed down firmly and the site is periodically checked to maintain the stability of the trail. Cycle trails built for commuting may be built to a different set of standards than pedestrian-only trails and, in some cases, may require a harder surface, fewer changes in grade and slope, increased sight visibility, and fewer sharp changes in direction. On the other hand, the cross-slope of a bicycle trail may be significantly greater than a foot trail, and the path may be narrower in some cases. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recommends different widths for different types of bicycle facilities. For example, a shared use path has a recommended one directional width of , while a bidirectional path should be significantly wider () to accommodate bidirectional traffic and users. The US Department of Transportation provides additional guidance on recreational bicycle and pedestrian trail planning and design standards. A well designed recreational mountain bike path for the exclusive use of bicycles has an average grade of less than 10% and generally follows a contour line, rather than straight downhill.


Drainage

Trail construction requires proper drainage. If drainage is inadequate, three issues may occur: water may accumulate on flat terrain to the point that the trail becomes unusable; moving water can erode trails on slopes; or inadequate drainage may create local mud spots. Mountain bike trails slope out or across the trail 3–5% downhill to encourage water to run off the side, rather than down the trail bed. To remedy the first problem, water accumulation on flat terrain, raised walkways are often built. They include turnpikes, causeways, embankments, stepping stones, and bridges (or deckwalks). The earthen approaches are often done by cutting poles from the woods, staking parallel poles in place on the ground, then filling between them with whatever material is available to create the raised walkway. The more elaborate option of the deckwalk is by necessity reserved for shorter stretches in very high-traffic areas. Water accumulation is particularly common in the Northern England, North Country of England. The second problem, water erosion, is caused because trails, by their nature, tend to become drainage channels and eventually gullies when the drainage is poorly controlled. Where a trail is near the top of a hill or ridge, this is usually a minor issue, but when it is farther down, it can become a very major one. In areas of heavy water flow along a trail, a ditch is often dug on the uphill side of the trail with drainage points across the trail. The cross-drainage is also accomplished by means of culverts cleared on a semi-annual basis, or by means of cross-channels, often created by placing logs or timbers across the trail in a downhill direction, called "thank-you-marms", "deadmen", or waterbars. Timbers or rocks are also used for this purpose to create erosion barriers. Rock paving in the bottom of these channels and in the trailside ditches is sometimes used to maintain stability. The creation of water bars, with or without ditching, at major points of water flow on or along the trail, and in conjunction with existing drainage channels below the trail, is a technique that can be applied. Another technique that has been adopted is the construction of coweeta dips, or drain dips, points on the trail where it falls briefly (for a meter or so) and then rises again. These provide positive drainage points that are almost never clogged by debris. The third type of problem can occur both on bottomlands and on ridgetops and a variety of other spots. A local spot or short stretch of the trail may be chronically wet. If the trail is not directly on rock, then a mud pit forms. Trail users go to the side of the trail to avoid the mud pit, and the trail becomes widened. A "corduroy" is a technique used when an area cannot be drained. This ranges from random sticks to split logs being laid across the path. Some early turnpikes in the United States were corduroy roads, and these can still be found in third-world forested areas. With recreational trails, it is common for the sticks to be one to three inches thick and laid in place, close together. Sometimes, a short bridge is used.


Maintenance

Natural surface, single-track trails will require some ongoing maintenance. However, if the trail is properly designed and constructed, maintenance should be limited to clearing downed trees, trimming back brush and clearing drainages. Depending on location, if the trail is properly designed, there should be no need for major rework such as grading or erosion control efforts. However, mountain trails which see both significant rainfall and human traffic may require "trail hardening" efforts in order to prevent further erosion. Most of the seemingly natural rock steps on the mountain trails of the northeast United States are, in fact, the work of professional and volunteer trail crews.


Navigation

For long-distance trails, or trails where there is any possibility of someone taking a wrong turn, Trail blazing, blazing or signage is provided (the term waymarking is used in Britain). This is accomplished by using either paint on natural surfaces or by placing pre-made medallions or sometimes cairns. Horseshoe-shaped blazes are used frequently for bridle trails. The Appalachian Trail is blazed with white rectangles, and blue is often used for side trails. European long-distance path, European long-distance walking paths are blazed with yellow points encircled with red. However, other walking paths in European countries are blazed in a variety of manners. Where bike trails intersect with pedestrian or equestrian trails, signage at the intersections and high visibility onto the intersecting trails are needed to prevent collisions between fast-moving cyclists and slower moving hikers and horses. Bicycles and horses can share the same trails where the trail is wide enough with good visibility. The US Department of Transportation provides standards and guidelines for traffic control, including signage and striping, for bicycle facilities.


Classification

A simple colored symbol to classify a trail's difficulty in the USA was first used for ski trails and is now being used for hiking, bicycle, other trails. *Green circle - easy *Blue square - moderate *Black diamond - difficult Other systems may be used in different locations.Ski trail difficulty classifications
. gavmck, Everything2, June 4, 2004. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
In Switzerland, paths are classified by three levels of difficulties: Hiking paths (yellow markers), mountain paths (white-red-white markers) and alpine paths (white-blue-white markers).


See also

* Boardwalk and Promenade * Corpse road * Desire path * Fastpacking * Steig * Trail ethics * Trail running * Dirt road


References


Further reading

* {{Authority control Trails, Types of thoroughfares Hiking