Interested in Applying for Funding from The Trail Fund?


The Trail Fund will be administered by the Trails Move People Coalition, a diverse coalition of trail user groups, led by American Trails, and will support grants for trail maintenance, research, and stewardship training all across the country, serving all types of trail users. The amount of funding available and number of grants we can offer will vary year by year, pending funding.

The Trail Fund is a program of American Trails, which is a private 501(c)(3) charitable organization, launching in 2022 with a generous gift of $50,000 from the Ford Corporation (plus additional funding in smaller amounts from individuals from the trails community). With this gift, Ford, through the Bronco Wild Fund made clear its commitment to support all trail users across the country and ensure that high-quality trails are available to all.

It is our intention to open up the inaugural application process in early 2022, and for interested individuals/organizations to be able to apply for funding every year. The amount of funding available and number of grants we can offer will vary year by year based on sponsorship support. We are continuing to accept sponsorships and donors for this program.

Our Mission

To protect and restore America’s trails.

Our Vision

The Trail Fund’s vision is to engage the trail, outdoor recreation, and conservation industry giving community to partner with critical stewardship organizations to save our trails.

Our Values

  • We connect. Providing a link between foundations, businesses, and the trails community, we enable and inspire our colleagues to work together to protect the trails that are vital to their business.
  • We are collaborative. We recognize that our greatest strength is our collective nature. Our partners are trail industry leaders who come together around a common need of saving our trails from neglect.
  • We get results. We strive to put 97% of all funds collected directly into trail maintenance and research projects. We strive to find the best trail partners from across the trails spectrum, and we measure that success in terms of measurable, on-the-ground maintenance of trails and increased capacity of trail stewards to do the job effectively.
  • We are responsible. As a group of trails industry representatives, we have a responsibility to invest in protecting the trails that are a critical part of the American experience.

Details are still coming together for the inaugural launch of this program, including application requirements. Email [email protected] with any questions or if you wish to be informed once an application is available.

How to Apply

Coming soon...


Tax-exempt organizations under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), including public charities as described in IRC 509(a)(1)-(4) and 170(b)-(c). Federal, State, regional, and local government units, school districts, and tribes are also eligible to receive grants from the Fund.

Will the Fund award grants to fiscal sponsors on behalf of applicants who are not eligible as 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations?

Yes, provided the fiscal sponsor meets our eligibility criteria. The grant application must be completed by the fiscal sponsor, who will provide all information required, in addition to including supplemental information on the sponsored applicant and the proposed project or program.

What is ineligible for funding?

  • Completed projects.
  • Budget deficits.
  • Debt reduction.
  • General operating expenses. Note: We understand that projects or programs being proposed in a grant, that expand the organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission, may impact operating costs. As such, those operating costs may not be considered ‘general’ in nature, may be eligible for funding, and should be identified in the budget submitted with the grant application so that they may be considered as part of the overall project or program costs.
  • Event sponsorships.
  • Contributions to individuals.
  • Contributions to political or labor organizations, candidates, or causes.
  • Contributions that facilitate religious mission, doctrine, or organization.
  • Proposals that would cause the Fund to be in violation of its Conflict of Interest Policy.

Our Funding Priorities

Priority #1: Trail Maintenance Backlog on State and Local Lands

Unfortunately, trails do not receive the ongoing maintenance support that they need through the Federal, State, and local appropriations process, resulting in a huge trail maintenance backlog. By current estimates in the US Forest Service alone, if nothing were to change in the current appropriations for trail maintenance, it would take over 1000 years to eliminate the current trail maintenance backlog. And that does not even take into consideration the additional miles of trail that will be added to the backlog in that same time.

Maintenance is not sexy, or easy to fund, but it is critical in helping our country, our citizens, and our communities maintain their connection to nature and to the enjoyment of our country’s most beautiful landscapes.

Priority #2: Research

Research and data on trails are critical to show the impact and benefits of trails. The trails community is witnessing unprecedented growth and a shift in leadership away from Federal agencies, toward foundation and private investment driving trail development. This highlights the need to develop the tools that allow a dynamic trail community to come together, professionalize and standardize, document our value and impact, and articulate this value and impact to public leaders, the outdoor industry, and other industries that unwittingly benefit from trails.

Establish a robust and collaborative industry research capacity with a focus on the development and understanding of how trails and the industry create value and impact at the community, state, and federal level. Utilize the data and knowledge from research initiatives to inform and grow the trails knowledge base that would inform the needs in creating a professional development program.

Priority #3: Stewardship Training

Research informs us how to effectively engage trail stewards on public lands. By focusing on engaging younger, under-served, and diverse populations as active trail stewards, we can build a force of passionate individuals to tackle our nation’s trail maintenance needs.

The goal of developing high quality, consistent training opportunities is to preserve skills that have been developed over decades as well as teaching the newest technology. Top quality and readily accessible training will help all of us perform to the best of our abilities. By focusing on engaging younger, diverse populations as active trail stewards, we can build a force of passionate individuals to tackle our nation’s trail maintenance needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

photo credit: Eddee Daniel

How much funding is available?

While the Board may amend the amount of funding annually or by grant cycle, our current giving is as follows: we make grants in an annual grant cycle in the Spring, contributing $60,000 each year.

What are the Fund’s parameters for making grants?

Trail Fund grants range from $2,000 minimum to a maximum of $25,000 for the purposes described above.

How often does the Fund review grant applications?

Currently, we review grant applications annually. Applications for our annual grant cycle are accepted between January 1 and March 1. We typically act on those grant applications in April-May, and we apprise applicants of the status of their applications soon thereafter.

When are grants funded?

Grants are typically funded in cash and in full within sixty days of notification of the award, provided all conditions have been met.

Are there restrictions on the length of time needed to complete projects or programs funded by grants?

Projects funded by Trail Fund grants must be completed within twelve months of the grant award notice to proceed.

What criteria does the Fund use for awarding grants?

We prioritize our giving based on criteria that includes but may not be limited to: alignment with our giving priorities as described above; perceived potential for the proposal’s success; breadth of impact on the community; strength and stability of the applicant organization; availability of funding from other sources to fulfill the goals of the grant; balancing our giving by priority and region; the impact on low- to moderate-income, disadvantaged and/or marginalized persons or families; and the extent to which the proposal advances the Fund’s mission of protecting and restoring America’s trails through maintenance projects, stewardship training programs, or research projects.

Is there a limit to the number of grant proposals an organization can submit? Or the number of times an organization may receive funding?

Although we do not have a policy limiting the number of grant proposals an organization can submit, or the number of times an organization may receive funding, we anticipate receiving many more proposals than we can fund, and we may prioritize accordingly. Each proposal will be considered on its own merits.

Does the Fund consider multi-year grant proposals?

Preference will be given to annual grant proposals, but multi-year proposals may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Who makes grant award decisions?

American Trails is proud to coordinate a diverse group of representatives from the Trails Move People Coalition to ensure equitable distribution of funds amongst a broad and diverse swath of trail user types. This includes a collaboration of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, American Hiking Society, American Trails, Back Country Horsemen of America, International Mountain Bicycling Association, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, and the American Motorcyclist Association all participating in the rating and selection of projects.

The grant application asks for “specific and measurable outcomes.” What’s meant by that?

We want to know the extent to which the funding we provide makes a measurable impact, and the extent to which the specific goals and objectives of the grant were fulfilled. To that end, you are asked to state on your application the target population and number of people to be served, the breadth of impact of the project for which you’re seeking funding and the specific and measurable outcomes you intend to accomplish. If you’re awarded a grant, you’ll be required to report periodically on the specific intended outcomes of the grant and the progress made in delivering on them.

Can I contact the Fund if I have additional questions?

Yes! Please feel free to email our Trail Fund staff, at [email protected]. Be sure to include a phone number where you can be reached. Or call 530-605-4395.