Assessing and Understanding Trail Degradation

Results from Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area

This report describes results from a comprehensive assessment of resource conditions on a large (24%) sample of the trail system within Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area (BSF).

by National Park Service

Components include research to develop state-of-knowledge trail impact assessment and monitoring methods, application of survey methods to BSF trails, analysis and summary of results, and recommendations for trail management decision making and future monitoring. Findings reveal a trail system with some substantial degradation, particularly soil erosion, which additionally threatens water quality in areas adjacent to streams and rivers. Factors that contribute to or influence these problems are analyzed and described. Principal among these are trail design factors (trail topographic position, soil texture, grade and slope alignment angle), use-related factors (type and amount of use), and maintenance factors (water drainage). Recommendations are offered to assist managers in improving the sustainability of the trails system to accommodate visitation while enhancing natural resource protection.

Attached document published February 2006

About the Author


The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 and today manages over 390 units found in all 50 states and some of the U.S. territories. NPS supports and operates trails in three interlocking arenas: trails in parks, technical assistance to States and communities, and administration of much of the National Trails System.

More articles by this author

More articles in this category

Trail Creek Restoration

posted Oct 4, 2023

The 2002 Hayman Fire grossly affected Trail Creek, a tributary to the South Platte River, with a concomitant increase of sediment yield, increases in significant flood events, and reduced habitat quality.

TRACS Trail Assessment & Condition Surveys User Guide 2011

posted Jul 22, 2020

TRACS is an organized approach for collecting and updating field data on trail conditions and the work needed to meet standard.

System Wide Trail Assessment: A Spatial Data Driven Approach

posted Jun 9, 2019

In this Trail Talk new methods of mobile electronic data collection help streamline assessments for Tennessee State Parks.

Trails Assessment and Recommendations for Management

posted May 30, 2018

An Assessment of Trails, Watercourses, Soils, and Redwood Forest Health in Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland, California.

589 views • posted 07/15/2022