FAQ: How to designate your trail as a National Recreational Trail.

The NRT program works to preserve and celebrate our nation's pathways. Here's an overview of how to apply for NRT designation.

Determine Eligibility for NRT Designation

What kinds of trails are eligible?

  • A trail is a travel way established either through construction or use and is passable by at least one or more of the following, including but not limited to: foot traffic, stock, watercraft, bicycles, in-line skates, wheelchairs, cross-country skis, off-road recreation vehicles such as motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and four-wheel drive vehicles.
  • Roads and highways suitable for passenger car travel are not eligible for NRT designation.
  • For examples of the kinds of trails that are eligible, see our online database of all NRT designations.

What are the criteria for NRT designation?

  • The trail must be open to public use, have no gaps, and be designed, constructed, and maintained according to best management practices, in keeping with the use anticipated. Trails that demonstrate state-of-the-art design and management are especially encouraged to apply for NRT designation.
  • The trail is in compliance with applicable land use plans and environmental laws.
  • The trail will be open for public use for at least 10 consecutive years after designation.
  • NRT designation must be supported by the landowner(s), public or private, whose property the trail crosses.

Determine Which Application Route Matches Your Trail

There are two procedures for applying for NRT designation, depending on who the trail's land is administered by.

For trail administered by the US Department of Agriculture:

  • The USDA Forest Service has authority for designating NRTs on land administered by the Department of Agriculture (National Forests, National Grasslands, and National Recreation Areas) and associated lands.
  • See the details of the US Forest Service designation process for NRTs.


More Things to Consider

  • Application Deadline is November 1 of each year.
  • Designations are announced on National Trail Day, the first weekend in June.
  • Trails on state, local government, or private land (anything other than Federal) should submit a letter of support from the appropriate State Trails Administrator/Coordinator. See a Sample Letter of Support.

Getting Help

  • The Washington, DC contact is the Department of the Interior's NRT Coordinator at National Park Service: (303) 969-2620 or email: .
  • If your trail is on a National Forest or other land administered by the US Department of Agriculture, work with appropriate USDA Forest Service contact or Jeff Mast at 503-808-2443 or .
  • For technical assistance with the online application, NRT website, or NRT database contact Michael Bullington with American Trails: .

More Information

More Articles in this Category

Road and Trail Intersection Safety

The time has come to learn more about the needs and behaviors of motorists and trail users and ensure that design guidelines and laws and policies governing road and trail intersections fully provide for the safety of this increasingly prevalent type of traffic junction. The purpose of this study is to examine the current state of practice of the design and management of intersections between trails and roadways, gather feedback on road and trail intersection crashes and complaints, raise public awareness of the issue of road and trail intersection safety, and offer policy and design recommendations that will improve the safety of road and trail intersections.

25 Communities Begin Projects to Promote Active Living

The goal of Active Living by Design is to encourage changes in design, transportation and policies to cultivate and support active living.

Wildlife And Trails Primer - Part E. The importance of streamside areas

By understanding the relative quality of riparian areas, it may be possible to find places within the riparian zone for trails that will have less impact on wildlife.

Barclay Farm National Recreation Trail, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Barclay Farm Trails are an interconnected system of trails totaling three-quarters of a mile located on a National Register of Historic Places designated eighteenth century farmstead that is now Cherry Hill Township Open Space land.

An Equestrian Guide to Trail Etiquette

Following is basic “Share the trail Etiquette” that can improve the trail experience for all users.

Launching Florida’s Trail Town Program

A Trail Town is a vibrant destination where people come together.