Hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use in natural areas

A recreation ecology literature review

by Oregon Metro Regional Government

Metro is the regional government in the Portland, Oregon area. Thanks to the region’s voters, the agency has acquired approximately 17,000 acres of natural areas to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and connect people with nature. The goal of this document is to better understand the trade-offs between different types and levels of recreational access in the context of our work to protect habitat and water quality, and provide access to nature in a growing urban area. Only by thoroughly understanding the effects of recreational activities on wildlife and water quality are we able to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential harm to the resources we are committed to protecting.

Recreation ecology is the scientific study of environmental impacts resulting from recreational activity in protected natural areas. The nature of a literature review is to summarize what has been studied, what has been learned, and what the experts have concluded. This document reviews the literature on overall and relative effects of three user groups – hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians – on trails, habitat, and wildlife to help inform ecologically appropriate placement and construction of trails in natural areas. Studies are reviewed from the U.S. and elsewhere, with a focus on soft-surface trails in natural areas. We included limited information about other nonmotorized trail user groups such as trail runners and beach walkers. Motorized off-road vehicles were omitted from this review because they are generally not allowed on natural area trails within the urban and near-urban region. A previous literature review on the effects of dogs on wildlife and water quality is included as Appendix 1.

Attached document published September 2017

About the Author


Whether your roots in the region run generations deep or you moved to Oregon last week, you have your own reasons for loving this place – and Metro wants to keep it that way. Help shape the future of the greater Portland region and discover tools, services and places that make life better today.

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