Trail Management Tools

The Forest Service incorporates several standardized trail management concepts and tools in the administration and management of over 150,000 miles of National Forest System trails. These tools help ensure that each trail is designed, constructed, and maintained to provide the desired user experience and meet the management intent for the trail.

These trail management tools are closely aligned with and support implementation of the Forest Service’s National Trail Strategy.

Additional trail management resources are available on the Forest Service Technology and Development publication page.

A side-hill trail in a forest setting, Tonto National Forest.
Tonto National Forest, Arizona. Courtesy photo by Simon Cox.
Trail along a ridgetop meadow festooned with wildflowers.
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah. USDA Forest Service photo.
A raised accessible trail through a lowland area.
A raised accessible trail through a lowland marsh. USDA Forest Service photo.
An improved trail on the Tongass National Forest
Tongass National Forest, Alaska. USDA Forest Service photo.

Trail Fundamentals and Trail Management Objectives

Trail Fundamentals include five key concepts that are cornerstones of Forest Service trail management: Trail Type, Trail Class, Managed Use, Designed Use, and Trail Design Parameters.  Trail Fundamentals are individually prescribed for each National Forest System Trail via Trail Management Objectives (TMOs), which document the intended purpose and management of each trail.

Forest Service Saw Program

The Forest Service National Crosscut and Chainsaw Program manages the use of chainsaws and crosscut saws on National Forest System lands. Forest Service employees, volunteers, partners, and other cooperators can now access consistent training, evaluation, and certification. A highlight of the new policy enables volunteer, partner, and cooperator groups to train, evaluate, and certify their members.

Trail Assessment and Condition Surveys (TRACS)

TRACS is the Forest Service’s required methodology for conducting trail inventory, condition assessment and prescriptions for National Forest System trails. TRACS provides standardized terminology, business rules and data fields which are integrated with the agency’s corporate database and used for planning, management, cost estimation, and reporting.

Standard Trail Plans and Specifications

The Forest Service Standard Trail Plans and Specifications are intended for use in the design, construction, and maintenance of National Forest System trails and trail bridges. These plans and specifications are also available for use by other federal, state, and local agencies, communities, trail partners, volunteers, and other entities.

Trail Community Map

The Trail Community Map is a networking tool for trail professionals. It is a resource to help the Forest Service, other federal agencies, and partners within the trails community build capacity, share resources, and better serve the public. The Trail Community Map is an interactive online map that displays people with trail skills located across the country. The map displays information collected from members of the trail community and presents it using an ArcGIS Online web app. This web app allows viewers to sort and search for people with particular trail skills at various skill levels. Download the TCM User Guide. A link to the TCM will be available soon.