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Trail Fundamentals and Trail Management Objectives

Two surveyors holding a long measuring tape across a stream in a wooded forest.
Incorporating Trail Management Objectives

Surveyors layout a trail extension on the Kisatchie National Forest.

Image of the upper winner creek trail with wood boards crossing a small watershed.
Class 2

Upper Winner Creek Trail on the Chugach National Forest.

Image of a rocky hillside portion of the Russell Creek Trail.
Class 3

Russell Creek Trail on the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

A two-stage waterfall and bridge on the Multnomah Falls Trail, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Class 4

Multnomah Falls Trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Accessible puncheon near Cape Perpetua Scenic Area on the Siuslaw National Forest
Class 5

Accessible puncheon near Cape Perpetua Scenic Area on the Siuslaw National Forest.

Trail Fundamentals include five key concepts that are cornerstones of Forest Service trail management:

  1. Trail Type
  2. Trail Class
  3. Managed Use
  4. Designed Use
  5. Trail Design Parameters

Trail  Fundamentals and Trail Management Objectives cover

Trail Fundamentals and Trail Management Objectives (September 2016)

This publication provides comprehensive guidance and instructions for applying Trail Fundamentals and Trail Management Objectives. This recently published version includes the original 2008 content, along with updated photos and formatting.

Trail Fundamentals Overview (September 2016)

This document provides definitions and business rules for the five Trail Fundamentals: Trail Type, Trail Class, Managed Use, Designed Use and Design Parameters.

Trail Fundamentals PowerPoint Presentation (January 2019)

This PowerPoint presentation provides an overview of the five Trail Fundamentals. Refer to the PowerPoint Notes for an expanded explanation of each slide.

  • Instructor Notes: To view or print the Instructor Notes for this presentation, open the PowerPoint, single click on File single click on Print. Under “Print What?”, select Notes Pages, then print.

Reference Documents

The documents below are included in the Trail Fundamentals and Trail Management Objectives publication (above). They are also provided here as individual documents below to assist with local planning and implementation needs.

  • Trail Definitions (April 2007)
    This document provides definitions of a trail, forest trail, National Forest System Trail, and the “umbrella” USFS/NPS/BLM/FWS interagency definition of a trail.
  • Trail Fundamentals Definitions (October 2008)
    This document provides definitions for Trail Fundamentals and associated terminology including Trail Management Objectives, Trail Type, Trail Class, Managed Use, and Design Parameters.
  • Trail Class Matrix (September 2016)
    This document describes the five national Trail Classes applicable to all National Forest System Trails.
  • Trail Class Photo Examples (September 2016)
    This document provides photo examples to assist in the identification of the Trail Class that is representative of the management intent for a particular trail.
  • National Design Parameters (September 2016)
    This document provides nationally standardized technical specifications for trail construction and maintenance, based on Designed Use and Trail Class.
  • CASM: Condition Assessment Survey Matrix (September 2016)
    CASM outlines minimum survey accuracy guidelines for trail condition surveys. It recommends the appropriate survey accuracy needed for each Trail Class. These guidelines also apply to the amount and accuracy of corresponding data entered into the Infra Trails Module.
  • Trial Fundamentals Objectives (TMO) Form, v5 10/01/2008
    Use this blank copy of the TMO form to document trail-specific TMOs.
    [This Excel spreadsheet includes 3 tabs: TMO page 1, TMO page 2, TMO continuation sheet]

Ordering Information

You can order a copy of the Trail Fundamentals publication using the order form on FHWA's Recreation Trails Program website…

For More Information

If you have questions or comments, please contact Forest Service Trail Management at: