Trail Impact Monitoring

This toolbox provides an overview of trail impact monitoring in wilderness areas. It includes agency policy, definitions, and features a trail impact monitoring program development process along with training resources, and references for more information. To suggest new materials for inclusion, email Lisa Ronald at


The Wilderness Act does not specifically mention trails or monitoring but it does indicate that wilderness areas are "...for the use and enjoyment of the American people..." and they offer "...outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation..." in settings where wilderness character is preserved and natural conditions protected. Trail impact monitoring and the necessary management of trail systems help ensure that opportunities for wilderness experiences are preserved while adverse impacts to the biophysical components of the wilderness resource are minimized.

Trail impact monitoring is the systematic collection and evaluation of trail inventory and condition data to establish a baseline and/or identify changes and trends over time. This information is used for visitor use management and resource protection and helps managers prioritize trail maintenance and construction needs. The primary purpose of trail impact monitoring in wilderness is to provide essential information for identifying and minimizing the biophysical impacts of both user-created (social) and designated trails.

Agency Policy

Training Resources