Glossary of Trail
From Trails Primer: A Glossary of Trail, Greenway, and Outdoor Recreation Terms, 2001 Compiled by Jim Schmid, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, Columbia, South Carolina
instrument that is adjusted like a sextant and used for measuring angles
of elevation or inclination of trail.
at either extreme end of a bridge that supports the superstructure
(sill, stringers, trusses, or decks) composed of stone, concrete, brick,
areas and passageways that allow the public to reach a trail from
adjacent streets or community facilities.
trail that generally connects the main trail to a road or another trail
term used to describe a site, building, facility, or trail that complies
with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines
and can be approached, entered, and used by people with disabilities.
gradual process of becoming physiologically accustomed to high altitude.
act or process of acquiring fee title or interest of real property.
Mountain Sickness (AMS): A condition
characterized by shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, nausea, and
other flulike symptoms. It occurs at high altitude and is attributed to
a shortage of oxygen. Most people don’t experience symptoms until they
reach heights well above 5,000 feet.
program in which groups or businesses “adopt” trails, providing
volunteer work parties at periodic intervals to help maintain the trail.
Though no special trail privileges are granted, the trail manager
generally acknowledges that a trail has been “adopted” by erecting
signs saying the trail is part of an Adopt-A-Trail program and including
the name of the adopter.
(Adze): An ax-like tool for dressing
Surface material made up of broken stone
ranging in size from broken stone or gravel to sand.
layout of the trail in horizontal and vertical planes. This is to say,
the bends, curves, and ups and downs of the trail. The more the
alignment varies, the more challenging the trail.
small four-wheeled vehicle equipped with low-pressure balloon tires and
intended for off-highway use only.
instrument for measuring altitude.
height of a thing or place above sea level.
element used to enhance the user’s experience and comfort along a
with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA):
federal law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.
Requires public entities and public accommodations to provide accessible
accommodations for people with disabilities.
with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG):
guidelines for providing access to a range of indoor and outdoor
settings by people with disabilities.
is measured with a straight vertical as 90º and a straight horizontal
as 0º. A grade of 100% would have an angle of 45º.
estimate and opinion of value, usually a written statement of (1) the
market value of (2) an adequately described parcel of property as of (3)
a specified date.
of the three main elements of a waterbar. It catches water running down
the trail and directs it off. Apron is also the transition area on a
switchback (also called the “landing”).
individual trained in arboriculture, forestry, landscape architecture,
horticulture, or related fields and experienced in the conservation and
preservation of native and ornamental trees.
Resources (Cultural, Heritage):
material of past human life, activities, or habitation that are of
historic or prehistoric significance. Such material includes, but is not
limited to, pottery, basketry, bottles, weapon projectiles, tools,
structures, pit house, rock paintings, rock carving, graves, skeletal
remains, personal items and clothing, household or business refuse, or
any piece of the foregoing.
concentration of material remains of past human life or activities that
is of historic or prehistoric significance and that has been surveyed by
a qualified archeologist.
Reinforcement of a surface with rock,
brick, stone, concrete, or other “paving” material.
particular compass direction a trail or site faces. Aspect affects the
amount of solar radiation and year-round moisture to which a site is
surface material that provides a smoothly paved surface that is suitable
for bicycles and in-line skates. It is preferred in urban areas where
trails are often used for commuting to and from work or school.
Trail or Corridor:
assessments are undertaken to better understand a trail or corridor.
Assessments include an accurate description and documentation of native
elements and an inventory of built structures along the trail or
Crossing: A trail crossing a roadway
on the same elevation. Ideally, a safe at-grade crossing has either
light automobile traffic or a traffic signal that can be activated by
Axe (Ax): A tool with a long handle and bladed head (single bit – one sharp side or double bit – two sharp sides) for chopping deadfall from trails, shaping stakes for turnpikes and waterbars, and cutting notches for structures made of timber.
An area where there are no maintained roads or permanent
buildings—just primitive roads and trails.
The vertical part of a bench cut that is blended into the backslope.
Material used to refill a ditch or other excavation, or the process of
doing this action.
A large pack worn on the back to carry camping supplies; to go on an
overnight hike carrying your supplies in a backpack.
The cut bank along the uphill side of the trail extending upward from
the tread. Usually sloped back by varying degrees, depending on bank
composition and slope stability.
Mountain with an open, grassy summit that’s void of trees.
Stone, cinders, gravel, or crushed rock fill material used to elevate a
railroad bed above the surrounding grade, to provide proper drainage and
a level surface for the ties and rails.
Bar: A sand or gravel deposit in a streambed that is often exposed only during low water periods.
A tool with a 1- to 4-foot long wood handle and a dished blade used to
remove bark from logs by sliding between the bark and the wood.
A portable or fixed barrier having object markings, used to close all or
a portion of the trail right-of-way to trail traffic.
A trail design that promotes the elimination of physical barriers that
reduce access to areas by people with disabilities.
The primary excavated bed of a trail upon which the tread, or finished
The layer or layers of specified material of designed thickness placed
on a trailbed to support surfacing.
A map showing the important natural and built features of an area. Such
maps are used to establish consistency when maps are used for various
The angle an abutment or rock wall is inclined against the earth it
The excavated surface on which a trail tread lies.
Solid rock material that is exposed when topsoil is eroded or cut away.
A long (with or without a back) seat for two or more people.
A relatively flat, stable surface (tread) on a hillside occurring
naturally or by excavation. When excavated often referred to as full or
Structural member or framework used for strengthening a bridge or
The ridge of material formed on the outer edge of the trail that
projects higher than the center of the trail tread.
Path (Bike Trail, Bikeway, Multiuse Path/Trail):
Any corridor that is physically separated from motorized vehicular
traffic by an open space or barrier. It is either within the highway
right-of-way or within an independent right-of-way. Due to a lack of
pedestrian facilities, most bike paths/trails are commonly designed and
referenced as multiuse paths and trails.
Biodegradable: Able to decompose when exposed to biological agents and soil chemicals.
Wire rope that has begun to unwrap individual strands of wire.
A night out without a tent.
Sack (Bivy Sack): A lightweight, unfilled, waterproof bag that can
cover a sleeping bag.
A trail marker. Blazes can be made on a tree by chipping away a piece of
the bark and painting the chipped out part with a 2-inch by 6-inch,
vertical rectangle. Plastic triangles or diamonds (known as blazers)
with the name of the trail or a directional arrow imprinted can be
purchased and nailed to trees to mark a trail route.
On the Appalachian Trail a blue blaze almost always means a side trail
to a campsite or a town. White blazes are generally used for the main or
trunk trail. Many other trails follow the Appalachian Trail example.
Two blazes (vertical alignment) that denote a change in direction or
junction in the trail coming up.
(Kick Outs, Diversion Dips):
Graded depression angled to drain water sideways off the treadway.
A thin, round swelling of the skin, filled with water, caused by
Pulley in which a rope or cable is threaded.
Pulley with hinged side plate allowing attachment anywhere along a fixed
(Windfall): Anything (trees,
limbs, brush, etc.) blown down on the trail by the wind.
A steep headland, promontory, riverbank, or cliff.
A fixed planked structure, usually built on pilings in areas of wet soil
or water to provide dry crossings.
A muddy area common where little direct sunlight reaches the trail or
where there are flat areas that are difficult to drain.
A barrier post, usually 30 to 42 inches in height, used to inhibit
vehicular traffic at trail access points.
Fill material required for on-site trail construction and obtained from
other nearby locations.
Area where soil, gravel, or rock materials are removed to be used on the
trail for tread, embankments, or backfilling.
Saw: A 16-, 21-, or 36-inch thin bladed saw with a curved handle
used to cut brush or trimming small branches.
(Braided Trail): The process of numerous routes being created.
Identified by worn and eroded vegetation.
A structure, including supports, erected over a depression (stream,
river, chasm, canyon, or road) and having a deck for carrying trail
traffic. If the structure is two feet above the surface the bridge
should have railings.
(Bridle Path): Public way designed and maintained primarily for
equestrian use. Other nonmotorized uses may be permitted.
Vegetation or small flora.
To clear the trail corridor of plants, trees, and branches which could
impede the progress of trail users.
To pile logs, branches, rocks, or duff along the sides of the tread to
keep users from widening the trail, or to fill in a closed trail with
debris so that it will not be used.
Any type of natural or constructed barrier (like trees, shrubs, or
wooden fences) used between the trail and adjacent lands to minimize
impacts (physical or visual).
(Formerly called “controlled burns,” now called “prescribed
burns.”) These are periodic intentional fires conducted by forestry
services to clear underbrush in an effort to control “wildfires,”
open areas to wildlife, and promote germination of some species of
A long handle and either double- or single-edged curved blade gives the
bush hook a powerful cut.
Bushwhack: Term applied to off-trail hiking (originally where the going was difficult, where many bushes had to be whacked). Now it is often used to mean off-trail travel regardless of whether the going is difficult or not.
Wire: A thick, heavy rope, made of wire strands.
Fly Zone: The hazardous area a cable can potentially move to when it
comes under tension or is suddenly released from tension.
A device that clamps onto a cable when tension is applied to the
A pre-cut length of wire rope that may have eyes on both ends which is
used in rigging applications.
A supply of food or tools, usually buried or hidden.
A constructed mound of rock located adjacent to a trail used to mark the
trail route. Used in open areas where the tread is indistinct.
An emergency telephone system installed along a trail with direct
connection to the local 911 network.
Site where overnight stays are permitted.
An artificial waterway for transportation or irrigation.
Rock placed in the top or uppermost layer in a constructed rock
structure, such as a rock retaining wall.
Canopy: The leaf cover in a forest stand, consisting of its upper layers.
oblong metal clip with a spring gate used to attach slings to ropes or
ropes to anchors.
In a broad, generic sense it refers to the amount of use a given
resource can sustain before an irreversible deterioration in the quality
of the resource begins to occur.
Point: The outer limits of a trailway where the excavation and/or
embankment intersect with the ground line.
Exclusion (CE): A technical exclusion for projects that do not
result in significant environmental impacts. Such projects are not
required to prepare environmental reviews.
Elevated section of trail contained by rock, usually through permanent
or seasonally wet areas.
Line: An imaginary line marking the center of the trail. During
construction, the center line is usually marked by placing a row of
flags or stakes (to indicate where the center of the trail will be).
The process by which sites and segments of national historic (and some
national scenic) trails are officially recognized by the administering
A portable gas-operated saw with an endless chain carrying cutting
A public design workshop in which designers, property owners,
developers, public officials, environmentalists, citizens, and other
persons or group of people work in harmony to achieve an agreeable trail
or greenway project.
Log, rock, or wood barrier placed across deeply eroded trails or
erosional channels to slow the flow of water to allow accumulation of
fine fill material behind the structure to fill in the trail tread.
(Redbug): The tiny, red larva of certain mites, whose bite causes
itching and red welts.
Loop of rope or cable cinched onto a load so it gets tighter, or
“chokes” the load under pressure.
Copper Arsenate (CCA):
Is the well-known wood preservative for boardwalks, decks, and other
common trail applications where treated lumber is used.
The area surrounding the trail worker that is unsafe due to tool use.
The inner (or primary) circle of danger is the area the tool can reach
while being used. The outer circle of danger is the area the tool could
reach if the trail worker lost control or let go of the tool.
The designation indicating intended use and maintenance specifications
for a particular trail.
(Clear-cutting): Removal of all trees and shrubs, not just mature
Removal of windfall trees, uproots, leaning trees, loose limbs, wood
chunks, etc. from both the vertical and horizontal trail corridor.
Height (Vertical Clearance):
The vertical dimension which must be cleared of all tree branches and
other obstructions that would otherwise obstruct movement along the
The outer edges of clearing areas (cleared of trees, limbs, and other
obstructions) as specified by trail use.
(Shackle): A U-shaped metal piece with holes in each end through
which a pin or bolt is run. Used to attach two objects together.
Turn: A turn which is constructed on a grade of 20% or less when
measured between the exterior boundaries of the turn and follows the
grade as it changes the direction of the trail 120 to 180 degrees.
A hand-held instrument used for measuring angles of terrain elevation or
percent of trail grade.
(Cobblestone): Loose rock over 2 ½ inches in diameter.
A pass between two mountain peaks; or a low spot in a mountain ridge.
Ditch: A drainage structure that intercepts water flowing toward a
trail and usually channeled underneath the trail through a culvert.
A strong cable fitted with a ratchet to gain mechanical advantage for
moving heavy objects over the ground with comparative ease. It is often
used in trail work to move large rocks or bridge timbers.
The degree of consolidation that is obtained by tamping with hand tools
or by tamping mineral soil and small aggregate in successive layers not
more than 6” in depth.
The compression of aggregate, soil, or fill material by tamping.
A direction-finding device that is used with a map to plot a route or
check your position.
A composition of coarse and fine aggregates, portland cement, and water,
blended to give a hard, unyielding, nearly white pavement which can be
finished to any degree of smoothness. Concrete us most often used in
urban areas with anticipated heavy use or in areas susceptible to
The taking of private property by a government unit for public use, when
the owner will not relinquish it through sale or other means; the owner
is compensated by payment of market value. The power to take the
property is based on the concept of eminent domain.
Resolution is an outcome that develops from complete analysis and meets
the needs of all concerned parties. Inherent in the process is clear and
open communication, mutual respect, shared exploration, an orientation
to collaborative problem solving, and a commitment to resolution.
The ability to create functionally contiguous blocks of land or water
through linkage or similar ecosystems or native landscapes; the linking
of trails, greenways, and communities.
Controlled use and protection of natural resources.
Building a trail where no trail previously existed.
A line on a topographic map connecting points of the land surface that
have the same elevation.
Trail: Trail constructed such that it follows a contour, with it’s
elevation remaining constant.
Features that trail users will want to naturally head towards or try to
avoid (views, obstacles, etc.). These features should be flagged and
used to help layout a trail.
A rustic form of puncheon using native logs (3 to 5’ in length) laid
parallel on wet saturated ground and covered with a tread of soil.
Corduroy typically rots out quickly.
Land set aside on either side of a trail to act as a buffer zone
protecting the trail against impacts such as logging or development
which would detract from the quality and experience of a trail.
The full dimensions of a route, including the tread and a zone on either
side (usually three feet) and above the tread from which brush will be
An even layer of stones, similar to a course of bricks, that forms a
foundation, intermediate layer, or cap stone layer in a stonewall.
Cover (Ground Cover): Vegetation or other material providing protection to a surface: area covered by live above ground parts of plants.
A mid-span timber used to transfer the load of the bridge to the truss
Those areas where surface waters flow sufficiently to produce a defined
channel or bed.
Creep: Slow mass movement of soil down relatively steep slopes, primarily by gravity and water.
(Cribwall, Retaining Wall):
Rock or log reinforcement structure to support trail tread or retain
backslope along steep trails that are at risk from erosion.
The outside edge of the trail. It’s called the critical point because
this is where trail maintenance problems (always related to drainage)
usually begin. Rounding the outside edge helps water to leave the edge
of the trail.
Section (Typical Cross Section or Typical): Diagrammatic
presentation of a trail or path profile which is at right angles to the
centerline at a given location.
Saw: A long saw that was favored a century ago by loggers felling
trees. Used today in federally designated Wilderness Areas or by those
who prefer not to use chainsaws.
Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by
lines or other markings on the surface.
Trail: A trail bed built up from the surrounding area (and sloped
for drainage) usually by excavating trenches parallel to the trail.
Fines (Crusher Run, Crushed Stone):
Refers to any limestone, granite, or gravel that has been run through a
crusher that is used to form a hard tread surface which once wetted and
compacted creates a smooth trail surface for high-use areas.
Pipelike or boxlike construction of wood, metal, plastic, or concrete
that passes under a trail to catch surface water from side ditches and
direct it way from a trail.
Pipelike or boxlike construction of wood, metal, plastic, or concrete
that passes under a trail to convey a stream under a crossing without
A cut in the curb where a trail crosses a street. The curb cut should be
the same width as the trail.
A free-flowing movement pattern characterized by the general absence of
straight trail segments.
Native or imported material, generally placed over rocky sections of
unsurfaced trail to provide a usable and maintained traveled way.
Cut and Fill: The process of removing soil from one area and placing it elsewhere to form a base for any given activity.
Cut Slope: An earthen slope that is cut. For example, a trail built lower than the existing terrain would result in a cut slope.
A soft pack smaller than a backpack, favored by day hikers for carrying
food, water, and other supplies.
Clearing a ditch or drain so that water can run all the way to daylight.
A tangled mass of fallen trees or branches.
Removing the ridge of material formed on the outer edge of the trail
which projects higher than the center of the trail tread, allowing water
to once again flow off the trail.
Any undesirable material that encroaches on a trail that hinders the
That part of a bridge, puncheon, or boardwalk structure that provides
direct support for trail traffic.
The measurement describing the difference between true north and
(chemical name N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active ingredient
used in many insect repellents. It is used to repel biting pests such as
mosquitoes and ticks.
A depletion of body fluids that can hinder the body’s ability to
regulate its own temperature.
Trail: A trail that is approved and maintained by an agency.
A subjective rating of trail difficulty based on an average user with
average physical abilities. For example the US Forest Service uses Easy,
More Difficult, Most Difficult. Many other agencies use the following:
Bar: A long bar with a small blade at one end for loosening
compacted or rocky soil and a flattened end for tamping.
(Tramway, Tram, Levee):
An embankment or dam made to prevent flooding by the sea, a
river/stream, or lake. The embankment is often used for a trail.
Recreation activities that occur outside of developed recreation
facilities away from traveled roads. Also referred to as backcountry
A long, narrow trench used to improve drainage.
A trail which connects two distinct points (A to B) rather than
returning the user to the original beginning point.
A ditch which parallels the treadway on the uphill side to collect water
seeping into the trail, usually ends in a drainage ditch which allows
the water to cross the trail.
A trail that allows for two users to travel side by side or make passes
without one user having to yield the trail. Double-track trails are
often old forest roads.
The correct position of a carabiner gate when it is connected to an
Tree: Fallen tree that blocks the trail.
The downhill side of the trail. Avoid damaging downslope vegetation that
is stabilizing hillside soil.
A cobbled improvement to the trail surface that allows drainage (usually
from an intermittent wet seep) across the trail for continued passage
along the trail without damage to the soil.
water in swamps, springs, creeks, drainages, or draws that the trail
Sheet: Desirable condition in which water flows in smooth sheets
rather than rivulets; shower flow and less concentration results in less
Rain or snow runoff from the surface of the tread.
An erosion-control technique that reverses the grade of a trail for a
distance of 15-20 feet before returning to the prevailing grade. The
abrupt change in grade forces water to run off the trail tread, rather
than gaining additional velocity.
Open ditches running parallel to the trail tread that collect water and
carry it away from the site. A drainage ditch is also an element of a
waterbar, providing an escape route for water diverted from the trail by
These are stone filled ditches that can have a porous pipe laid along
the base to collect the water and carry it away from the site. The top
must be kept clear of the surfacing material; water must run freely into
Documents showing details for construction of a trail or trail-related
facility, including but not limited to straight-line diagrams, trail
logs, standard drawings, construction logs, plan and profile sheets,
cross-sections, diagrams, layouts, schematics, descriptive literature,
and similar materials.
A tool with a sharp blade and handles at both ends used to strip bark
from small-diameter logs.
Water: Water that is “potable” or safe to drink.
Slope that falls away steeply.
Duff (Humus): A layer of decaying organic plant matter (leaves, needles, and humus) on the ground. It is highly absorbent and quickly erodes under traffic.
Dunes: Ridges or mounds of loose, wind-blown material, usually sand.
Grants the right to use a specific portion of land for a specific
purpose or purposes. Easements may be limited to a specific period of
time or may be granted in perpetuity; or the termination of the easement
may be predicated upon the occurrence of a specific event. An easement
agreement survives transfer of landownership and is generally binding
upon future owners until it expires on its own terms.
Charter: An easement dedicated to a specific public purpose and
which is established by a private given power to condemn under a state
or the federal government’s powers of eminent domain.
Places permanent restrictions on property in order to protect natural
Construction: An additional area or corridor needed to construct a
trail or facility.
Maintenance: An additional area or corridor (not open to the public)
needed to maintain trail drainage, foliage, and recurring maintenance
Recreation: Provides public access to private property while
limiting or indemnifying the owner’s public liability.
Scenic: Places permanent restrictions on a property in order to
protect the natural view.
A system formed by the interaction of living organisms, including
people, with their environment.
Purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural
history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of
the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make the
conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people.
The height of a place above sea level.
Triangle (Pregnant Triangle):
Shape of signs for trails in the National Trails System.
Structure made from soil used to raise the trail, railbed, or roadway
above the existing grade.
Domain: The authority of a government to take (usually by purchase)
private property for public use.
A species of animal or plant is considered to be endangered when its
prospects for survival and reproduction are in immediate jeopardy from
one or more causes.
Funds: Under TEA-21, independent funds for bicycling and walking
facilities, rail-trails, and eleven other activities.
Sunken tracks or grooves in the tread surface cut in the direction of
travel by the passage of water or trail users.
A document prepared early in a planning process (Federal) that evaluates
the potential environmental consequences of a project or activity. An
assessment includes the same topical areas as an EIS, but only assesses
the effects of a preferred action, and in less detail than an EIS. An EA
results in a decision, based on a assessment of the degree of impact of
an action, that an EIS is necessary, or that an action will have no
significant effect and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) can be
Activities that use a structured process to build knowledge, in students
and others, about environmental topics.
Impact Statement (EIS):
An EIS is a full disclosure, detailed report which, pursuant to Section
102(2)C of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), establishes the
need for the proposed action, identifies alternatives with the potential
to meet the identified need, analyzes the anticipated environmental
consequences of identified alternatives, and discusses how adverse
effects may be mitigated. An EIS is prepared in two stages: a draft
statement which is made available to the public for review and a final
statement which is revised on the basis of comments made on the draft
A temporary or short-lived water flow, especially after a heavy rain.
Most of the year it’s a dry creek bed.
Natural process by which soil particles are detached from the ground
surface and moved downslope, principally by the actions of running
water. The combination of water falling on the trail, running down the
trail, and of freezing and thawing, and the wear and tear from traffic
create significant erosion problems on trails.
Techniques intended to reduce and mitigate soil movement from water,
wind, and trail user traffic.
Sheet: The removal of a fairly uniform layer of soil material from
the land surface by the action of rainfall and runoff water.
An inland cliff formed by the erosion of the inclined strata of hard
The relative hazard encountered when one takes into consideration
obstacles, alignment, grade, clearing, tread width, tread surface,
sideslope, isolation, and proximity to steep slopes or cliffs.
Extended Trail: Trails over 100 miles in length (as defined in the National Trails System Act).
member in retaining walls and abutments that is placed at right angle to
the structure or trail tread.
water flows down a hill. A high use trail should never be constructed on
the fall line of a hill.
Fascines (Wattles): Stems and branches of rootable material (willow, dogwood, or alder for example) that are tied together in long bundles, placed in shallow trenches on contour between rock masses that have shifted.
The animal populations and species of a
Simple Absolute: An interest in land
in which the owner is entitled to the entire property without limitation
or restriction, and with unconditional power of disposition.
Simple Determinate: Similar to Fee
Simple Absolute, but states condition(s) under which the property will
revert to the original owner/grantor.
Path or Trail: A trail designed to
connect local facilities, neighborhoods, campgrounds, etc. to a main
Low, flat, marshy land or a bog.
A constructed barrier of wood, masonry,
stone, wire, or metal, erected to screen or separate areas.
A hand-held 10- to 12-inch flat steel tool
with a rough, ridged surface for smoothing or grinding.
(Material): Gravel or soil used to
fill voids in trail tread and to pack behind retaining walls and other
of excavated material cast on the downslope side of trail cut (also
soil: Smallest soil particles
important for binding the soil together; silt; fines are often the first
particles to move when erosion takes place.
Rake: A tool with triangular tines
used to cut duff and debris from fire lines or trail corridors.
A strip of forest or prairie land cleared
or plowed to stop or prevent the spread of fire.
Year (FY): Annual schedule for keeping
financial records and for budgeting funds. The Federal fiscal year runs
from October 1 through September 30, while most state fiscal year’s
run from July 1 through June 30.
Rope (Cable): A rope or cable that is
set in place to assist in moving large objects.
Thin ribbon used for marking purposes
during the location, design, construction, or maintenance of a trail
tied to trees indicating the intended course of a trail prior to
wands with square plastic flags at one end for field layout and marking
of new trail or relocations of trail sections.
The flat, occasionally flooded (100-year
floods) area bordering streams, rivers, or other bodies of water
susceptible to changes in the surface level of the water.
channel of a river or stream where the annual raising or lowering of
The plant populations and species of a
Branch or sapling cut flush with the trunk
area of soil enriched by transported soil minerals brought by water from
elsewhere (opposite of leaching).
is a waste material from coal-burning power plants and may be mixed with
lime and earth as a combined base and surface material for trail tread.
is a way over which the public has a right-of-way on foot only.
Wheelchairs are also permitted, although this may not be practical due
to surface or slope.
natural water level stream crossing improved (aggregate mix or concrete)
to provide a level low velocity surface for safe trail traffic passage.
hammered into muck until friction prevents further penetration;
foundation for puncheon or boardwalk.
of the Trail: A
private, non-profit organization formed to advocate and promote a trail.
They can provide assistance, whether muscle power or political power,
that augments management of a trail by a public agency.
freezing of skin and the tissue beneath.
Full Bench: Where the total width of the trail tread is excavated out of the slope and the trail tread contains no compacted fill material.
Baskets: Rectangular containers made of heavy galvanized wire.
Gabions can be wired together, and then filled with stones to make quick
Coverings that zip or snap around the ankles and lower legs to keep
debris and water out of your boots.
Structure that can be swung, drawn, or lowered to block an entrance or
Information System (GIS):
A spatial database mapping system that can be used to contain location
data for trails and other important features.
A semi-impervious nonwoven petrochemical fabric cloth that provides a
stable base for the application of soil or gravel. Most common use is in
the construction of turnpikes.
Lamblia: Protozoan occurring in backcountry water sources that
causes an intestinal illness (diarrhea, excess gas, and abdominal
cramping) called giardiasis.
Glacier: A huge ice mass formed on land by the compaction and re-crystallization of snow, that moves very slowly down slope or outward due to its own weight.
An open space in a forest.
Positioning System (GPS):
A system use to map trail locations using satellites and portable
receivers. Data gathered can be downloaded directly into GIS database
A high-carbohydrate snack food made primarily from nuts and dried fruit,
an acronym for “good ol’ raisins and peanuts.”
Slope expressed as a percentage (feet change in elevation for every 100
horizontal feet, commonly known as “rise over run”). A trail that
rises 8 vertical feet in 100 horizontal feet has an 8% grade. Grade is
different than angle; angle is measured with a straight vertical as 90º
and a straight horizontal as 0º. A grade of 100% would have an angle of
The steepest grade permitted on any part of a trail.
The steepest grade permitted over the majority of the trail length.
Dip, (Rolling Dip, Coweta Dip):
A reverse or gradual dip in the grade of the trail, 20 to 40 feet long,
followed by a gradual rise of two to three feet with the rise at an
angle to the outslope to divert water off the trail. This accomplishes
the same effect as a waterbar but will last longer due to the gentle dip
and rise of the trail grade.
Overpasses or tunnels that allow trail users to cross a railroad
right-of-way or street at a different level than trains or traffic.
Any writing, printing, marks, signs, symbols, figures, designs,
inscriptions, or other drawings that are scratched, scrawled, painted,
drawn, or otherwise placed on any surface of a building, wall, fence,
trail tread, or other structure on trails or greenways and which have
the effect of defacing the property.
efforts at the local level utilizing public interest groups and
communities in support of trails or greenways.
A framework of latticed or parallel bars that prevents large objects
from falling through a drainage inlet but permits water and some
sediment to fall through the slots.
An open space available for unstructured recreation, its landscaping
consisting of grassy areas and trees.
Infrastructure: The sum of the public and private conservation lands
including native landscapes and ecosystems, greenspaces, and waters.
A series of connected open spaces that may follow natural features such
as ravines, creeks, or streams. May surround cities and serve to
conserve and direct urban and suburban growth.
Natural areas, open space, trails, and greenways that function for both
wildlife and people.
A linear open space established along a natural corridor, such as a
river, stream, ridgeline, rail-trail, canal, or other route for
conservation, recreation, or alternative transportation purposes.
Greenways can connect parks, nature preserves, cultural facilities, and
historic sites with business and residential areas. May or may not be
open to recreational trail use.
Safe, off-road corridor of open space that connects neighborhoods,
schools, parks, work places, and community centers via paths and trails.
Open space corridor that protects biodiversity and water resources by
connecting natural features such as streams, wetlands, forests, and
A brand name for a manually operated hoist that pulls in a cable at one
end and expels it from the other end used to move rock or timber needed
for trail structures.
Groundwater Table: The depth below the surface where the soil is saturated with water.
A tool with a blade (various weights) set across the end of a long
handle used to building and repairing trail tread and digging trenches.
To dig, or clear of roots, to uproot shallow roots near or on the ground
surface; also grubbing of tree stumps.
Gully (Gullying): Where concentrations of runoff water cut into soil forming single or numerous channels greater than one foot below post-construction tread depth usually on steepening terrain.
A place that supports a plant or animal population because it supplies
that organism’s basic requirements of food, water, shelter, living
space, and security.
Where the half width of the trail tread is excavated out of the slope
and the outside of the trail tread contains the excavated compacted
A cluster of trees, often hardwoods on higher ground.
Surface (Paved) Trail:
A trail tread surfaced with asphalt or concrete.
The manual, mechanical, or chemical compaction of the trail tread
resulting in a hard and flat surface that sheets water effectively and
resists the indentations that are created by use.
Block (Turf Support Block, Turf Stone, Grass Grid, Tri-Lock Blocks):
All can be sued for hardening of the trail tread, but each has unique
characteristics which lend themselves to different applications.
A hard shell worn on the head as protection during trail work.
A layer of rock, or compacted clay layer of soil that forms a durable
and generally erosion-free trail surface.
Tree (Widow Maker):
Tree or limb that is either dead or with some structural fault that is
hanging over or leaning towards the trail or sites were people
Stone or Rock:
A long, uniform stone laid with its narrow end towards the face of a
retaining wall or crib used intermittently to structurally tie in the
other rocks laid in the wall.
Support structure at the entrance to a culvert or drainage structure.
The body’s reaction to overheating, which includes salt-deficiency and
A severe illness in which the body’s temperature rises way above
normal; also called sunstroke.
Measure of the vertical dimension of a feature. May also be the depth of
a rut or dip.
Pier: Steel post with auger-shaped bit-end that is screwed into wet
soils either by hand, or with the aid of specialized hydraulic tools to
establish a foundation for puncheon or boardwalk.
A hard shell protective device worn on the head while riding OHVs,
mountain bikes, horses, etc., or while in-line skating.
Potential Site (or Segment):
Historic sties or trail segments which afford high quality recreation or
A general term denoting a public way for purposes of vehicular travel,
including the entire area within the right-of-way.
An urban trail designed for use by pedestrians and bicyclists.
Moderate to long distance trail with the primary function of providing
long-distance walking experiences (usually two miles and more).
(Hunting) Camp: Areas used by seasonal hunters. Usually has vehicle
access and water.
Soil that is saturated or flooded during a sufficient portion of the
growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper soil layers.
The properties, distribution and circulation of water on the surface of
the land, in the soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere.
Hypothermia: Lowering of the body’s core temperature to dangerous levels. Wet conditions and wind and exhaustion can bring on hypothermia.
fee levied on the developer or builder of a project by a public agency
as compensation for otherwise unmitigated impacts the project will
produce. Impact fees can be designated to pay for publicly owned parks,
open space, and recreational facilities.
all physical, ecological, and aesthetic effects resulting from the
construction and use of trails (both negative and positive). Many
studies have been concerned with environmental and social impacts of
different users, such as tread wear, littering, conflicts between users,
Surface: Surfaces that do not absorb
water. Examples of such surfaces include concrete or asphalt paved
trails and parking areas.
insure against or repay for loss, damage, etc.
stone or soil material used to pin or fill gaps in path and wall
to the facilities, utilities, and transportation systems (road and
trail) needed to meet public and administrative needs.
the trail bed is sloped downward toward the backslope of the trail;
causes water to run along the inside of the trail.
To set in position for use; to build.
to connections between modes of transportation, such as automobile,
transit, bicycle, or walking.
Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA): Federal
legislation authorizing highway, highway safety, transit, and other
surface transportation programs from 1991 through 1997. It provided new
funding opportunities for sidewalks, shared use paths, and recreational
trails. ISTEA was superseded by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st
use of multiple types of transportation to reach one destination;
includes combining the use of trains and buses, automobiles, bicycles,
and pedestrian transport on a given trip.
information about the natural and/or cultural resources and their
associated stories and values found at a specific site or along a trail.
Tours, signs, brochures, and other means can be used to interpret a
Sign or Display:
educational sign or display that describes and explains a natural or
cultural point of interest on or along the trail.
Trail: Short to moderate length trail
(1/2 to 1 mile) with concentrated informational stops to explain
associated views, natural flora and fauna, and other features.
Area where two or more trails or roads
Exotic: Non-native plant or animal
species that invades an area and alters the natural mix of species.
Invitee: A person who has been invited to use the property by the owner for the mutual benefit of the owner and invitee.
Junction: Site where one trail or road meets another.
structure housing informational or interpretive displays.
Knob: Prominent rounded hill or mountain.
Large inland body of water.
Ethic: The desire humans have to conserve, protect, and respect the
native landscape and other natural resources because their own well
being is dependent upon the proper functioning of the ecosystem.
Management Agency: Any governmental agency that manages public
lands, many managed as recreation and/or wilderness areas. Examples
include federal agencies such as the USDA Forest Service, the USDI
National Park Service, and the USDI Bureau of Land Management, as well
as state and local park system agencies.
Manager: Any person who makes decisions regarding land use.
A private, nonprofit conservation organization formed to protect natural
resources such as forestland, natural areas, and recreational areas.
Land trusts purchase and accepts donations of conservation easements.
Use: The way a section or parcel of land is used. Examples of land
uses include industrial, agricultural, and residential.
An official document that establishes a program for the future use of
The earth’s surface at different scales, including all human and
natural features, and containing numerous interacting ecosystems such as
forests, fields, waterways, and human settlements.
Dislodged rock or earth obstructing passage on a trail.
The loss of soil minerals from upper layers of the soil to lower down by
Another word for shelter, this term is used primarily in New England.
The grant of an interest in land upon payment of a determined fee. The
fee does not have to be monetary, but some consideration must be given
for the right to use the land or the lease will not be legally binding.
No Trace (LNT):
Educational program designed to instill behaviors in the outdoors that
leave minimum impact of human activities or occupation.
Written and approved laws. Also known as “statutes” or “acts.”
Is the free or discretionary time available for people to use as they
choose after meeting the biological requirements of existence and the
subsistence requirements of work.
Dimension of a feature measured parallel to the direction of travel.
(Liable): In law, a broad term including almost every type of duty,
obligation, debt, responsibility, or hazard arising by way of contract,
tort, or statute. To say a landowner or person is “liable” for an
injury or wrongful act is to indicate that they are the person
responsible for compensating for the injury or wrongful act.
Allows the licensed party to enter the land of the licensor without
being deemed a trespasser.
Person using a property with the implied or stated consent of the owner
but not for the benefit of the owner.
of Acceptable Change (LAC):
A planning framework that establishes explicit measures of the
acceptable and appropriate resource and social conditions in wilderness
settings as well as the appropriate management strategies for
maintaining or achieving those desired conditions.
Connections that enable trails and greenway systems to function and
multiply the utility of existing components by connecting them together
like beads on a string.
Dead: The total physical weight of a bridge, equal to the combined
weight of all structural components.
Design: The maximum weight a trail tread can carry at any point
along its length. Service and emergency vehicles need to be considered
when determining the design load of concrete or asphalt trails.
The active forces and weights that a bridge is designed to support,
including people, service vehicles, flood waters, floating debris
contained within flood waters, wind, snow, and ice.
Loam: An easily crumbled soil consisting of a mixture of clay, silt, and sand.
An inventory of physical features along or adjacent to a trail. An
item-by-item, foot by foot record of trail features and facilities or
improvement on a specific trail.
Out Tree: Down tree across the trail with sections already removed
to permit passage.
Designing trail systems so that the routes form loops, giving users the
option of not traveling the same section of trail more than once on a
(Pruning Shears): A long-handled tool with two opposing blades
(by-pass or anvil) used for cutting heavy vegetation (limbs of 1 to 1¾
inches in diameter).
Lyme Disease: An infection caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called a spirochete carried by deer ticks. Symptoms associated with the early stages: fever, headache, stiffness, lethargy, and myriad other mild complaints—are often dismissed as the flu.
A large knife used to clear succulent vegetation.
North: A spot in northern Canada, overlying the earth’s magnetic
North Pole, toward which the red needle of a compass points.
Work that is carried out to keep a trail in its originally constructed
serviceable standard. Usually limited to minor repair or improvements
that do not significantly change the trail width, surface, or trail
Involves four tasks done annually or more as needed: cleaning drainage,
clearing blowdowns, brushing, and blazing and marking.
A comprehensive long-range plan intended to guide greenway and trail
development of a community or region that includes analysis,
recommendation, and proposals of action.
A sturdy grubbing took with an adz blade that can be used as a hoe for
digging in hard ground. The other blade may be a pick (pick mattock) for
breaking or prying small rock or a cutting edge (cutter mattock) for
The highest percent of grade on the trail.
The highest percent of grade on the trail that is sustained for a
Looking like an over-sized hoe with tines on the opposite side the
McLeod is a forest fire tool intended for raking fire lines and cutting
branches and sod. In trail work it is used to remove slough and berm
from a trail and smoothing tread.
Tract of grassland.
An instrument that measures circular arcs. A device that records the
revolutions of a wheel and hence the distance traveled by a wheel on a
trail or land surface.
Advantage: Multiplication of work force through the use of simple
machines such as the lever, the inclined plane, the wheel, and the
of Understanding/Agreement (MOU or MOA):
A signed, written agreement entered into by various governmental
agencies and nonprofit groups to facilitate the planning, coordination,
development, and maintenance of a trail or trails system.
Flat-topped elevation with one or more cliff-like sides.
layers of the subsoil relatively free of organic matter.
Deviations of the trail alignment made during the course of normal
construction or maintenance as determined by the supervisor or crew
leader, and not part of an original survey.
Actions undertaken to avoid, minimize, reduce, eliminate, or rectify the
adverse impact from a management practice or impact from trail users.
A particular form of travel, such as walking, bicycling, carpooling,
bus, or train.
Check systematically or scrutinize for the purpose of collecting
specific data in relation to a set of standards.
A ridge or pile of boulders, stones, and other debris carried along and
deposited by a glacier.
Off-highway recreation using motorized vehicle (motorcycle, ATV,
snowmobile, four-wheel drive or other light utility vehicle) on trails.
Organic matter spread on newly constructed trail work to help stabilize
soils and protect them from erosion.
Facilities serving more than one transportation mode or transportation
network comprised of a variety of modes.
Use Area: A land management objective seeking to coordinate several
environmental, recreational, economic, historical, cultural and/or
social values in the same geographic area in a compatible and
Multiple-Use (Multi-Use) Trail: A trail that permits more than one user group at a time (horse, OHVer, hiker, mountain bicyclist, etc.).
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA):
Established by Congress in 1969, NEPA requires public involvement and
assessment of the biological and cultural resources in the location of
the proposed activity. Any ground-disturbing activity on Federal land
will require a NEPA analysis of some kind.
Extended trails, which closely follow original routes of nationally
significant travel (explorers, emigrants, traders, military, etc.). The
Iditarod, the Lewis and Clark, the Mormon Pioneer, and the Oregon trails
were the first to be designated as National Historic Trails.
Areas that have outstanding combinations of outdoor recreation
opportunities, aesthetic attractions, and proximity to potential users.
They may also have cultural, historical, archaeological, pastoral,
wilderness, scientific, wildlife, and other values contributing to
Are existing local trails (over 800) recognized by the federal
government as contributing to the National Trails System.
Monument: Area of unique ecological, geological, historical,
prehistoric, cultural, and scientific interest.
Scenic Area: Area that contains outstanding scenic characteristics,
recreational values, and geological, ecological, and cultural resources.
Extended trails, which provide for the maximum outdoor recreation
potential and for the conservation and enjoyment of the significant
qualities of the areas through which they pass. The Appalachian and the
Pacific Crest trails were the first to be designated at National Scenic
National Trails System: A network of trails (National Scenic, Historic, or Recreation) throughout the country authorized by the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 1241-51).
Species: An indigenous species (a basic unit of taxonomy) that is
normally found as part of a particular ecosystem; a species that was
present in a particular area at the time of the Public Land Survey
Surface (Trail): A
tread made from clearing and grading the native soil with no added
Trail: Moderate length trail (3/4 to 2 miles) with primary function
of providing an opportunity to walk and study interesting or unusual
plants or natural features at users pleasure. The ideal nature trail has
a story to tell. It unifies the various features or elements along the
trail into a related whole.
Grade: Trail runs downhill.
Trail recreation by modes such as bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian,
skate, ski, etc.
Plant that poses a hazard to humans or animals, such as poison oak or
ivy, cacti, stinging nettles, etc.
Nylon Strap: Heavy duty woven strap of wide nylon with eyes sewn in both ends. May be set basket style or choker style. Used mainly as anchor ties for a Griphoist or block attached to live trees, as their wider load-bearing surface does less bark damage and eliminates the need for the use of shims.
The way project sponsors spend money, typically by putting their project
under contract for construction. Grant programs often require project
sponsors to obligate funds in a timely manner or lose the funds.
Physical objects large enough to significantly impede or slow travel on
a trail. Logs, large rocks, and rock ledges are common obstacles.
Any motorized vehicle used for travel in areas normally considered
inaccessible to conventional highway vehicles. OHVs generally include
dirt motorcycles, dune buggies, jeeps, 4-wheel drive vehicles,
snowmobiles, and ATVs.
Any motorized vehicle used for travel in areas normally considered
inaccessible to conventional highway vehicles. OHVs generally include
dirt motorcycles, dune buggies, jeeps, 4-wheel drive vehicles,
snowmobiles, and ATVs.
Old Growth: Forests that have never been logged, or have not been logged for many decades; characterized by a large percentage of mature trees.
A type of trail design that allows for sweeping turns, higher speeds,
and better sight lines.
Areas of natural quality, either publicly or privately owned, designated
for protection of natural resources, nature-oriented outdoor recreation,
or trail-related activities.
and Maintenance Costs (O&M):
Funds for day-to-day costs of operating and maintaining costs. Costs
include worker’s salaries, equipment upkeep, etc.
Location Review (OLR):
A review of the optimum trail location when acquiring property rights
(purchase, lease, easement, right-of-way). Factors considered include
terrain, connections to the rest of the trail, property ownership,
ability to acquire the lands, etc. In short all of the environmental,
social, and economic impacts which would lead to selecting the optimum
lands for location of a trail are considered.
Soil: Soil that is made up of leaves, needles, plants, roots, bark,
and other organic material in various stages of decay, and has a large
water/mass absorption ratio.
A rock formation that protrudes through the level of the surrounding
Leisure activities involving the enjoyment and use of natural resources
primarily outside of structures.
Recreation Access Route (ORAR):
A continuous unobstructed path designated for pedestrian use that
connects accessible elements within a picnic area, campground, or
(Outwash): The off-treadway ditch portion of a drainage structure,
intended to remove all water from the trail.
That section of a trail, usually at or near the base of a descent which
provides adequate length and grade reduction in order for the user to
safely stop or negotiate turns, intersections, or structures. Outruns
are usually associated with ski touring.
A method of tread grading that leaves the outside edge of a hillside
trail lower than the inside to shed water. The outslope should be barely
noticeable—usually no more than about one inch of outslope for every
18 inches of tread width.
Ownership-In-Fee (Fee Purchase, Fee Simple): A complete transfer of land ownership from one landowner to another party, usually by purchase.
Ditching: A lateral drainage ditch
constructed adjacent to the trail tread to catch surface water sheeting
from the tread surface and divert it away from the trail. Generally this
drainage system is utilized in low flat areas or areas where multiple
entrenched trails have developed.
A series of exercise stations located
along a fitness trail. Each station is designed to exercise a different
set of muscles.
area that is predominately open space with natural vegetation and
landscaping used principally for active or passive recreation.
linear open space established along a natural corridor, such as a river,
stream, ridgeline, rail-trail, canal, or other route for passive
recreation, education, and scenic purposes.
broad roadway bordered and, often, divided with plantings of trees,
shrubs, and grass.
part of the width of the trail tread is excavated out of the slope and
the rest of the trail tread is made up of fill material.
Narrow low spot between mountain peaks;
lowest point along a mountain crest. Pass is generally used in the West,
while “gap” is used in the South, and “notch” in New England.
is a temporary or permanent area that is normally dirt or gravel,
although some paths are asphalt or concrete. A path typically indicates
the common route taken by pedestrians between two locations.
that discovers a way, explores untraveled regions to mark a new route.
Someone who promotes a new process or procedure.
swale crossing paved with stones to enable water to run across a trail
That part of a trail having a constructed
surface for the facilitation of wheeled trail traffic.
the tops of as many peaks as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Unconsolidated material, largely
undecomposed organic matter, that has accumulated under excess moisture
or is due to continued saturation.
Any person traveling by foot or any
mobility-impaired person who uses a wheelchair, whether operated
manually or motorized.
(Pick-ax, Pick-axe): A tool with a
36-inch handle and a head that has a point at one end and a chisel-like
edge at the other.
Area: Area with one or more picnic
bridge supports located between two adjacent bridge spans.
increase in the prevailing grade of a trail, used during construction to
avoid an obstacle, to catch up with the intended grade, or to meet a
Piton: A spike driven into rock and to which ropes are attached during climbing or rigging.
and Profile Sheets:
(usually prepared for trail construction) used to record horizontal and
vertical geometry of a trail alignment as well as other required
improvements to the trail corridor.
map: A map that shows features such as
roads, trails, and mountains but without contour lines showing elevation
Saw (Tree Pruner):
pruning saw with a telescoping handle to trim branches that would
otherwise be out of arm’s reach. Some models have built-in loppers
that can be operated from the ground with a rope.
Still body of water smaller than a lake.
A situation that exists when a paddler
must temporarily leave a river or stream in order to bypass hazards such
as dams, downed trees, or dangerous white water.
Grade: Trail runs uphill.
to drink from the source without treating.
a physical examination of the project work site in order to evaluate
solutions to trail deficiencies, select the appropriate course of
action, formulate the design and quantify the material, equipment, and
person hour requirements.
set by land managers to reduce underbrush hence reducing future fire
Maintaining an area or structure intact or
through routes that originate at the trailhead. Primarily for directing
users through an area while promoting a certain type of experience.
The trail cross-section as a whole.
Latrine or outhouse.
to grub and chop duff during forest fires, the Pulaski combines the axe
bit with an adz-shaped grub hoe.
log or timber structure built on the ground for the purpose of crossing
a boggy area. Usually consists of sills, stringers, decking, and often a
soil or loose gravel tread laid on top of decking.
defined area which provides public access/egress to water trails.
Quiet Title: An action brought in state court to establish legal rights to property.
Quit-Claim Deed: Deed of conveyance whereby whatever interest the grantor has in the property described in the deed is conveyed to the grantee without warranty of title.
An arc or curve that connects two straight trail segments in order to
provide smooth horizontal and vertical alignment.
The path of a railroad right-of-way, including the tracks and a
specified tract of land on either side of the tracks (generally one
hundred feet wide).
A multi-purpose public path (paved or natural) created along an inactive
A trail that shares the same corridor with active rail traffic.
Retaining a rail corridor for future railroad uses after service has
been discontinued. The National Trails System Act, Sec. 8d, provides for
interim public use of the corridor, allowing the establishment of
Horizontal or diagonal structural member which is attached to vertical
posts for the purpose of delineating trails, protecting vegetation,
providing safety barriers for trail users at overlooks and assisting
users when crossing bridges or using steps.
Deep, narrow gouge in the earth’s surface, usually eroded by the flow
The process of moving a portion of an existing trail to alleviate
maintenance problems or resource impact.
Steel reinforcing rod that comes in a variety of diameters, useful for
manufacturing pins or other trail anchors.
Building a trail on a new location to replace an existing trail.
Scouting out alternative trail locations prior to the final trail route
location being selected.
of Decision (ROD):
Also called a decision memo. The portion of a Final Environmental Impact
Statement that identifies the proposed action, signed by the appropriate
The refreshment of body and mind through forms of play, amusement, or
relaxation; usually considered any type of conscious enjoyment that
occurs during leisure time.
Recreational uses conducted almost wholly outdoors that generally do not
require a developed site, including hiking, horseback riding, mountain
biking, and birdwatching.
Opportunity Spectrum (ROS): A means of classifying and managing
recreational opportunities based on physical, social, and managerial
The number of recreational opportunities that a specific unit of a
recreation resource can provide year after year without appreciable
biological or physical deterioration of the resource or significant
impairment of the recreation experience.
Stock: Pack and saddle stock used primarily for transporting
recreationists and their gear. Both commercial pack stock and individual
stock are included. Usually horses and mules, but may also be llamas or
Trails Program (RTP):
First established in 1991 and then reauthorized as part of TEA-21, RTP
returns a portion of federal gasoline taxes generated by non-highway
recreation to the states, which in turn provide grants for trail-related
purposes to private organizations, state and federal agencies, and
(RUS): State laws
designed to limit the liability of public organizations, easement
donors, landowners, and others who open their lands for public
All work to bring an existing trail up to its classification standard on
the same location, including necessary relocation of minor portions of
Construction of a new section of trail to replace an old stretch—to
avoid problems of erosion or impact, or due to landowner or management
To move from a position occupied; to take away.
that will significantly change the trail width, surface, or trail
for Proposal (RFP):
Allows a number of consultants to bid on a project by outlining their
plans and associated costs. A detailed RFP will help weed out most
alter the path of a trail to better follow land contours, avoid drainage
sites, bypass environmentally sensitive areas, improve views, or for
(comfort station, pit privy, vault toilet, composting toilet, chemical
toilet, port-a-john, ): Facility for human waste disposal that meets
public health standards.
Wall (Revetments, Cribbing):
Structure used at a grade change to hold the soil on the up-hillside
from slumping, sliding, or falling, usually made of log or stone. Also
used to provide stability and strength to the edge of a trail.
Wall, Modular/Composite (Sutter):
Process of restoring a denuded and/or eroded area close to its original
Grade: A short rise in the trail, which traverses a slope that
forces any water on the trail to drain off to the side.
A hill that is proportionally longer than it is wider, generally with
steeply sloping sides.
A line connecting the highest points along a ridge and separating
drainage basins or small-scale drainage systems from one another.
Cable works and hoists used to lift and move large, heavy rocks or logs.
Right-of First Refusal: A property interest in which the holder of the right has first option to purchase the property at the price of a bona fide offer made to the property owner by a third party. If not exercised within a set time period after the offer is made, it expires, and the owner is free to sell to the offeror.
A strip of land held in fee simple title, or an easement over
another’s land, for use as a public utility for a public purpose.
Usually includes a designated amount of land on either side of a trail
that serves as a buffer for adjacent land uses.
of Way: The right of one trail user or vehicle to proceed in a
lawful manner in preference to another trail user or vehicle.
A steep sided channel resulting from accelerated erosion.
Habitat: A habitat that is strongly influenced by water and that
occurs adjacent to streams, shorelines, and wetlands.
Vegetation: An association of plant species growing adjacent to
freshwater courses, including perennial and intermittent streams, lakes,
and other bodies of fresh water.
The land and vegetation immediately adjacent to a body of water, such as
a river, lake, or other natural perpetual watercourse.
Stones placed randomly on a bank to provide support.
and Run: A
measurement of grades and slopes, expressed as a proportion of the
amount of vertical rise in a given horizontal run. For example,
“1:4” means that the grade or slope rises 1 unit for each 4 units of
horizontal run. Taking this one step further, 1:4 is a 25% grade or
slope, where 25% is obtained by dividing 1 by 4 and expressing the
result as a percentage.
A large natural stream of water.
Area where rocks or boulders protrude through the tread surface.
Bar (Pry Bar):
A four-foot bar of steel weighing 16 to 18 pounds with a beveled end
used to move rocks.
The part of a plant/tree, usually underground, that anchors the
plant/tree. Can be a hazard to trail users when they protrude through
the tread surface.
Ball (Root Wad):
Earth and soil that is lifted up when a tree and its roots fall over.
Usually wood planks laid lengthwise (along the axis) on top of bridge
decking used as the tread surface.
Water not absorbed by the soil that flows over the land surface.
Rut: Sunken groove in the tread, perpendicular to the direction of travel, and less than two feet in length.
Ridge between two peaks.
A body belt or strap, usually made of nylon, for use while working near
steep drop-offs. Must be of approved construction and design, and in
good repair, and attached to a secure anchor point with carabiners and
approved climbing rope.
View: A long-distance view that is pleasant and interesting.
Viewpoint (Vista): A designated area developed at a key location to
afford trail users an opportunity to view significant landforms,
landscape features, wildlife habitat, and activities.
The procedures by which an agency determines the extent of analysis
necessary for a proposed action.
Gravel size loose rock debris, especially on a steep slope or at the
base of a cliff, formed as a result of disintegration largely by
Short trails used to connect primary trails or branchings of primary
trails. They encourage movement between two primary trails or facilitate
dispersal of use through secondary branching.
8(d): Common reference to U.S.C. 1247(d), the section of the
National Trails System Act which provides for interim
trail use when a surplus railroad line is placed in the federal
Sediment: Soil particles that have been transported away from their natural location by wind or water action.
A portion of a trail. Changes in geographic features, jurisdiction
and/or political boundaries often distinguish segments (passages).
The shared use concept contends land managers and trail user groups work
together to identify common goals and share in the process to achieve
them. It means sharing of knowledge, tools, trailheads, grant funds,
labor, and other resources in an area. In some instances it means
sharing the same trail, but doesn’t always require multiple-use
Protective covering made of leather or plastic used to cover sharp
blades of tools while in storage or when the tools are transported.
The widespread removal of surface debris by the steady and continuous
flow of water on low gradient slopes. Generally at slow speeds and over
Open front structure that includes a sleeping platform and roof.
Usually paved portion of a highway, which is contiguous to the travel
lanes, allowing motor vehicle use in emergencies. They can also be for
specialized use by pedestrians and bicyclists.
A tool with a broad scoop and a long handle for lifting and moving loose
A woody plant that usually remains low and produces shoots or trunks
from the base; it is not usually tree-like or single stemmed.
Shy Distance: The distance between the trails edge and any fixed object capable of injuring someone using the trail.
Dead-end trail that access features near the main trail.
Where the trail angles across the face of a slope. The tread is often
cut into the slope.
Process of excavating or cutting a bench across the slope.
The natural slope of the ground measured at right angles to the
centerline of the trail, or the adjacent slope which is created after
excavating a sloping ground surface for a trailway, often termed a
cut-and-fill-slope, left and right of the trail tread.
A paved strip (typically concrete four feet in width) which normally
runs parallel to vehicular traffic and is separated from the road
surface by at least a curb and gutter. Sidewalks are common in urban
areas, may be used in some suburban locations such as residential areas,
and are not often present in rural areas, primarily due to the high
installation cost and low anticipated use.
The visible and unobstructed forward and rear view seen by a trail user
from a given point along the trail.
A board, post, or placard that displays verbal, symbolic, tactile, or
pictorial information about the trail or surrounding area.
A freestanding bulletin board consisting of three to five sides.
As used in NEPA, requires consideration of both context and intensity.
Context means that the significance of an action must be analyzed in
several contexts such as society as a whole, and the affected region,
interests, and locality. Intensity refers to the severity of impacts.
A crosswise member at the top of an abutment or pier that supports the
stringers, beams, or trusses.
Silt Fence: Temporary sediment barrier consisting of fiber fabric, sometimes backed with wire mesh, attached to supporting posts and partially buried.
Hammer: A short handled hammer with a 3- to 4-pound head. Can be
used drive timber spikes or with a star drill to punch holes in rock.
A trail only wide enough for one user to travel and requires one user to
yield the trail to allow another user to pass.
Use Trail: One that is designed and constructed for only one
intended user (i.e. hiker use only).
A natural occurrence when the limestone crust of the earth collapses and
creates a crater. Old sinkholes are often filled with water and resemble
A term given to areas where underground rivers emerge at the ground
surface. Areas surrounding sinks are generally lush with vegetation.
Angle: Less than at right angle to a trail. Usually an oblique angle
of 45 degrees or less.
Cross-country, (Nordic): In
simplest terms – skiing across the countryside.
To construct a trail around a mountain, often at an even grade, instead
of climbing over the mountain.
Rigging system with a highline in which a load is moved via a pulley,
pulled by a separate rope.
Rigging system with a highline, which is lowered to pickup a load, then
tightened to move the load.
Means hiking a section of a long distance trail without a backpack.
A long handled heavy hammer (6- to 8-pound head), usually held with both
Material that has slid onto the trail tread from the backslope and
possibly in quantities sufficient to block the trail.
Rising or falling ground.
Cut: The exposed ground surface resulting from the excavation of
material on the natural terrain.
The slope that is perpendicular to the direction of the trail.
Fill: The exposed ground surface resulting from the placement of
excavated material on the natural terrain.
The slope that is in the same direction as the trail.
Number of feet rise (vertical) divided by feet of run (horizontal) times
100 to get percent slope; example: 15-feet of rise over 100-feet of run
is a 15% slope.
(pronounced “Sloo”): Ingress,
egress or backflow from a creek or river. Usually areas full of soft,
Material from the backslope or the area of the backslope that has been
deposited on the trail bed and projects higher than the center of the
When the trail bed material has moved downward causing a dip in the
A motorized vehicle that operates on skis, pontoons, tracks, rollers,
wheels, air cushion, or any other device which is designed for travel
in, on, or over snow.
Surface Trail: A trail tread surfaced with soil cement, graded
aggregate stone, or shredded wood fiber.
Trail (Wildcat, Way, Informal): Unplanned/unauthorized
trails/paths that developed informally from use and
are not designated or maintained by an agency; often cutting switchbacks
or between adjacent trails.
The surface material of the continents, produced by disintegration of
rocks, plants, and animals and the biological action of bacteria,
earthworms, and other decomposers.
Cement (cement-treated base):
A mixture of pulverized soil combined with measured amounts of portland
cement and water and compacted to a high density. As the cementing
action occurs through hydration, a hard, durable semi-rigid material is
formed. It must have a seal coat to keep out moisture and a surface that
will take wear.
T-shaped tool with a spiral tip for turning into soil to probe its
Site-specific arrangement of soil layers from surface to bedrock.
Stabilization: Measures that protect soil from the erosive forces of
raindrop impact and flowing water and include, but are not limited to,
vegetative establishment, mulching, and the application of soil
stabilizers to the trail tread.
Stabilizer: Material, either natural or manufactured, used to hold
soil in place and prevent erosion from water, gravity, or trail users.
Stabilizers include soil cement, geogrid, etc.
Stone chip or fragment; to break up into ships or fragments.
Written standards of work and type of materials to which trails (tread,
clearing, grade) and trail structures (bridge, culvert, puncheon) are
built and maintained according to type of use.
(Camp): To campout while working on a trail.
Trail: A regional trail that acts as a “backbone” to a regional
Low-density land-use patterns that are automobile-dependent, energy and
land consumptive, and require a very high ratio of road surface to
Trail: A trail that leads from primary, secondary, or spine trails
to points of user interests—overlooks, campsites, etc.
Area: An area at which users can congregate, park, and begin or end
a trip. Designed and managed for day use whereas a Trailhead usually
caterers to those embarking on an overnight or long-distance trip.
Grade or Slope:
Temporary stakes set by the trail locator to establish the elevation and
cross section of the completed tread.
Temporary stakes set by the trail locator to establish the centerline of
Design: The specific values selected from the trail or greenway
design criteria become the design standards for a given trail or
greenway project. These standards will be identified and documented by
Drill: A foot-long tool weighing about a pound used with a single
jackhammer to punch holes in rock or open a seam/crack.
One hundred feet measured along the centerline of the trail or road;
used in surveying and construction.
Placed on rock faces or ledges to provide ladder-like access in steep
Structure (stone or wood) that provides a stable vertical rise on the
trail, usually in sets.
Pinned: Step held in place on ledge or a rock slab by steel pins set
in holes drilled in the rock.
Large rocks (preferably greater than two hundred pounds) set in boggy
areas or shallow stream crossings to provide passage for hikers.
Stile: A step or set of steps for passing over a fence or wall for hikers without allowing livestock to escape.
Stream channels that carry water the year round.
The lengthwise member of a structure, usually resting on sills that
spans wet areas and supports the decking.
(Stub): Projecting (and hazardous) piece of a branch or sampling not
cut flush with the trunk or ground.
A rock put to human use.
Anything constructed or erected that requires location on the ground
such as a bridge, wall, steps, etc. on or near a trail.
A water-repellant or waterproof bag with a drawstring, used for compact
storage of gear.
Small body of running water moving in a natural channel or bed.
A trail crossing a body of running water at grade without the use of a
developed structure or bridge.
Channels that naturally carry water part of the year and are dry the
Stream channels that carry water the year round.
The lengthwise member of a structure, usually resting on sills that
spans wet areas and supports the decking.
Anything constructed or erected that requires location on the ground
such as a bridge, wall, steps, etc. on or near a trail.
A water-repellant or waterproof bag with a drawstring, used for compact
storage of gear.
On paved trails the sub-base lies between the sub-grade and the trail
surface, and serves as a secondary, built foundation for the trail
surface (concrete or asphalt). The purpose of the sub-base is to
transfer and distribute the weight from the trail surface to the
sub-grade. The sub-base is usually a four- to six-inch graded aggregate
stone (gavel), which provides bearing strength and improves drainage.
Is the native soil mass that makes up the primary foundation of the
trail that supports the tread surface. Topography, soils, and drainage
are the key factors comprising the sub-grade.
Intermediate layer overlying bedrock and under topsoil. Underlying layer
of loose/soft material below topsoil.
The right to use or control land below the trail surface. Subsurface
rights could be leased for water, sewer, or fuel pipelines; or
electrical, telephone, or fiber-optic cables.
The highest point (top) of a mountain.
(Bermed, Banked): Slope or bank of a curve or climbing turn
expressed as the ratio of feet of vertical rise per foot of horizontal
distance. The outside edge of a trail is raised or banked for the
purpose of overcoming the force causing a vehicle (bicycle or OHV) to
skid when maintaining speed.
Material placed on top of the trailbed or base course that provides the
desired tread. It lessens compaction of soil, provides a dry surface for
users, and prevents potential erosion and abrasion.
A physical field assessment of the trail or proposed trail, to determine
maintenance tasks, hazards, impact, alignment, etc.; prior to work, or
as part of ongoing trail maintenance.
use of natural resources in a way that does not jeopardize the ability
of future generations to live and prosper.
Sustainable Development: Development that maintains or enhances economic opportunity and community well-being while protecting and restoring the natural environment upon which people and economies depend. Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
A linear low-lying natural topographic drainage feature running downhill
and crossing the trail alignment in which sheet runoff would collect and
form a temporary watercourse. A low-lying ground drainage structure
(resembling a swale) can be constructed to enhance drainage across the
A piece of wet, spongy land; bog, marsh.
Safety Brush Axe (also known as a Sandvik): A machete-like tool with
a short, replaceable blade and 28-inch handle used to cut through
springy hardwood stems.
A sharp turn in a trail to reverse the direction of travel and to gain
elevation. It is constructed on a slope of more than 15 percent when
measured between the exterior boundaries of the trail 120 to 180
degrees. The landing is the turning portion of the switchback. The
approaches are the trail sections upgrade and downgrade from the
System: Set of interconnected components that function as a whole and thereby achieve a behavior or performance that is different than the sum of each of the components taken separately.
Tackifier: Material sprayed onto a soil surface to bind soil particles and prevent erosion.
Tailings: The dump at a mineral processing plant; material remaining after metal is extracted from ore.
A real estate term traditionally used to mean acquisition by eminent
domain but broadened by the US Supreme Court to mean any government
action that denies economically viable use of property.
Large rock debris on a slope. The rocks are larger and have sharper
edges than those found on scree slopes.
Wooden platform used to minimize damage to fragile alpine or wetlands
areas or to reduce impact on a heavily used, erosion-prone camp site.
Refers to either the beginning or end of a trail.
A turn which is constructed on a Sidehill of 20% or more when measured
between the exterior boundaries of the turn and cuts through the
sidehill grade as it changes the direction of the trail 120 to 180
Structural member notched into the horizontal facer and wing walls used
to secure the facer and wings by utilizing the mass of the backfill.
and Technical: A type of trail design that allows for tight turns,
slow speeds, and can take fuller advantage of natural technical
A tool with a long handle and hooks allowing two people on each side of
the carrier to transport logs or timber.
The elevation and slope of the land as it exists or is proposed. It is
represented on drawings by lines connecting points at the same
elevation. Typically is illustrated by dashed lines for existing
topography and solid lines for proposed.
On rail-trails the removed railroad cross ties can leave an imprint (or
memory). The ballast will need to be graded and compacted before laying
a trail surface.
Linear route on land or water with protected status and public access
for recreation or transportation purposes such as walking, jogging,
motorcycling, hiking, bicycling, ATVing, horseback riding, mountain
biking, canoeing, kayaking, and backpacking.
Objective information reported to trail users through signage about the
grade, cross slope, tread width, and surface of a trail.
The finished surface on which base course or surfacing may be
constructed. For trails without surfacing, the trailbed is the tread.
An access point to a long distance trail often accompanied by various
public facilities, such as a horse or OHV unloading dock or chute,
parking areas, toilets, water, directional and informational signs, and
a trail use register. Designed and managed for those embarking on an
overnight or long-distance trip whereas a Staging Area usually caterers
to day use.
The portion of the trail within the limits of the excavation and
Enhancement: Projects that include: providing bicycle and pedestrian
facilities; converting abandoned railroad rights-of-way into trails;
preserving historic transportation sites; acquiring scenic easements;
mitigating the negative impacts of a project on a community by providing
additional benefits; and other nonmotorized projects.
Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21): Federal
legislation authorizing highway, highway safety, transit, and other
surface transportation programs from 1998 through 2003. It provides
funding opportunities for pedestrian, bicycling, and public transit
facilities, and emphasizes intermodalism, multimodalism, and community
participation in transportation planning initiated by ISTEA.
The trail as a whole, including the trail tread and the cleared areas on
either side of the trail.
To ascend a slope diagonally up and across in lieu of the more direct up
and over approach.
The actual surface portion of a trail upon which users travel excluding
backslope, ditch, and shoulder. Common tread surfaces are native
material, gravel, soil cement, asphalt, concrete, or shredded recycled
When the loose soil of the trail tread moves (sags or slides) down hill
Educational program designed to instill outdoor ethics of responsible
behavior when participating in outdoor activities.
The width of the portion of the trail used for travel.
Any woody plant that normally grows to a mature height greater than 20
feet and has a diameter of four inches or more at a point four and
one-half feet about the ground.
Line (Timber Line):
The farthest limit, either in altitude on a mountain, or the farthest
north in the northern hemisphere, in which trees are able to grow.
Beyond this line, the environment is too harsh for trees to survive.
To hike a long way. Trekkers are long-distance hikers.
Person who uses property without the owner’s implied or stated
permission and not for the benefit of the property owner.
Mid-span support for a bridge.
Maintenance: Three-step function of removing slough, berm, and
brushing maintenance. Called fire line trail maintenance.
North: The direction toward the geographic North Pole. Most maps are
oriented to True North.
A place where the trail is widened to permit trail traffic traveling in
opposite directions to pass.
Turnpike (Turnpiking): Tread made stable by raising trail bed above wet, boggy areas by placing mineral soil over fabric between parallel side logs or rocks (along edge of tread). Usually includes ditches alongside the logs or rocks. Turnpike must be “crowned” to provide drainage.
Understory: All forest vegetation growing under the canopy or upper layers of forest vegetation.
Trail: One that follows a wavelike course, often going in and out of
Topo (Topographic, Contour) Map: Maps published by the United States
Geological Survey, indicating built and natural features (buildings,
roads, ravines, rivers, etc.) as well as elevation changes and land
cover. Available from many government offices, outdoor shops, map
stores, or digitized versions on the Internet.
Design: Few if any barriers exist to inhibit accessibility.
Trail Assessment Process (UTAP): An inventory process that can be
used by trail managers to assess a trail to determine compliance with
design guidelines and to provide objective information to trail users
regarding grade, cross slope, tread width, surface, and obstacles.
Urban: Places within boundaries set by state and local officials having a population of 5,000 or more. Urban areas are more densely populated and contain a higher density of built structures.
Land that comprises a view.
See Scenic Viewpoint.
Volunteer: Person who works on a trail or for a trail club without pay.
This is an area for general pedestrian use (other than a sidewalk or
path) such as courtyards, plazas, and pedestrian malls.
Log or rock construction to support trail tread or retain backslope.
A natural watercourse, wet or dry.
Course: Any natural or built channel through which water naturally
flows or will collect and flow during spring runoff, rainstorms, etc.
A drainage structure for turning water composed of an outsloped segment
of tread leading to a barrier placed at a 45 % angle to the trail,
usually made of logs, stones, or rubber belting material. Water flowing
down the trail will be diverted by the outslope or, as a last resort, by
Steep descent of water from a height.
A region or area bounded peripherally by a water parting formation (i.e.
ridge, hill, mountain range) and draining ultimately to a particular
watercourse or body of water.
Cutters (Weed Whip, Swizzle Stick, Swing Blade):
With a serrated blade at the end of a wooden handle, weed eaters are
used to clear trail corridors of succulent vegetation.
A lowland area, such as a marsh or swamp, which is saturated with water,
creating a unique naturally occurring habitat for plants and wildlife.
Narrow logs, poles, or lumber installed along the edges of bridge or
puncheon decking designed to help keep wheeled equipment (wheelchair,
bicycle, OHV) from running off the edge of the structure.
A shallow, open box for moving small loads, having a wheel in front, and
two handles for moving the wheelbarrow.
Mobility aid, usable indoors, and designed for and used by individuals
with mobility impairments, whether operated manually or motorized.
Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136):
Federal law prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles and mechanized
construction on certain tracts of Federally managed lands.
An uninhabited and undeveloped area that the US Congress has voted to
grant special status and protection under authority of the Wilderness
Act of 1964.
Any plant or animal species which has not been domesticated, but which
lives in their natural habitats.
Applicable to a broad array of devices for using a drum driven by a
handle and gears, around which a cable is wound, so as to provide
mechanical advantage for moving heavy objects.
The cooling of the body that results from wind passing over its
surface—especially dramatic if the surface is wet.
Angled barriers at bridge approach to channel traffic and prevent trail
users from inadvertently plunging over embankment.
A structural component of a retaining wall which is interlocked with the
facer or front of the wall. The wing generally intersects with the facer
at a 45º angle but may be at an angle between 1 and 90º. This
component is anchored by tie logs and assists the facer in retaining the
Wood Chips: Chipped wood, often available from tree trimming operations, produces a soft, spongy trail surface, and is used on many nature trails.
point at which the measured trail originates.
Rigging system with a taut, stationary wire rope highline for moving
loads on a moving pulley.
Zoning: Specifying use or restrictions on land. Zoning can effectively protect trail corridors from development adjacent to the trail that might block views, destroy sensitive habitat, create traffic problems, and generally diminish a trail experience.