Glossary of Trail


Greenway Terms



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


Abney Level: Hand-held instrument that is adjusted like a sextant and used for measuring angles of elevation or inclination of trail. 

Abutment: Structure at either extreme end of a bridge that supports the superstructure (sill, stringers, trusses, or decks) composed of stone, concrete, brick, or timber. 

Access Points: Designated areas and passageways that allow the public to reach a trail from adjacent streets or community facilities. 

Access Trail: Any trail that generally connects the main trail to a road or another trail system. 

Accessible: A 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. 

Acclimatization: The gradual process of becoming physiologically accustomed to high altitude.   

Acquisition: The act or process of acquiring fee title or interest of real property.   

Acute 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. 

Adopt-A-Trail: A 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. 

Adz (Adze): An ax-like tool for dressing wood. 

Aggregate: Surface material made up of broken stone ranging in size from broken stone or gravel to sand. 

Alignment: The 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. 

All-Terrain-Vehicle (ATV): A small four-wheeled vehicle equipped with low-pressure balloon tires and intended for off-highway use only. 

Altimeter: An instrument for measuring altitude. 

Altitude: The height of a thing or place above sea level. 

Amenities: Any element used to enhance the user’s experience and comfort along a trail. 

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): A federal law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Requires public entities and public accommodations to provide accessible accommodations for people with disabilities. 

Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG): Design guidelines for providing access to a range of indoor and outdoor settings by people with disabilities. 

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 45º. 

Appraisal: An 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. 

Apron: One 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”). 

Arborist: An individual trained in arboriculture, forestry, landscape architecture, horticulture, or related fields and experienced in the conservation and preservation of native and ornamental trees. 

Archaeological Resources (Cultural, Heritage): Any 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. 

Archaeological Site: A 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. 

Armoring: Reinforcement of a surface with rock, brick, stone, concrete, or other “paving” material. 

Aspect: The particular compass direction a trail or site faces. Aspect affects the amount of solar radiation and year-round moisture to which a site is subjected. 

Asphalt (Macadam): Petroleum-based 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. 

Assessment, Trail or Corridor: Physical 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 corridor. 

At-Grade 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 trail users. 

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.


Backcountry: An area where there are no maintained roads or permanent buildings—just primitive roads and trails. 

Backcut: The vertical part of a bench cut that is blended into the backslope. 

Backfill: Material used to refill a ditch or other excavation, or the process of doing this action. 

Backpack: A large pack worn on the back to carry camping supplies; to go on an overnight hike carrying your supplies in a backpack. 

Backslope: 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. 

Bald: Mountain with an open, grassy summit that’s void of trees. 

Ballast: 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.

Bark Spud: 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. 

Barricade: A portable or fixed barrier having object markings, used to close all or a portion of the trail right-of-way to trail traffic. 

Barrier-Free Design: A trail design that promotes the elimination of physical barriers that reduce access to areas by people with disabilities. 

Base: The primary excavated bed of a trail upon which the tread, or finished surface lies. 

Base Course: The layer or layers of specified material of designed thickness placed on a trailbed to support surfacing. 

Base Map: 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 purposes. 

Batter: The angle an abutment or rock wall is inclined against the earth it retains. 

Bed: The excavated surface on which a trail tread lies. 

Bedrock: Solid rock material that is exposed when topsoil is eroded or cut away. 

Bench: A long (with or without a back) seat for two or more people. 

Bench Cut: A relatively flat, stable surface (tread) on a hillside occurring naturally or by excavation. When excavated often referred to as full or half bench. 

Bent: Structural member or framework used for strengthening a bridge or trestle transversely. 

Berm: The ridge of material formed on the outer edge of the trail that projects higher than the center of the trail tread. 

Bike 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.

Birdcage: Wire rope that has begun to unwrap individual strands of wire. 

Bivouac: A night out without a tent. 

Bivouac Sack (Bivy Sack): A lightweight, unfilled, waterproof bag that can cover a sleeping bag. 

Blaze: 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. 

Blaze, Blue/White: 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. 

Blaze, Double: Two blazes (vertical alignment) that denote a change in direction or junction in the trail coming up. 

Bleeder (Kick Outs, Diversion Dips): Graded depression angled to drain water sideways off the treadway. 

Blister: A thin, round swelling of the skin, filled with water, caused by rubbing. 

Block: Pulley in which a rope or cable is threaded. 

Block, Snatch: Pulley with hinged side plate allowing attachment anywhere along a fixed rope. 

Blowdown (Windfall): Anything (trees, limbs, brush, etc.) blown down on the trail by the wind. 

Bluff: A steep headland, promontory, riverbank, or cliff. 

Boardwalk: A fixed planked structure, usually built on pilings in areas of wet soil or water to provide dry crossings. 

Bog Bridge: See Puncheon. 

Bogs: A muddy area common where little direct sunlight reaches the trail or where there are flat areas that are difficult to drain. 

Bollard: A barrier post, usually 30 to 42 inches in height, used to inhibit vehicular traffic at trail access points. 

Borrow: Fill material required for on-site trail construction and obtained from other nearby locations. 

Borrow Pit: Area where soil, gravel, or rock materials are removed to be used on the trail for tread, embankments, or backfilling. 

Bow Saw: A 16-, 21-, or 36-inch thin bladed saw with a curved handle used to cut brush or trimming small branches. 

Braiding (Braided Trail): The process of numerous routes being created. Identified by worn and eroded vegetation. 

Bridge: 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. 

Bridleway (Bridle Path): Public way designed and maintained primarily for equestrian use. Other nonmotorized uses may be permitted. 

Brush: Vegetation or small flora. 

Brushing: To clear the trail corridor of plants, trees, and branches which could impede the progress of trail users. 

Brushing-In (Obliteration): 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. 

Buffer (Buffer Zone): 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). 

Burns: (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 flora. 

Bush Hook: 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.


Cable, Wire: A thick, heavy rope, made of wire strands. 

Cable Fly Zone: The hazardous area a cable can potentially move to when it comes under tension or is suddenly released from tension. 

Cable Gripper: A device that clamps onto a cable when tension is applied to the attachment point/jaws. 

Cable Strap: A pre-cut length of wire rope that may have eyes on both ends which is used in rigging applications. 

Cache: A supply of food or tools, usually buried or hidden. 

Cairn: 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. 

Call Box: An emergency telephone system installed along a trail with direct connection to the local 911 network. 

Camping: Site where overnight stays are permitted. 

Canal: An artificial waterway for transportation or irrigation. 

Cap Rock: 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.

Carabiner: An oblong metal clip with a spring gate used to attach slings to ropes or ropes to anchors. 

Carrying Capacity: 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. 

Catch Point: The outer limits of a trailway where the excavation and/or embankment intersect with the ground line. 

Categorical Exclusion (CE): A technical exclusion for projects that do not result in significant environmental impacts. Such projects are not required to prepare environmental reviews. 

Causeway: Elevated section of trail contained by rock, usually through permanent or seasonally wet areas. 

Center 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). 

Certification: The process by which sites and segments of national historic (and some national scenic) trails are officially recognized by the administering federal agency. 

Chain Saw: A portable gas-operated saw with an endless chain carrying cutting teeth. 

Charrette: 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. 

Check Dam: 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. 

Chigger (Redbug): The tiny, red larva of certain mites, whose bite causes itching and red welts. 

Choker: Loop of rope or cable cinched onto a load so it gets tighter, or “chokes” the load under pressure. 

Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA): Is the well-known wood preservative for boardwalks, decks, and other common trail applications where treated lumber is used. 

Circle of Danger: 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. 

Classification: The designation indicating intended use and maintenance specifications for a particular trail. 

Clearcut (Clear-cutting): Removal of all trees and shrubs, not just mature growth. 

Clearing: Removal of windfall trees, uproots, leaning trees, loose limbs, wood chunks, etc. from both the vertical and horizontal trail corridor. 

Clearing Height (Vertical Clearance): The vertical dimension which must be cleared of all tree branches and other obstructions that would otherwise obstruct movement along the trail. 

Clearing Width (Limit): The outer edges of clearing areas (cleared of trees, limbs, and other obstructions) as specified by trail use. 

Clevis (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. 

Climbing 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. 

Clinometer: A hand-held instrument used for measuring angles of terrain elevation or percent of trail grade. 

Cobble (Cobblestone): Loose rock over 2 ½ inches in diameter. 

Col: A pass between two mountain peaks; or a low spot in a mountain ridge. 

Collector Ditch: A drainage structure that intercepts water flowing toward a trail and usually channeled underneath the trail through a culvert. 

Come-along: 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. 

Compacted: 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. 

Compaction: The compression of aggregate, soil, or fill material by tamping. 

Compass: A direction-finding device that is used with a map to plot a route or check your position. 

Concrete: 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 flooding. 

Condemnation: 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. 

Conflict Resolution: 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. 

Connectivity: 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. 

Conservation: Controlled use and protection of natural resources. 

Construction: Building a trail where no trail previously existed. 

Contour Lines: A line on a topographic map connecting points of the land surface that have the same elevation. 

Contour Trail: Trail constructed such that it follows a contour, with it’s elevation remaining constant. 

Control Points (Targets): 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. 

Corduroy: 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. 

Corridor, Scenic: 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. 

Corridor, 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 removed. 

Course: 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.

Cradle Timber: A mid-span timber used to transfer the load of the bridge to the truss system. 

Creek: 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.

Cribbing (Cribwall, Retaining Wall): Rock or log reinforcement structure to support trail tread or retain backslope along steep trails that are at risk from erosion. 

Critical Point: 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. 

Cross 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. 

Crosscut 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. 

Crosswalk: Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface. 

Crowned Trail: A trail bed built up from the surrounding area (and sloped for drainage) usually by excavating trenches parallel to the trail. 

Crusher 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. 

Culvert, Cross Drainage: 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. 

Culvert, Stream Bed: Pipelike or boxlike construction of wood, metal, plastic, or concrete that passes under a trail to convey a stream under a crossing without constricting waterflow. 

Curb Cut: A cut in the curb where a trail crosses a street. The curb cut should be the same width as the trail. 

Curvilinear: A free-flowing movement pattern characterized by the general absence of straight trail segments. 

Cushion Material: 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.


Day Pack: A soft pack smaller than a backpack, favored by day hikers for carrying food, water, and other supplies. 

Daylighting: Clearing a ditch or drain so that water can run all the way to daylight. 

Deadfall: A tangled mass of fallen trees or branches. 

De-berming: 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. 

Debris: Any undesirable material that encroaches on a trail that hinders the intended use. 

Decking (Flooring): That part of a bridge, puncheon, or boardwalk structure that provides direct support for trail traffic. 

Declination: The measurement describing the difference between true north and magnetic north. 

DEET: (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. 

Dehydration: A depletion of body fluids that can hinder the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. 

Designated Trail: A trail that is approved and maintained by an agency. 

Difficulty Rating: 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:  

  • Easy is defined as relaxing, posing minimal difficulties and able to be traveled with little physical effort.

  • Moderate is defined as not requiring excessive or extreme physical effort.         

  • Difficult is defined as physically strenuous requiring excessive or extreme physical effort. 

Digging-Tamping Bar: A long bar with a small blade at one end for loosening compacted or rocky soil and a flattened end for tamping. 

Dike (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. 

Dispersed Recreation: Recreation activities that occur outside of developed recreation facilities away from traveled roads. Also referred to as backcountry recreation

Ditch: A long, narrow trench used to improve drainage. 

Destination Trail: A trail which connects two distinct points (A to B) rather than returning the user to the original beginning point. 

Ditching, Sidehill: 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. 

Double-Track 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. 

Down and Out: The correct position of a carabiner gate when it is connected to an anchor. 

Down Tree: Fallen tree that blocks the trail. 

Downslope: The downhill side of the trail. Avoid damaging downslope vegetation that is stabilizing hillside soil. 

Drain, Cobble: 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. 

Drainage, Cross: Running water in swamps, springs, creeks, drainages, or draws that the trail must cross. 

Drainage, Sheet: Desirable condition in which water flows in smooth sheets rather than rivulets; shower flow and less concentration results in less erosion. 

Drainage, Surface: Rain or snow runoff from the surface of the tread. 

Drainage Dip: 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. 

Drainage Ditch (Ditching): 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 the bar. 

Drains, French: 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 the drain. 

Drawings: 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. 

Drawknife: A tool with a sharp blade and handles at both ends used to strip bark from small-diameter logs. 

Drinking Water: Water that is “potable” or safe to drink. 

Drop-off: 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.


Easement: 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. 

Easement, 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. 

Easement, Conservation: Places permanent restrictions on property in order to protect natural resources. 

Easement, Construction: An additional area or corridor needed to construct a trail or facility. 

Easement, Maintenance: An additional area or corridor (not open to the public) needed to maintain trail drainage, foliage, and recurring maintenance needs. 

Easement, Recreation: Provides public access to private property while limiting or indemnifying the owner’s public liability. 

Easement, Scenic: Places permanent restrictions on a property in order to protect the natural view. 

Ecosystem: A system formed by the interaction of living organisms, including people, with their environment. 

Ecotourism: 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. 

Elevation: The height of a place above sea level. 

Elliptical Triangle (Pregnant Triangle): Shape of signs for trails in the National Trails System. 

Embankment: Structure made from soil used to raise the trail, railbed, or roadway above the existing grade. 

Eminent Domain: The authority of a government to take (usually by purchase) private property for public use. 

Endangered Species: 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. 

Enhancement Funds: Under TEA-21, independent funds for bicycling and walking facilities, rail-trails, and eleven other activities. 

Entrenchment: Sunken tracks or grooves in the tread surface cut in the direction of travel by the passage of water or trail users. 

Environmental Assessment (EA): 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 made. 

Environmental Education: Activities that use a structured process to build knowledge, in students and others, about environmental topics. 

Environmental 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 statement. 

Ephemeral (Creek): A temporary or short-lived water flow, especially after a heavy rain. Most of the year it’s a dry creek bed. 

Erosion: 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. 

Erosion Control: Techniques intended to reduce and mitigate soil movement from water, wind, and trail user traffic. 

Erosion, Sheet: The removal of a fairly uniform layer of soil material from the land surface by the action of rainfall and runoff water. 

Escarpment: An inland cliff formed by the erosion of the inclined strata of hard rocks. 

Exposure: 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).


Facer: Structural member in retaining walls and abutments that is placed at right angle to the structure or trail tread. 

Fall Line: Direction 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.

Fauna: The animal populations and species of a specified region. 

Fee 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. 

Fee Simple Determinate: Similar to Fee Simple Absolute, but states condition(s) under which the property will revert to the original owner/grantor. 

Feeder Path or Trail: A trail designed to connect local facilities, neighborhoods, campgrounds, etc. to a main trail. 

Fen: Low, flat, marshy land or a bog. 

Fence: A constructed barrier of wood, masonry, stone, wire, or metal, erected to screen or separate areas. 

File: A hand-held 10- to 12-inch flat steel tool with a rough, ridged surface for smoothing or grinding. 

Fill (Material): Gravel or soil used to fill voids in trail tread and to pack behind retaining walls and other structures. 

Fill Slope: Area of excavated material cast on the downslope side of trail cut (also called embankment). 

Fines, soil: Smallest soil particles important for binding the soil together; silt; fines are often the first particles to move when erosion takes place. 

Fire Rake: A tool with triangular tines used to cut duff and debris from fire lines or trail corridors. 

Firebreak: A strip of forest or prairie land cleared or plowed to stop or prevent the spread of fire. 

Fiscal 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. 

Fixed Rope (Cable): A rope or cable that is set in place to assist in moving large objects. 

Flagging: Thin ribbon used for marking purposes during the location, design, construction, or maintenance of a trail project. 

Flagline: Flagging tied to trees indicating the intended course of a trail prior to construction. 

Flags, Wire: Wire wands with square plastic flags at one end for field layout and marking of new trail or relocations of trail sections. 

Floodplain: 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. 

Floodway: The channel of a river or stream where the annual raising or lowering of water occurs. 

Flora: The plant populations and species of a specified region. 

Flushcut: Branch or sapling cut flush with the trunk or ground. 

Flushes: An area of soil enriched by transported soil minerals brought by water from elsewhere (opposite of leaching). 

Fly Ash: It 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. 

Footpath: This 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. 

Ford: A natural water level stream crossing improved (aggregate mix or concrete) to provide a level low velocity surface for safe trail traffic passage. 

Friction Pile: Post hammered into muck until friction prevents further penetration; foundation for puncheon or boardwalk. 

Friends 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. 

Frostbite: The 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.


Gabion Baskets: Rectangular containers made of heavy galvanized wire. Gabions can be wired together, and then filled with stones to make quick retaining walls. 

Gaiters: Coverings that zip or snap around the ankles and lower legs to keep debris and water out of your boots. 

Gate: Structure that can be swung, drawn, or lowered to block an entrance or passageway. 

Geographic Information System (GIS): A spatial database mapping system that can be used to contain location data for trails and other important features. 

Geotextile (Geo-synthetics, Geofabrics): 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. 

Giardia 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.

Glade: An open space in a forest. 

Global Positioning System (GPS): A system use to map trail locations using satellites and portable receivers. Data gathered can be downloaded directly into GIS database systems. 

GORP: A high-carbohydrate snack food made primarily from nuts and dried fruit, an acronym for “good ol’ raisins and peanuts.” 

Grade: 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 45º. 

Grade, Maximum: The steepest grade permitted on any part of a trail. 

Grade, Sustained: The steepest grade permitted over the majority of the trail length. 

Grade 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. 

Grade-Separated Crossing: Overpasses or tunnels that allow trail users to cross a railroad right-of-way or street at a different level than trains or traffic. 

Graffiti: 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. 

Grassroots (Support): efforts at the local level utilizing public interest groups and communities in support of trails or greenways. 

Grate: 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. 

Green: An open space available for unstructured recreation, its landscaping consisting of grassy areas and trees. 

Green Infrastructure: The sum of the public and private conservation lands including native landscapes and ecosystems, greenspaces, and waters. 

Greenbelt: 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. 

Greenspace: Natural areas, open space, trails, and greenways that function for both wildlife and people. 

Greenway: 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. 

Greenway, Community: Safe, off-road corridor of open space that connects neighborhoods, schools, parks, work places, and community centers via paths and trails. 

Greenway, Conservation: Open space corridor that protects biodiversity and water resources by connecting natural features such as streams, wetlands, forests, and steep slopes. 

Griphoist: 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.

Grub Hoe: 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. 

Grubbing: 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.


Habitat: 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. 

Half Bench: 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 material. 

Hammock: A cluster of trees, often hardwoods on higher ground. 

Hard Surface (Paved) Trail: A trail tread surfaced with asphalt or concrete. 

Hardening: 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. 

Hardening 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. 

Hardhat: A hard shell worn on the head as protection during trail work. 

Hardpan: A layer of rock, or compacted clay layer of soil that forms a durable and generally erosion-free trail surface. 

Hazard 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 congregate. 

Header, 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. 

Headwall: Support structure at the entrance to a culvert or drainage structure. 

Heat Exhaustion: The body’s reaction to overheating, which includes salt-deficiency and dehydration. 

Heatstroke: A severe illness in which the body’s temperature rises way above normal; also called sunstroke. 

Height: Measure of the vertical dimension of a feature. May also be the depth of a rut or dip. 

Helical 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. 

Helmet: A hard shell protective device worn on the head while riding OHVs, mountain bikes, horses, etc., or while in-line skating. 

High Potential Site (or Segment): Historic sties or trail segments which afford high quality recreation or interpretation opportunities. 

Highway: A general term denoting a public way for purposes of vehicular travel, including the entire area within the right-of-way. 

Hiker-Biker Trail: An urban trail designed for use by pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Hiking Trail: Moderate to long distance trail with the primary function of providing long-distance walking experiences (usually two miles and more). 

Hunt (Hunting) Camp: Areas used by seasonal hunters. Usually has vehicle access and water. 

Hydric Soil: Soil that is saturated or flooded during a sufficient portion of the growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper soil layers. 

Hydrology: 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.


Impact Fee: A 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. 

Impacts: Encompasses 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, or vandalism. 

Impervious Surface: Surfaces that do not absorb water. Examples of such surfaces include concrete or asphalt paved trails and parking areas. 

Indemnify (Indemnification): To insure against or repay for loss, damage, etc. 

Infill: The stone or soil material used to pin or fill gaps in path and wall construction/revetment work. 

Infrastructure: Refers to the facilities, utilities, and transportation systems (road and trail) needed to meet public and administrative needs. 

Inslope (Insloping): Where the trail bed is sloped downward toward the backslope of the trail; causes water to run along the inside of the trail. 

Install/Construct: To set in position for use; to build. 

Intermodal: Refers to connections between modes of transportation, such as automobile, transit, bicycle, or walking. 

Intermodal 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 Century (TEA-21). 

Intermodalism: The 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. 

Interpretation: Communicating 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 particular resource. 

Interpretive Sign or Display: An educational sign or display that describes and explains a natural or cultural point of interest on or along the trail. 

Interpretive 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. 

Intersection: Area where two or more trails or roads join together. 

Invasive 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.


Kiosk: A structure housing informational or interpretive displays. 

Knob: Prominent rounded hill or mountain.


Lake: Large inland body of water. 

Land 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. 

Land 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. 

Land Manager: Any person who makes decisions regarding land use. 

Land Trust: 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. 

Land Use: The way a section or parcel of land is used. Examples of land uses include industrial, agricultural, and residential. 

Land Use Plan: An official document that establishes a program for the future use of land. 

Landscape: 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. 

Landslide: Dislodged rock or earth obstructing passage on a trail. 

Leaching: The loss of soil minerals from upper layers of the soil to lower down by water drainage. 

Lean-to: Another word for shelter, this term is used primarily in New England. 

Lease: 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. 

Leave No Trace (LNT): Educational program designed to instill behaviors in the outdoors that leave minimum impact of human activities or occupation. 

Legislation: Written and approved laws. Also known as “statutes” or “acts.” 

Leisure Time: 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. 

Length: Dimension of a feature measured parallel to the direction of travel. 

Liability (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. 

License: Allows the licensed party to enter the land of the licensor without being deemed a trespasser. 

Licensee: Person using a property with the implied or stated consent of the owner but not for the benefit of the owner. 

Limits 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. 

Linkage: 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. 

Load, Dead: The total physical weight of a bridge, equal to the combined weight of all structural components. 

Load, 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. 

Load, Live: 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.

Log, Trail: 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. 

Logged Out Tree: Down tree across the trail with sections already removed to permit passage. 

Loop Trails: 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 trip. 

Loppers (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.


Machete: A large knife used to clear succulent vegetation. 

Magnetic North: A spot in northern Canada, overlying the earth’s magnetic North Pole, toward which the red needle of a compass points. 

Maintenance: 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 structures. 

Maintenance (Annual): Involves four tasks done annually or more as needed: cleaning drainage, clearing blowdowns, brushing, and blazing and marking. 

Master Plan: 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. 

Mattock: 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 chopping roots. 

Maximum Pitch: The highest percent of grade on the trail. 

Maximum Sustained Pitch: The highest percent of grade on the trail that is sustained for a significant distance. 

McLeod: 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. 

Meadow: Tract of grassland. 

Measuring Wheel (Cyclometer): 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. 

Mechanical Advantage: Multiplication of work force through the use of simple machines such as the lever, the inclined plane, the wheel, and the pulley. 

Memorandum 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. 

Mesa: Flat-topped elevation with one or more cliff-like sides. 

Mineral Soil: The layers of the subsoil relatively free of organic matter. 

Minor Field Adjustments: 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. 

Mitigate: Actions undertaken to avoid, minimize, reduce, eliminate, or rectify the adverse impact from a management practice or impact from trail users. 

Mode: A particular form of travel, such as walking, bicycling, carpooling, bus, or train. 

Monitor: Check systematically or scrutinize for the purpose of collecting specific data in relation to a set of standards. 

Moraine: A ridge or pile of boulders, stones, and other debris carried along and deposited by a glacier. 

Motorized: Off-highway recreation using motorized vehicle (motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, four-wheel drive or other light utility vehicle) on trails. 

Mountaineering: Mountain climbing. 

Mulch: Organic matter spread on newly constructed trail work to help stabilize soils and protect them from erosion. 

Multimodal: Facilities serving more than one transportation mode or transportation network comprised of a variety of modes. 

Multiple 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 sustainable manner. 

Multiple-Use (Multi-Use) Trail: A trail that permits more than one user group at a time (horse, OHVer, hiker, mountain bicyclist, etc.).


National 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. 

National Historic Trail: 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. 

National Recreation Area: 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 public enjoyment. 

National Recreation Trail: Are existing local trails (over 800) recognized by the federal government as contributing to the National Trails System. 

National Monument: Area of unique ecological, geological, historical, prehistoric, cultural, and scientific interest. 

National Scenic Area: Area that contains outstanding scenic characteristics, recreational values, and geological, ecological, and cultural resources. 

National Scenic Trail: 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 Trails. 

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).

Native 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 (1847-1907). 

Natural Surface (Trail): A tread made from clearing and grading the native soil with no added surfacing materials. 

Nature 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. 

Negative Grade: Trail runs downhill. 

Nonmotorized: Trail recreation by modes such as bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian, skate, ski, etc. 

Noxious Plant: 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.


Obligate: 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. 

Obstacles: Physical objects large enough to significantly impede or slow travel on a trail. Logs, large rocks, and rock ledges are common obstacles. 

Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV): 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. 

Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV): 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.

Open and Flowing: A type of trail design that allows for sweeping turns, higher speeds, and better sight lines. 

Open Space: Areas of natural quality, either publicly or privately owned, designated for protection of natural resources, nature-oriented outdoor recreation, or trail-related activities. 

Operating and Maintenance Costs (O&M): Funds for day-to-day costs of operating and maintaining costs. Costs include worker’s salaries, equipment upkeep, etc. 

Optimum 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. 

Organic 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. 

Outcrop: A rock formation that protrudes through the level of the surrounding soil. 

Outdoor Recreation: Leisure activities involving the enjoyment and use of natural resources primarily outside of structures. 

Outdoor Recreation Access Route (ORAR): A continuous unobstructed path designated for pedestrian use that connects accessible elements within a picnic area, campground, or designated trailhead. 

Outflow (Outwash): The off-treadway ditch portion of a drainage structure, intended to remove all water from the trail. 

Outrun (Run-out): 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. 

Outslope (Outsloping): 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.

Parallel 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. 

Parcourse: A series of exercise stations located along a fitness trail. Each station is designed to exercise a different set of muscles. 

Park: Any area that is predominately open space with natural vegetation and landscaping used principally for active or passive recreation. 

Park, Linear: A 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. 

Parkway: A broad roadway bordered and, often, divided with plantings of trees, shrubs, and grass. 

Partial Bench: Where 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. 

Pass: 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. 

Path (Pathway): This 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. 

Pathfinder: One that discovers a way, explores untraveled regions to mark a new route. Someone who promotes a new process or procedure. 

Paved Dip: A swale crossing paved with stones to enable water to run across a trail without erosion. 

Pavement: That part of a trail having a constructed surface for the facilitation of wheeled trail traffic. 

Peak-Bagging: Reaching the tops of as many peaks as possible in the shortest amount of time. 

Peat: Unconsolidated material, largely undecomposed organic matter, that has accumulated under excess moisture or is due to continued saturation. 

Pedestrian: Any person traveling by foot or any mobility-impaired person who uses a wheelchair, whether operated manually or motorized. 

Pick (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. 

Picnic Area: Area with one or more picnic tables. 

Pier: Intermediate bridge supports located between two adjacent bridge spans. 

Pitch: An 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 control point.   

Piton: A spike driven into rock and to which ropes are attached during climbing or rigging.

Plan and Profile Sheets: Drawings (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. 

Planimetric map: A map that shows features such as roads, trails, and mountains but without contour lines showing elevation changes. 

Pole Saw (Tree Pruner): A 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. 

Pond: Still body of water smaller than a lake. 

Portage: 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. 

Positive Grade: Trail runs uphill. 

Potable (Water): Safe to drink from the source without treating. 

Pre-field: Performing 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. 

Prescribed Burn: Fires set by land managers to reduce underbrush hence reducing future fire danger. 

Preservation: Maintaining an area or structure intact or unchanged. 

Primary Trails: Continuous through routes that originate at the trailhead. Primarily for directing users through an area while promoting a certain type of experience. 

Prism: The trail cross-section as a whole. 

Privy: Latrine or outhouse. 

Pulaski: Developed to grub and chop duff during forest fires, the Pulaski combines the axe bit with an adz-shaped grub hoe. 

Puncheon (Bog Bridge): A 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. 

Put-in/Take-out Point: A 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.


Radius: An arc or curve that connects two straight trail segments in order to provide smooth horizontal and vertical alignment. 

Rail Corridor: 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). 

Rail-Trail (Rail-to-Trail): A multi-purpose public path (paved or natural) created along an inactive rail corridor. 

Rail-with-Trail: A trail that shares the same corridor with active rail traffic. 

Railbank(ing): 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 recreational trails. 

Railing (Handrail): 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. 

Ravine: Deep, narrow gouge in the earth’s surface, usually eroded by the flow of water. 

Realignment: The process of moving a portion of an existing trail to alleviate maintenance problems or resource impact. 

Rebar: Steel reinforcing rod that comes in a variety of diameters, useful for manufacturing pins or other trail anchors. 

Reconstruction: Building a trail on a new location to replace an existing trail. 

Reconnaissance (Recon): Scouting out alternative trail locations prior to the final trail route location being selected. 

Record 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 deciding officer. 

Recreation: 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. 

Recreation, Passive Outdoor: Recreational uses conducted almost wholly outdoors that generally do not require a developed site, including hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and birdwatching. 

Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS): A means of classifying and managing recreational opportunities based on physical, social, and managerial settings. 

Recreational Carrying Capacity: 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. 

Recreational 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 goats. 

Recreational 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 municipalities. 

Recreational Use Statue (RUS): State laws designed to limit the liability of public organizations, easement donors, landowners, and others who open their lands for public recreation use. 

Rehabilitation: All work to bring an existing trail up to its classification standard on the same location, including necessary relocation of minor portions of the rail. 

Relocation: 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 constraints. 

Remove: To move from a position occupied; to take away. 

Renovation: Activities that will significantly change the trail width, surface, or trail structures. 

Request 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 unqualified consultants. 

Reroute: To alter the path of a trail to better follow land contours, avoid drainage sites, bypass environmentally sensitive areas, improve views, or for other reasons. 

Restroom (comfort station, pit privy, vault toilet, composting toilet, chemical toilet, port-a-john, ): Facility for human waste disposal that meets public health standards.

Retaining 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. 

Retaining Wall, Modular/Composite (Sutter): 

Revegetation: Process of restoring a denuded and/or eroded area close to its original condition. 

Reverse Grade: A short rise in the trail, which traverses a slope that forces any water on the trail to drain off to the side. 

Ridge: A hill that is proportionally longer than it is wider, generally with steeply sloping sides. 

Ridgeline: A line connecting the highest points along a ridge and separating drainage basins or small-scale drainage systems from one another. 

Rigging, Cable: 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.

Right-of-Way: 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. 

Right of Way: The right of one trail user or vehicle to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another trail user or vehicle. 

Rill: A steep sided channel resulting from accelerated erosion. 

Riparian Habitat: A habitat that is strongly influenced by water and that occurs adjacent to streams, shorelines, and wetlands. 

Riparian Vegetation: An association of plant species growing adjacent to freshwater courses, including perennial and intermittent streams, lakes, and other bodies of fresh water. 

Riparian Zone: The land and vegetation immediately adjacent to a body of water, such as a river, lake, or other natural perpetual watercourse. 

Riprap: Stones placed randomly on a bank to provide support. 

Rise 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. 

River: A large natural stream of water. 

Rock: Area where rocks or boulders protrude through the tread surface. 

Rock Bar (Pry Bar): A four-foot bar of steel weighing 16 to 18 pounds with a beveled end used to move rocks. 

Root: 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. 

Root Ball (Root Wad): Earth and soil that is lifted up when a tree and its roots fall over. 

Run (Running) Plank: Usually wood planks laid lengthwise (along the axis) on top of bridge decking used as the tread surface. 

Runoff: 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.


Saddle: Ridge between two peaks. 

Safety Harness: 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. 

Scenic View: A long-distance view that is pleasant and interesting. 

Scenic 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. 

Scoping: The procedures by which an agency determines the extent of analysis necessary for a proposed action. 

Scree: 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 weathering. 

Secondary Trails: 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. 

Section 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 railbank. 

Sediment: Soil particles that have been transported away from their natural location by wind or water action.

Segment (Passage): A portion of a trail. Changes in geographic features, jurisdiction and/or political boundaries often distinguish segments (passages). 

Shared Use: 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 trails. 

Sheath: Protective covering made of leather or plastic used to cover sharp blades of tools while in storage or when the tools are transported. 

Sheetwash: The widespread removal of surface debris by the steady and continuous flow of water on low gradient slopes. Generally at slow speeds and over long periods. 

Shelter: Open front structure that includes a sleeping platform and roof. 

Shoulder: 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. 

Shovel: A tool with a broad scoop and a long handle for lifting and moving loose material. 

Shrub: 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.

Side Trails: Dead-end trail that access features near the main trail. 

Sidehill: Where the trail angles across the face of a slope. The tread is often cut into the slope. 

Sidehilling: Process of excavating or cutting a bench across the slope. 

Sideslope: 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. 

Sidewalk: 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. 

Sight Distance: The visible and unobstructed forward and rear view seen by a trail user from a given point along the trail. 

Sign: A board, post, or placard that displays verbal, symbolic, tactile, or pictorial information about the trail or surrounding area. 

Sign, Kiosk: A freestanding bulletin board consisting of three to five sides. 

Significant: 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. 

Sill: 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.

Single-Jack 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. 

Single-Track Trail: A trail only wide enough for one user to travel and requires one user to yield the trail to allow another user to pass. 

Single Use Trail: One that is designed and constructed for only one intended user (i.e. hiker use only). 

Sinkhole: A natural occurrence when the limestone crust of the earth collapses and creates a crater. Old sinkholes are often filled with water and resemble ponds. 

Sinks: A term given to areas where underground rivers emerge at the ground surface. Areas surrounding sinks are generally lush with vegetation. 

Skew Angle: Less than at right angle to a trail. Usually an oblique angle of 45 degrees or less. 

Skiing, Cross-country, (Nordic): In simplest terms – skiing across the countryside. 

Skirt: To construct a trail around a mountain, often at an even grade, instead of climbing over the mountain. 

Skyline: Rigging system with a highline in which a load is moved via a pulley, pulled by a separate rope. 

Slackline: Rigging system with a highline, which is lowered to pickup a load, then tightened to move the load. 

Slackpack (Slackpacking, Slackpacker): Means hiking a section of a long distance trail without a backpack. 

Sledgehammer: A long handled heavy hammer (6- to 8-pound head), usually held with both hands. 

Slide: Material that has slid onto the trail tread from the backslope and possibly in quantities sufficient to block the trail. 

Slope: Rising or falling ground. 

Slope, Cut: The exposed ground surface resulting from the excavation of material on the natural terrain. 

Slope, Cross: The slope that is perpendicular to the direction of the trail. 

Slope, Fill: The exposed ground surface resulting from the placement of excavated material on the natural terrain. 

Slope, Running: The slope that is in the same direction as the trail. 

Slope, Percent: 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. 

Slough (pronounced “Sloo”): Ingress, egress or backflow from a creek or river. Usually areas full of soft, deep mud. 

Slough (pronounced “Sluff”): 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 trail tread. 

Slump: When the trail bed material has moved downward causing a dip in the trail grade. 

Snowmobile: 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. 

Soft Surface Trail: A trail tread surfaced with soil cement, graded aggregate stone, or shredded wood fiber. 

Social 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. 

Soil: The surface material of the continents, produced by disintegration of rocks, plants, and animals and the biological action of bacteria, earthworms, and other decomposers. 

Soil 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. 

Soil Auger: T-shaped tool with a spiral tip for turning into soil to probe its content. 

Soil Profile: Site-specific arrangement of soil layers from surface to bedrock. 

Soil 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. 

Soil 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. 

Spall: Stone chip or fragment; to break up into ships or fragments. 

Specifications: 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. 

Spike (Camp): To campout while working on a trail. 

Spine Trail: A regional trail that acts as a “backbone” to a regional trail system. 

Sprawl: Low-density land-use patterns that are automobile-dependent, energy and land consumptive, and require a very high ratio of road surface to development served. 

Spur Trail: A trail that leads from primary, secondary, or spine trails to points of user interests—overlooks, campsites, etc. 

Staging 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. 

Stakes, Grade or Slope: Temporary stakes set by the trail locator to establish the elevation and cross section of the completed tread. 

Stakes, Line: Temporary stakes set by the trail locator to establish the centerline of the trail. 

Standards, 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 the designer. 

Star Drill: A foot-long tool weighing about a pound used with a single jackhammer to punch holes in rock or open a seam/crack. 

Station: One hundred feet measured along the centerline of the trail or road; used in surveying and construction. 

Steel Rungs: Placed on rock faces or ledges to provide ladder-like access in steep terrain. 

Step: Structure (stone or wood) that provides a stable vertical rise on the trail, usually in sets. 

Step, Pinned: Step held in place on ledge or a rock slab by steel pins set in holes drilled in the rock. 

Stepping Stones: 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, Perennial: Stream channels that carry water the year round. 

Stringer: The lengthwise member of a structure, usually resting on sills that spans wet areas and supports the decking.   

Stob (Stub): Projecting (and hazardous) piece of a branch or sampling not cut flush with the trunk or ground.   

Stone: A rock put to human use. 

Structure: Anything constructed or erected that requires location on the ground such as a bridge, wall, steps, etc. on or near a trail. 

Stuff Sack: A water-repellant or waterproof bag with a drawstring, used for compact storage of gear.   

Stream: Small body of running water moving in a natural channel or bed. 

Stream Crossing: A trail crossing a body of running water at grade without the use of a developed structure or bridge. 

Stream, Intermittent: Channels that naturally carry water part of the year and are dry the other part.   

Stream, Perennial: Stream channels that carry water the year round. 

Stringer: The lengthwise member of a structure, usually resting on sills that spans wet areas and supports the decking. 

Structure: Anything constructed or erected that requires location on the ground such as a bridge, wall, steps, etc. on or near a trail. 

Stuff Sack: A water-repellant or waterproof bag with a drawstring, used for compact storage of gear.   

Sub-base: 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. 

Sub-grade: 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. 

Substrate: Intermediate layer overlying bedrock and under topsoil. Underlying layer of loose/soft material below topsoil. 

Subsurface Rights: 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. 

Summit: The highest point (top) of a mountain. 

Super-Elevated (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. 

Surfacing: 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. 

Survey: 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. 

Sustainability: Community 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.

Swale: 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 trail. 

Swamp: A piece of wet, spongy land; bog, marsh. 

Swedish 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. 

Switchback: 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 landing. 

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.

Taking: 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. 

Talus: Large rock debris on a slope. The rocks are larger and have sharper edges than those found on scree slopes. 

Tent platform: Wooden platform used to minimize damage to fragile alpine or wetlands areas or to reduce impact on a heavily used, erosion-prone camp site. 

Terminus: Refers to either the beginning or end of a trail. 

Thru-Cut Climbing Turn: 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 degrees. 

Tie Log: Structural member notched into the horizontal facer and wing walls used to secure the facer and wings by utilizing the mass of the backfill. 

Tight and Technical: A type of trail design that allows for tight turns, slow speeds, and can take fuller advantage of natural technical features. 

Timber Carrier: A tool with a long handle and hooks allowing two people on each side of the carrier to transport logs or timber. 

Topography: 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. 

Track Tie Memory: 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. 

Trail: 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. 

Trail Access Information: Objective information reported to trail users through signage about the grade, cross slope, tread width, and surface of a trail. 

Trailbed: The finished surface on which base course or surfacing may be constructed. For trails without surfacing, the trailbed is the tread. 

Trailhead: 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. 

Trailway: The portion of the trail within the limits of the excavation and embankment. 

Transportation 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. 

Transportation 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. 

Travelway: The trail as a whole, including the trail tread and the cleared areas on either side of the trail. 

Traverse: To ascend a slope diagonally up and across in lieu of the more direct up and over approach. 

Tread (Treadway): 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 tires. 

Tread Creep: When the loose soil of the trail tread moves (sags or slides) down hill during use. 

Tread Lightly!: Educational program designed to instill outdoor ethics of responsible behavior when participating in outdoor activities. 

Tread Width: The width of the portion of the trail used for travel. 

Tree: 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. 

Tree 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. 

Trek: To hike a long way. Trekkers are long-distance hikers. 

Trespasser: Person who uses property without the owner’s implied or stated permission and not for the benefit of the property owner. 

Trestle: Mid-span support for a bridge. 

Trio Maintenance: Three-step function of removing slough, berm, and brushing maintenance. Called fire line trail maintenance. 

True North: The direction toward the geographic North Pole. Most maps are oriented to True North. 

Turnout: 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.

Undulating Trail: One that follows a wavelike course, often going in and out of gullies. 

USGS 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. 

Universal Design: Few if any barriers exist to inhibit accessibility. 

Universal 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.


Viewshed: Land that comprises a view. 

Vista: See Scenic Viewpoint. 

Volunteer: Person who works on a trail or for a trail club without pay.


Walkway: This is an area for general pedestrian use (other than a sidewalk or path) such as courtyards, plazas, and pedestrian malls. 

Wall, Retaining: Log or rock construction to support trail tread or retain backslope. 

Wash: A natural watercourse, wet or dry. 

Water Course: Any natural or built channel through which water naturally flows or will collect and flow during spring runoff, rainstorms, etc. 

Waterbar: 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 the barrier. 

Waterfall: Steep descent of water from a height. 

Watershed: 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. 

Weed 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. 

Wetland: A lowland area, such as a marsh or swamp, which is saturated with water, creating a unique naturally occurring habitat for plants and wildlife. 

Wheel Guard: 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. 

Wheelbarrow: A shallow, open box for moving small loads, having a wheel in front, and two handles for moving the wheelbarrow. 

Wheelchair: Mobility aid, usable indoors, and designed for and used by individuals with mobility impairments, whether operated manually or motorized. 

Wilderness 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. 

Wilderness Area: 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. 

Wildlife: Any plant or animal species which has not been domesticated, but which lives in their natural habitats. 

Winch: 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. 

Windchill: The cooling of the body that results from wind passing over its surface—especially dramatic if the surface is wet. 

Wing: Angled barriers at bridge approach to channel traffic and prevent trail users from inadvertently plunging over embankment. 

Wing Wall: 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 fill material. 

Wood Chips: Chipped wood, often available from tree trimming operations, produces a soft, spongy trail surface, and is used on many nature trails.




Zero-Mile Mark: The point at which the measured trail originates. 

Zipline: 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.