National Forest Trails

hike Bear Lake Colorado
krossbow-Flickr
With more than 193 million acres of land, America’s national forests are a haven for outdoor recreationists. Over 50 million people use trails within them annually.

However, while recreation is one of the Forest Service's highest priorities, it lacks the resources it needs to manage its trails properly. Limited funding for trails maintenance means many are closed, but the Wilderness Society is working to keeping them open.

National forests, a recreation gateway

Providing high quality recreation opportunities is one of the Forest Service's highest priorities, and with good reason. Many of our nation's most beautiful natural places are located in national forests. For many Americans the forests are also relatively close by and more convenient than any national park. So our national forests provide many people with opportunities to experience nearby wild places.  

Difficulties keeping trails open

Because of chronic underfunding, the Forest Service has trouble keeping all of its trails open and accessible for these people to use however. Since 1977, the number of visitor days on the national forests has increased 376% and the number of trail miles has increased by 57%. Unfortunately, the agency's trail maintenance and construction budget has remained almost flat, increasing less than 2% after inflation during the same period.

Working for better trail maintenance

In 1980, the forest service budget contained $793 for each mile of trail. Now it contains $540. The result is a $296 million deficit in trail maintenance for our national forests.

Currently, just 21% of all Forest Service trails meet maintenance standards. As a result, some trails are unsafe to use or completely closed, while others erode into nearby streams and reduce water quality.

The Wilderness Society is working to help the Forest Service be able to keep trails open and accessible.

See also:

National forests