WV Transportation

WV Transportation

WV Transportation

WV Department of Transportation

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms


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 connects the main trail to a road or another trail system.


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.  Accessibility means removing barriers to people with disabilities.


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


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


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 wheeled or tracked motorized vehicle designed primarily for recreational use or for the transportation of property or equipment exclusively on trails, undeveloped roads, marshland, open country or other unprepared surfaces.  An ATV is only intended for off-highway use.

Alternate Trail

A trail that begins on, ends on and roughly parallels another trail.


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 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.


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.

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.


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

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 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.

Average Trail Grade (Overall Trail Grade)

The average steepness of a trail over its entire length.

Average Trail Segment Grade

The average steepness of a given trail segment.




An area where there are no maintained roads or permanent buildings—just primitive roads and trails usually one half mile or more from maintained roads.


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


Material used to fill behind a crib, a step or refill a ditch or other excavation, or the process of doing this action.


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.


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.

Barrier-Free Design

A trail design that promotes the elimination of physical barriers that reduce access to areas by people with disabilities.


The primary excavated bed of a trail upon which the tread or finished 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.


The excavated surface on which a trail tread lies.


Solid rock material underlying soils and other earthy rock formations.  Bedrock is sometimes exposed when topsoil is eroded or cut away.

Bench Cut

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


·      In a full bench cut the entire width of the trail tread is excavated out of the slope, and the trail tread contains no compacted fill material.  This is the most durable, sustainable and recommended style of bench cut trail.


·      A half bench cut has half of the trail tread excavated out of the slope and the down slope half is constructed of compacted fill material


·      A partial bench cut is partially cut out of the slope and partially constructed out of compacted fill material.  The percentage of each type of cut varies continuously.


The ridge of material formed on the outer edge of the trail that projects higher than the center of the trail tread.  A berm can trap water, create wet trail areas and lead to erosion.

Bike Path
(Bike Trail, Bikeway, Multi-use 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 designed and referred to as multiuse paths and trails.


A painted or plastic trail marker.  Blazes can be made on a tree by painting the bark with a 2-inch by 6-inch, vertical rectangle.  Plastic shapes (known as blazers) can be cut out of plastic containers and nailed to trees to mark a route.  Commercial blazers can be purchased with the name of the trail or a directional arrow imprinted and nailed to trees to mark a route.

Blaze, Double

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

Blowdown (Windfall)

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


A fixed planked structure, used to provide access to rock formations or in areas of bogs or wet soil or water to provide dry crossings.


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


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

Borrow Pit

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

Braiding (Braided Trail)

The process of numerous routes being created.  Identified by worn and eroded vegetation.

Bridleway (Bridle Path)

Public way designed and maintained primarily for equestrian use.  Other non-motorized uses may be permitted.


The process of distributing excavated soil as far away from the trail as possible.


Vegetation or small flora.


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 (such as trees, shrubs, or wooden fences) used between the trail and adjacent lands to minimize physical or visual impacts.  Buffers also provide a transition between different land uses.


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.



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


A cone shaped mound of rock built to mark a trail route 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.


Site where overnight stays are permitted.


The leaf-cover in a forest stand, consisting of its upper layers.

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.


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


An imaginary line marking the center of the trail.  During construction, the centerline is usually marked by placing a row of flags or stakes to indicate where the center of the trail will be.


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

Check Dam

Log, rock, or wood barrier placed across deeply eroded trails or erosion channels to slow the flow of water to allow accumulation of fine fill material behind the structure to fill in the trail tread.

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.


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.

Climbing Turn

A turn to reverse directions that does not have a constructed turning platform or landing.  The upper and lower legs of the turn are connected by a short section of trail that lies directly in the fall line.  Climbing turns located on hillsides with a grade of more than seven percent are erosion prone and should be replaced with switchbacks.


A hand-held instrument used for measuring angles of terrain elevation or percent of trail grade.  Clinometers measure a grade in percent or degrees.  Percent is always used for roads and trails.,

Cobble (Cobblestone)

Loose rock over 2 ½ inches in diameter.


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.


The tendency of soil to lose pore space and become compressed and impermeable to water when walked upon or tamped.


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 fair 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.


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.

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 its elevation remaining constant.

Control Points (Targets)

Features that influence where a trail goes.  The beginning and end of the trail are natural control points.  Positive control points are those that trail users will want to head towards.  Negative control points are those they try to avoid.  These features are flagged and used to help design a trail.

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.


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.

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.


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


A trail tread with the center of the trail elevated to promote drainage off both sides of the tread.

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 that 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 carries a stream or other water under a trail without restricting water flow.  Recent research indicates that square culverts are less likely to clog and cause the water to flow over the trail and increase erosion.

Curb Cut

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


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

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.  When constructed half or partial bench cut trails the uphill portion of the bench is cut away and used to fill in the downhill portion.




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


A tangled mass of fallen trees or branches.


Removing the ridge of material formed on the outer edge of the trail that projects higher than the center of the trail tread, allowing water to once again flow off the trail.

Decking (Flooring)

That part of a bridge, puncheon, or boardwalk structure that provides direct support for trail traffic.


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

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, and 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

Dispersed Recreation

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

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 two people to travel side by side or pass each other without one user having to yield the trail.  Double-track trails are often old forest roads.


The downhill side of the trail.

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 changes 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.


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.


Slope that falls away steeply.

Duff (Humus)

A layer of decaying organic plant matter (leaves, needles, wood, and mold) on the ground.  It is highly absorbent and quickly erodes under traffic.

Duty of Care

The legal duty a landowner owes a member of the general public.  The legal “duty of care” varies from state to state.  Generally, liability depends on the status of the injured person.  A landowner has a lesser duty of care in the case of a trespasser than he does to someone invited onto his property.




Grants the right to use a specific portion of land for a specific purpose or purposes.  Easements may be limited to a specific time period 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, 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.


Purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people.


The height of a place above sea level.

Elliptical Triangle (Pregnant Triangle)

Shape of signs for trails in the National Trails System.


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

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.


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 that complies with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) law and regulation 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 Environmental Impact Statement (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 an 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 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: 1) a draft statement which is made available to the public for review and 2) 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 an ephemeral creek is a dry creek bed.


Of horses, horseback riding, riders and horsemanship.


The natural process of breaking down and removing soil particles from the ground surface, principally by running water and wind.  The wear and tear from traffic combined with water falling on the trail, running down the trail, and freezing and thawing creates significant erosion problems on trails.

Erosion Control

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

Erosion, Gully (Gullying)

The removal of a deep channel of soil from the land surface by water running down hill.

Erosion, Sheet

The removal of a relatively uniform layer of soil material from the land surface.

Exotic Species

Plants or animals introduced from another country or geographic region.


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).



Fall Line

Straight up or down the slope.  The direction water flows down a hill under most circumstances.  Constructing a trail on the fall line of a hill encourages water to run down the trail and promotes erosion.

Fall Zone

The area on either side of and under a technical trail feature that provides a clear landing area for a rider who has failed to negotiate the obstacle.


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.


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

Fill (Material)

Gravel or soil used to fill voids in trail tread and to pack behind retaining walls and other structures.

Fill Slope

The portion of a trail constructed from fill material.  Fill slope can be unstable and should not be used to build trail tread.

Fines, soil

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

Fiscal Year (FY)

Annual schedule for keeping financial records and for budgeting funds.  The Federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.  West Virginia ’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

Fitness Trail

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


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


Brightly colored material tied to trees indicating the intended course of a trail prior to construction.

Flags, Pin

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


The flat, occasionally flooded (100-year floods) area bordering streams, rivers, or other bodies of water susceptible to changes in the surface level of the water.


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


The plant populations and species of a specified region.


The rhythm or “feel” of a trail.  Two basic trail types include “open and flowing” and “tight and technical”.


Branch or sapling cut flush with the trunk or ground.

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.


The part of a structural foundation that rests on the ground, supporting and spreading the weight of the structure above it.


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.


A natural water level stream crossing that can be improved with aggregate mix or concrete to provide a level low velocity surface for 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.


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.


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


A slight narrowing of the trail used to control speed.  Also called a choke.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

A spatial database mapping system that can be used to contain location data for trails and other important features.

(Geo-Synthetic, Geofabric, Filter Fabric)

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 where the trail tread is higher than the surrounding water table in low lying areas with poor drainage.


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.


The amount of elevation change between two points over a given distance 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 Reversal,
(Grade Dip, Grade Break, Drainage Dip, Rolling Dip, Coweeta Dip)

A reverse in the trail grade, usually a short dip followed by a rise, that forces 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, Maximum

The steepest grade on any part of a trail.

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.

Grade, Sustained

The steepest grade over the majority of the trail length.


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 Infrastructure

The sum of the public and private conservation lands including native landscapes and ecosystems, green spaces, and waters.


A series of connected open spaces that may follow natural features such as ravines, creeks, or streams.  May surround cities and serve to conserve and direct urban and suburban growth.


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


A linear open space established along a natural corridor, such as a river, stream, ridgeline, rail-trail, canal, or other route for conservation, recreation, or alternative transportation purposes.  Greenways can connect parks, nature preserves, cultural facilities, and historic sites with business and residential areas.  May or may not be open to recreational trail use.

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.

Groundwater Table

The depth below the surface where the soil is saturated with water.


To dig, or clear of roots, to uproot shallow roots near or on the ground surface; also grubbing of tree stumps.

Gully (Gullying)

Where concentrations of runoff water cut into soil forming single or numerous channels greater than one foot below post-construction tread depth usually on steepening terrain.




A place that supports a plant or animal population because it supplies that organism’s basic requirements of food, water, shelter, living space, and security.

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.

Half Rule

A trail’s grade should not exceed half the grade of the side slope.  If the trail grade is steeper than half the grade of the side slope, it is considered a fall line trail and gravity will pull water down the trail instead of across it.  This leads to erosion of the trail tread.

Hard Surface (Paved) Trail

A trail tread surfaced with asphalt or concrete.


The manual, mechanical, or chemical compaction of the trail tread resulting in a hard and flat surface that sheets water effectively and resists the indentations 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.


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


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

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.


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.


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


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


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 sites or trail segments which afford high quality recreation or interpretation opportunities.


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).

Hybrid Trail

A trail that combines open and flowing segments with tight and technical segments.


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.


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.

Indemnify (Indemnification)

To insure against or repay for loss, damage, etc.


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


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

In-kind Contributions

The value of donated labor or equipment, real property, professional services, materials etc. used toward the match for a grant.

Inside Turns

On a trail traversing a hillside, concave or naturally banked turns in which the sideslope helps direct trail users around the turn.

Inslope (Insloping)

Where the slope of the trail tread is toward the backslope of the trail.  This causes water to flow along the inside of the trail and requires drains under the trail tread.


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) which was in turn superseded by the Safe and Falsely Efficient Transpiration Efficiency Act for Local Users (SAFETYLU) .


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.


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.


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.


A person who has been invited to use the property by the owner for the mutual benefit of the owner and invitee.




Site where one trail or road meets another.



Kiosk (sign)

A structure housing informational or interpretive displays.


A shaved down section of trail, about ten feet in diameter, with an exaggerated out slope.  Like a grade reversal, a knick is used to divert water off a trail and is a useful remedy for wet spots on a relatively flat trail.


Prominent rounded hill or mountain.



Land and Water Conservation Fund

A federal matching assistance program that uses money collected from off-shore oil leases to provide grants for fifty percent of the cost of acquisition and/or development of outdoor recreation sites and facilities.

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 accept 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.


Dislodged rock or earth obstructing passage on a trail.


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.

Legal Public Access

The rite of passage, established by law, over another’s property.  Can be created by an easement dedicated or reserved for public access.  Legal public access exists on public lands, public waters, public rights-of-way and public easements.


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


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.

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.


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 or bridge can carry at any point along its length.  You should consider service and emergency vehicles 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.

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.

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.



Machine Built

A trail or feature constructed with the use of an excavator, trail dozer, or other piece of equipment.

Magnetic North

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


Work done 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.


The overall policy, planning, design, inventory, mapping, construction, and maintenance of a trail or greenway segment or site as well as the operational aspects of administration.

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.

Maximum Grade

The steepest section of the trail more than ten feet in length.

Maximum Sustainable Grade

The steepest section of the trail that is still sustainable.  Although maximum sustainable grade is typically 15 to 20 percent, it is site specific and fluctuates based on several factors.

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.


Small bumps and rises in the landscape.

Mineral Soil

Dirt below the top layer of leaves roots and other organic material.

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.


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


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


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


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


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

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 (Equestrian, Off Highway Vehicle, 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 on federal land and determine if the proposed project will cause any significant environmental impact.

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 Overmountain Victory, the Selma to Montgomery and the Oregon trails are a few of the 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

Local trails (over 800) recognized by the federal government as contributing to the National Trails System.

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 designated as 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 normally is 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 (1/4 to 2 miles) with primary function of providing an opportunity to walk and study interesting or unusual plants or natural features at user’s 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.


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.




The way project sponsors spend money, typically by putting their project under contract for construction.  Grant programs often require project sponsors to obligate funds in a timely manner or lose the funds.


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

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.

One Way Trail (Directional Use Trail)

A trail designed and managed in such a way as to encourage users to travel in one direction.  The direction may be reversed periodically.

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 consists of leaves, needles, plants, roots, bark, and other organic material in various stages of decay, and has a large water/mass absorption ratio; generally the top layer of soil.

Out and Back Trails

A one way trail on which users travel to a destination and then backtrack to return to the trailhead.

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.

Outside Turns

Convex or off camber turns, usually on trails that traverse hillsides, that are more difficult to navigate, as centrifugal force pulls the trail user to the outside of the turn.

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.  Occasionally called cross slope or cross sloping.



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.

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.

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.

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.

Paved Dip

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


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


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


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

Percent of Grade

The preferred method of measuring slope, or a hills steepness.  For example, a grade of 10 percent means there is a rise or fall of 10 vertical feet for every 100 linear feet.


Intermediate bridge supports located between two adjacent bridge spans.


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.

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.


Water accumulation in a low area.  Berms along the downhill edge of a trail will cause ponding on the trail.

Portage Trail

A land trail that provides a paddler a route around in-stream 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.


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.


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.


The trail cross-section as a whole.


Latrine or outhouse.

Puncheon ( Bog Bridge )

A log or timber structure built on the ground that allows 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 that provides public access/egress to water trails or a stream.



Quit-Claim Deed

Deed of conveyance whereby whatever interest the grantor has in the property described in the deed is conveyed to the grantee without warranty of title.




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

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 fifty to one hundred feet wide).

Rail-Trail (Rail-to-Trail)

A multi-purpose public path created along an inactive rail corridor.


A trail that shares a corridor with active rail traffic.


Retaining a rail corridor for future railroad uses after service is 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.


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


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


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


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

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.


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 bird watching.

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 without charge.  All fifty states have a recreational use statue 


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.


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.


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.


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.  Rerouting is often the best solution for a poorly designed trail that requires frequent maintenance.

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.

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.


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


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

Right-of First Refusal

A property interest in which the holder of the right has first option to purchase the property at the price of a bona fide offer made to the property owner by a third party.  If not exercised within a set time period after the offer is made, it expires, and the owner is free to sell to the offeror.


A strip of land held in fee simple title, or an easement over another’s land, for use as a public utility for a public purpose.  Usually includes a designated amount of land on either side of a trail that serves as a buffer for adjacent land uses.

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.

Riparian Habitat (Riparian Zone)

A habitat strongly influenced by water; adjacent to streams, shorelines, and wetlands.


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.  A 1:4 is a 25% grade or slope, where 25% is obtained by dividing 1 by 4 and expressing the result as a percentage.

Risk Management

An element of safety management that evaluates the effects of potential hazards on safety by considering acceptance, control or elimination of such hazards with respect to expenditure of resources.

Rolling Contour Trail

A trail characterized by gentle grade, grade reversals and outsloped tread.

Rolling Crown Switchback

A sustainable turn on a hillside engineered for drainage.  The trail is routed onto a crowned deck where it makes a transition to the opposite direction.  The upper approach is insloped to drain water out the back of the landing.  The lower approach is outsloped.

Rolling Grade Dip

A grade reversal.

Run (Running) Plank

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

Runout (Outrun)

The 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.


Sunken groove in the tread, perpendicular to the direction of travel.




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.


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


Gravel size loose rock debris, especially on a steep slope or at the base of a cliff, formed as a result of disintegration largely by 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.

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 does not always require multiple-use trails.


A dispersed flow of water.  It minimizes erosion by slowing water and reducing its ability to carry away soil particles.


Open front structure that includes a sleeping platform and roof.


A thin wedge of rock or wood used to fill spaces between larger rocks or pieces of wood.


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.


Leaving a vehicle at both ends of a point-to-point trip or pre-arranging a shuttle for pickup and drop off at the beginning and end of a trip.

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.


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


Process of excavating or cutting a bench across the slope.


The natural slope of a hillside measured on the fall line.


A paved strip normally parallel to vehicular traffic and separated from the road surface by at least a curb and gutter.  Sidewalks are more common in urban areas than rural areas, primarily due to the high installation cost and low anticipated use.

Sight Line

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


A board, post, or placard that displays verbal, symbolic, tactile, or pictorial information about the trail or surrounding area.  Signage increases safety and comfort on trails.  There are six basic types of signs


1.Kiosk signs are large signs at the beginning of a trail or trail system that provides extensive information about the trail and area.  Kiosks often include a map and describe the trail length and difficulty, trail etiquette, local rules, emergency contact information and other administrative information.


2.Kiosks may include any of the other types of signs.  Warning or cautionary signs warn trail users about upcoming hazards.


3.Directional signs provide navigational information, sometimes a simple blaze sometimes a wooden placard with the trail name and an arrow pointing the direction.  Some trails are obvious and have very few directional signs.


4.Interpretive signs provide information about natural or cultural points of interest along the trail.


5.Difficulty level signs display the trail’s length and difficulty rating.  These signs are usually placed at trailheads and at trail intersections, especially when two trails with different difficulty levels meet.


6.Regulatory signs that provide local rules such as allowed or forbidden trail users, or the direction of travel.


Stone or timber supports that keep bridge timbers from contacting the ground, usually placed crosswise at the top of an abutment or pier.

Single-Track Trail

A trail so narrow users must travel single file, one user must yield the trail to allow another user to pass.

Single Use Trail

One that is designed and constructed for only one type of user (i.e. ATV use only, Hiker use only, etc.).


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.  This type of topography is common in Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.


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.

Skills Area
(Challenge Park)

A special use area that features a variety of technical trail features.


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


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


The natural or man-made pitch of the land as shown on contour maps.  Generally refers to the hill, not the trail.  Trail slope is usually called grade.

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 “sluff” and rhymes with enough)

Material from the backslope that has been deposited on the trail bed and projects higher than the center of the trail tread.


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


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 Trail, Informal Trail)

Unplanned/unauthorized trails/paths that developed informally from use and are not designated or maintained by an agency; often cutting switchbacks or between adjacent trails.


The surface material of the continents, produced by disintegration of rocks, plants, and animals and the biological action of bacteria, earthworms, and other decomposers.  The four fundamental groups of soils are: gravels, sands, loams and clays.

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 Compaction

A decrease in the volume of soil resulting from compression.  The weight of hikers will slowly compact loose soil.  Tools used to tamp soil will compact it fast enough that wind and water cannot blow it away first.

Soil Stabilizer

Material, either natural or manufactured, such as vegetation, mulch, cement, or synthetic soil stabilizers, used to hold soil in place and prevent erosion due to water, wind or trail users.

Soil Texture

 Relative proportions of the various size groups of individual soil grains in a mass of soil..Specifically, it refers to the proportions of clay silt and sand in soil.


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


Written standards of work and type of materials to which trails (tread, clearing, grade) and trail structures (bridge, culvert, puncheon) are built and maintained according to type of use.

Spine Trail

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


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.

Stacked Loop Trail

Trail or trail system designed with many loops “stacked” on each other, giving users many options for varied routes.


Groups or individuals who can affect, or are affected by, a project.  Examples include: trail users, outfitters, managers, park employees, policy makers, citizens, community groups and others.

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.


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


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.


Taking responsibility for the wellbeing of land and water resources and doing something to restore or protect that wellbeing.  Usually involves cooperation among people with different interests and is generally voluntary.  It is oriented toward assessment, protection and rehabilitation of trails and greenways as well as sustainable uses of renewable resources.


A step or set of steps for passing over a fence or wall for hikers without allowing livestock to escape.

Stob (Stub)

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


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


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.


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


On paved trails the sub-base lies between the sub-grade and the trail surface, and serves as a secondary, built foundation for the trail surface (concrete or asphalt).  The purpose of the sub-base is to transfer and distribute the weight from the trail surface to the sub-grade.  The sub-base is usually a four- to six-inch graded aggregate stone (gavel), which provides bearing strength and improves drainage.


Is the native soil mass that makes up the primary foundation of the trail that supports the tread surface.  Topography, soils, and drainage are the key factors comprising the sub-grade.


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

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.

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.

Surface, surfaced, 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 helps prevent potential erosion and abrasion.  Trails can be surfaced with concrete, asphalt, dirt, rock, gravel, sand mud snow grass, limestone chip and other materials.


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.

Sustainable trails

Low maintenance trails that have minimal impact on natural systems. 


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.

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.


A sustainable turn on a hillside.  The trail is routed onto a level deck or platform where it makes a transition to the opposite direction.  The deck or landing is the turning portion of the switchback.  The approaches are the trail sections upgrade and downgrade from the landing.




Material sprayed onto a soil surface to bind soil particles and prevent erosion.


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.


Using a machine compactor, a tamping bar, or other tool to compact earth to resist erosion.


A section of a trail that is difficult to navigate; used by mountain bikers to describe challenging sections of trail.

Technical Trail Feature

An obstacle on the trail requiring negotiation.  The feature can be natural such as an exposed rock face or man-made such as an elevated bridge.

Ten Percent Average Guideline

Generally, an average trail grade of 10 percent or less is most sustainable.  Many trails will have short segments with a grade greater than 10 percent.  Some unique situations may allow average trail grades to exceed 10 percent.


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.

Tight and Technical

A type of trail design that allows for tight turns, slow speeds, while using natural or man made features as technical obstacles.

Topographic Map

Maps that indicate built and natural features (roads, buildings, ravines, rivers, hills etc.) as well as changes in elevation and land cover.  Topographic maps are available from USGS, map stores, outdoor shops or can be downloaded from the internet.


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.


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

Trail Difficulty Rating Method

One of many basic methods used to categorize the relative technical difficulty of recreational trails.


An access point to a 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.

Trail 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.

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.


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


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

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 a contour trail sags or slides down the hill due to user caused erosion.  Trail creep may be caused by bushes or trees protruding into the trail from above, exposure of roots from an uphill tree, an improper bench cut or poor trail flow.

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.


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.


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


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


Mid-span support for a bridge.

Trio Maintenance

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


A place where the trail is widened to permit trail traffic traveling in opposite directions to pass.

Turnpike (Turnpiking)

A road or trail constructed by using a combination of gravel, soil or other filler to make the tread higher than the surrounding water table.  Turnpikes are useful in low-lying areas with poor drainage.  Frequently, boardwalks are used instead of turnpikes.



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.


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.

User Fee

Any charge for the use of services, facilities, trails or areas.  Examples include trail-use fees, entrance fees, parking fees, shelter fees, or voluntary donations.




Land that comprises a view.


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


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



Wall, Retaining

Log or rock construction to support trail tread or retain backslope.


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.  Grade reversals are preferred on trails instead of water bars.


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.

Water Table

The level below the ground surface where groundwater will fill a test hole.


A lowland area, such as a marsh or swamp, which is saturated with water, creating unique 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.


Mobility aid, usable indoors and outdoors, and designed for and used by individuals with mobility impairments, whether operated manually or motorized.  Motorized wheelchairs are allowed on non-motorized trails.

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.  Foot and horse traffic is the only traffic allowed.  Bicycles, OHVs, hang gliders or other machines are not allowed within a Wilderness Area.


The cooling of the body which results from wind passing over its surface - especially dramatic if the surface is wet.


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




Zero-Mile Mark

The point at which the measured trail originates.


Rigging system with a taut, stationary wire rope highline for moving loads on a moving pulley.


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.