Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Q&As About USGS Trail Data

Answers to common questions about USGS Trail Data

Status of the Nationwide Digital Trails Dataset
The image above shows nationwide distribution of USGS trails data received from over 36 state agencies. The trails that are in the USGS dataset are displayed in yellow.  


  1. What is the USGS nationwide digital trails dataset?

    USGS aggregates public domain digital trail data throughout the country. In addition to national-level trail data from the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we have trails from 36 states, four trail organizations, and some local trails.

  2. What type of trails are in the USGS trails dataset?

    There are three basic types of trails in the USGS digital trails dataset: terra, snow, and water. Terra trails include use-types such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Snow trails include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiles depending on the time of year and rules for each specific trail. Water trails are most often paddling routes. In all cases it is recommended to contact the original trail maintainer/organization for the most current information. The USGS doesn’t typically include trails located on roads unless the trail is physically separated from the roads or, in some cases, long trails that are briefly concurrent with roads. 

  3. How are the trails aggregated?

    Trail data aggregation is a multi-step process.  
    • First, the USGS gathers digital trail data from official sources.
    • The trail data must then pass an internal data quality review.
    • Next, the external datasets are cross walked into the USGS trail schema, which is based on the Federal Trail GIS Schema.
    • Finally, the incoming digital trail data is aggregated into the nationwide trails dataset, a feature class in the USGS National Transportation Database

      The process described above helps ensure the trails shown on The National Map and US Topo products come from authoritative sources. The common schema allows users to create complex data queries nationwide. 

  4. How often is the USGS nationwide digital trails dataset updated? 

    Currently, the USGS refreshes trail data every 1-3 years from Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs) and every 3-5 years from other sources. In 2024, we plan to improve the update cycle to at least annually for FLMAs and at least every three years for other sources.

  5. How can I access the nationwide trails dataset?

    The nationwide digital trails dataset is part of the USGS National Transportation Database, one of several primary support themes for The National Map and related products like US Topo. There are a variety of ways to access USGS trails data depending on how you want to use it.  
  6. What if my trails are not there?

    There are several possible reasons why your data may not be included in the USGS digital trails dataset. In some cases, the USGS may have concerns about the data source or data quality. The USGS only aggregates trails from official sources and that pass an internal data quality review. It’s also possible that we are unaware about your data. You can always reach out to to understand the details of your specific area.

  7. My favorite trail is not showing up correctly. Who do I call? “Trail Busters????”

    There are two main ways to figure out who to contact about a specific trail. You can see who the data source provider is by clicking on a specific trail in the USGS Trails Explorer or you can contact the trails team, aka “Trail Busters,” at Since the USGS aggregates and doesn’t edit or create trail data, we cannot make changes, but we can help you identify the appropriate agency to contact about the discrepancy.

  8. I’m working on improving my trail data but don’t know where to start. Can you help? 

    A good place to begin is by using a common schema for your trails. The National Federal Trail GIS Schema can be modified and used by anyone. More information can be found at Federal Trails Working Group | NGDA Transportation Theme ( You can also contact us at for more tips on how to get started.


  9. Do I see USGS trails data in my hiking/hunting app?

    USGS aggregates official public domain trail data from national or state-level databases whenever possible.  Because of this, the USGS digital trails dataset does not reflect all the trails “on the ground.” Many applications utilize OpenStreetMap trails to build their data. Some applications offer base layers based on USGS historic topographic maps or the current US Topo products. You need to check with individual application providers for specific details about their source data.

  10. How can I help improve trails on public lands?  

    OpenStreetMap (OSM) has launched a Trails Stewardship Initiative where they are partnering with federal agencies and mobile/web application developers to improve the rendering of trails so that “unofficial” or unmaintained trails can be symbolized differently. This can improve the safety of trail users and help protect sensitive areas.