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The Department of Interior sponsored National Digital Trails Project and USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP) have been selected to receive a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award for the Trail Routing, Analysis, and Information Linkage System (TRAILS) decision support tool.

TRAILS was developed in direct support of the DOI vision to increase access to our nation’s public lands.  Available to federal land managers, TRAILS is a web-based, interactive tool that identifies and prioritizes candidate trails to improve connectivity between existing trails and trail systems.

This award recognizes the hard work the team from NGP, the USGS National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC), and Esri have put into building the TRAILS decision-support tool from concept to launch in less than one year. Esri President Jack Dangermond selected TRAILS over 100,000 other candidate projects.  

Hiking trails, Hot Springs National Park
Hikers enjoying the trails in Hot Springs National Park. Credit: National Park Service.

What is TRAILS?

The Trail Routing, Analysis, and Information Linkage System (TRAILS) decision-support tool was developed to further the DOI vision of increasing access to our nation’s public lands. Available to federal land managers, TRAILS is a web-based, interactive tool that identifies and prioritizes candidate trails to improve connectivity between existing trails and trail systems. 

Optimal connector routes are automatically generated between existing trails based on user-defined criteria such as acceptable slope, surface water, and transportation. In addition, users can include waypoints to define specific points of interest.

Candidate connector routes are displayed in a map interface along with a dashboard indicating trail characteristics and rank based on adherence to input criteria.  

The value of TRAILS

Our nation is home to a vast network of recreational trails traveled by millions of citizens. This trail network varies in age from hundreds of years old to brand new and varies in purpose from recreation to providing critical transportation routes. The trails also vary by managing organization. Because of this varied legacy, existing trails do not form a coherent, connected network.

The overall objective of this project is to increase the connectivity within this network. Using the National Digital Trails Dataset (an aggregation of trails over federal, state, and other public lands) as a base layer, the TRAILS decision-support application is a web-based, interactive approach  to  increasing connectivity within federal lands and promotes partnerships with other federal, state, and local organizations.  

Organizational Overview 

As part of the USGS Core Science Systems Mission Area, the NGP provides a foundation of digital geospatial data representing the topography, natural landscape, and manmade environment of the United States. Customers can incorporate NGP geospatial products and services into their decision making and operational activities. NGP data and derived products and services can be accessed through The National Map Data Download. 

TRAILS Team Members

Current and former USGS team members involved in the TRAILS development include Elizabeth McCartney, Tatyana DiMascio, Greg Matthews, Rob Dollison, and Kari Craun. The award was presented virtually during the SAG Award ceremony at the 2020 Esri User Conference on July 13, 2020.   

Special thanks to our partners at the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service for their collaboration and valuable contributions.

TRAILS website:

TRAILS executive dashboard
Screen shot of the TRAILS Executive Review Dashboard. (Public domain)


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