Tagging Recreational Trails in Canada

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The intent of this article is to provide mappers with guidelines and status for Tagging Recreational Trails in Canada. For specific provincial tagging, see the list on the Canadian tagging guidelines page.

Road & Surface Tagging In Canada

See Road & Surface Tagging In Canada

Recreational Tagging general methods

This chart below describes the general tagging ideas for tagging different types of recreational trails for different uses.

Tracktype & Cycleway

Key Value Element Comment Rendering Photo


Road Bikes and Hybrid Bikes on a paved surface

highway path Way A non-specific or shared-use path
highway cycleway Mf way.png Shortcut for highway=path cycleway=designated -> For designated cycleways, i.e. mainly/exclusively for bicycles. If pedestrians are allowed as well, you can indicate this by adding a foot=yes or foot=designated tag as appropriate. Cycleway osm.png Cycleway-markings.jpg
highway footway Mf way.png Shortcut for highway=path foot=designated -> For designated footpaths, i.e. mainly/exclusively for pedestrians. This includes walking tracks and gravel paths. If bicycles are allowed as well, you can indicate this by adding a bicycle=yes tag. Rendering-highway footway.png Dscf0487 600.jpg
highway bridleway Way Shortcut for highway=path horse=designated -> For horses, (in the UK, these are rights of way for pedestrians, horse-riders and cyclists) Rendering-highway bridleway.png
highway byway Way An unmade path/track which usually allows vehicles as well as foot, horse and cycle traffic (in the UK, there are byways which allow motor vehicles, and restricted byways which allow non-mechanically propelled vehicles)
highway steps Mf way.png For flights of steps on footways Rendering-highway steps.png Steps.jpg
highway footway File:Picture.png A footway....not a bicycleway 100px
highway path File:Picture.png A path.... a multi-purpose path 100px
cycleway track Mf way.png A track is a route that is separate from the road.
  • Includes the tracks which are not marked, but the standard is to keep to the right accept to pass, even when walking.

Road: Have fun.

Hybrid: Have fun.

Expedition: Have fun, adjust tire pressure over long duration.

Mountain: Can be hard on the tires, not good over long duration

Mapping-Features-Cycleway-track.PNG Cycle nexttoroad.jpg
cycleway lane Mf way.png A lane is a route that lies within the roadway. ie. A bike lane Cycle trackinroad.jpg
tracktype grade1 Mf way.png paved track or heavily compacted hardcore.
  • Surface was paved over 20 years ago
  • pothole a major defining tagging factor

Hybrid: Use caution

Expedition: Touring: Use caution

Mountain: This is easy, have fun

Surface grade1.jpg
tracktype grade2 Mf way.png unpaved track; surface of gravel or densely packed dirt/sand.

Hybrid: Have fun

Expedition: Touring: have fun

Mountain: Have fun

Surface grade2.jpg
tracktype grade3 Mf way.png unpaved track; A mixture of hard materials and soft. Quite compact.

Hybrid: Over a long duration, a hybrid bike will have troubles.

Expedition: Touring: have fun

Mountain: Have fun

Surface grade3.jpg
tracktype grade4 Mf way.png unpaved track; tire marks, with plant growth in between. Mostly dirt, but some hard materials, or compressed materials mixed in.

Hybrid: Watch for rocks, Over a long duration, a hybrid bike will have troubles as it will get muddy.

Expedition: Touring: Since the tires have more grip, have fun. (this is where Slime comes in handy)

Mountain: Have fun

Surface grade4.jpg
tracktype grade5 Mf way.png unpaved track; subtle tire marks, lack of hardcore, Soft with low grip, subtle on the landscape.

Hybrid: Over a long duration, a hybrid bike will have troubles as walking the bike is common to enjoy the landscape.

Expedition: Touring: A work out, have fun

Mountain: Have fun

Surface grade5.jpg

This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.


  • 2 feet

Note: For bicycle tagging, there are many different types of bikes, each which perform at different levels depending on the road surface conditions. Therefore, tagging bicycle=yes does not imply the surface type, and surface use. This needs to be defined.

Road Bike:

  • skinnier tires
  • lighter frame

Hybrid: Key Features:

  • medium frame build
  • semi slick tires

Expedition: Key Features:

  • Needs to be built based on user requirements

See Expedition Touring Bike. It is essentially a modified hybrid bike; Using mountain bike components, modified for long distance travel. This type of bike can handle all grades of track, which (along with cycle=way and cycle=lane) as a mountain bike's tires would wear quickly over a long duration of paved roads -- unavoidable for navigating the Trans Canada Trail

Mountain: Key Features:

  • Wider tires with a lot of grip
  • front and rear suspension
  • built for tough wear and tear


There are thousands of recreational trails for all types of usages covering the country. The purpose of this article is to outline a set of national guidelines, and best practices, so then each mapper will have a basic understanding of how to tag recreational trails in Canada.

Recreational Trails: definition

For the purposes of this article, a "Recreational Trail" is defined by any navigatable surface and user which is human assisted travel. (with the exception of http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/Canadian_tagging_guidelines#Highway_Tags)

Most recreational trails have a physical key map at the entrance of the trail. This key map is physically viewable, and shows the intended usage of each trail. Hiking trails, walking trails, where mountain bikes can go, where road bikes can go, where cars can go. .. and where you can horseback and cross country ski and snowmobile, ATV in some cases too)

Trail Types

Road Bicyles

  • Highway (Motorway) (freeway)

Since road bicycles are not allowed... (usually this is signposted anyway)

  • Trunk (controlled by national highway service) ie. Trans Canada Highway

Since these are not motorways, bicycles are allowed on the shoulders. For this reason, many (not all) highway shoulders are paved to accommodate. --acrosscanadatrails 02:43, 11 July 2008 (UTC)needs verification

  • Primary (All large highways which are provincially controlled, such as the King's Highways (Provincial highways 2 through 148) in Ontario or the 5A Coquihalla connector in BC.

Shoulders are also paved here too.

  • Secondary (

Hybrid Bicycles

Recreation Highway=Motorway Highway=Trunk Highway=Primary Highway=Secondary Highway=Tertiary Highway=residential Highway=Service Highway=Cycleway
Road Bicycle Bicycle=no Bicycle=yes (on shoulder) Bicycle=no Bicycle=no Bicycle=no Bicycle=no Bicycle=yes
Selkirk Trestle Mapped
Selkirk Trestle to Lochside Jnct Mapped
Lochside Jnct to Interurban Bridge Mapped
Interurban Bridge to VGH Mapped

Highway Tags

Restricted-access, divided highways with two or more lanes in each direction, e.g. Highway 401 in Ontario, Autoroute 20 in Quebec, Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, Ontario.


[edit] Trunk

All highways controlled by the National Highway Service. A full inventory can be found on this PDF. [edit] Primary

[edit] Secondary

Provincial secondary highways or suburban and urban arterial roads. Toronto grid roads (Steeles, Finch, Bayview...) are an example of secondary. [edit] Tertiary

Provincial tertiary highways, all non-residential roads in cities, larger roads in residential areas [edit] Residential

Residential roads should be marked as residential [edit] Service

Lanes and other narrow, usually one lane and usually unnamed roads. For example, roads leading to a carpool lot.

Paved Highway Shoulder Recreation


As cycling is permitted on highway shoulders (not on

Unpaved Highway shoulder

Multi-Surface Recreational Trails

An 18,000-kilometre recreational corridor winding its way through every Province and Territory, linking 800 communities along its route. When completed, this will be the longest trail of its kind in the world, connecting our regions, our three oceans and our people in a new way for generations to come. See Trans Canada Trail for OSM guidelines and Tagging status.

Paved cycleway (trail)


Unpaved cycleway (trail)