Foundation/Local Chapters/United States/Trails Working Group

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As of December 2021, the Working Group’s initial objectives are:


  1. To develop and propose tagging guidelines than enable mappers to describe trails of various kinds (including official trails, social trails, and trails whose use is discouraged or illegal). These guidelines aim to make use of existing tags (such as the operator, informal, and access tags) whenever possible.
  2. To identify external datasets published by land managers which can be used to determine which trails in an area are official and which are not, and to make it easier for mappers to discover this information and add it to OSM.
  3. To organize a volunteer-driven effort within the mapping community to improve OSM’s coverage of trails and their classifications, focusing first on the most popular destinations.

The Working Group does not propose to remove trails from OSM if their use is discouraged or illegal. This would be contrary to OSM’s “Map what’s on the ground” rule, and doesn’t make sense for several reasons:

  1. Good coverage of all trails (including closed or illegal ones) is essential for some mapping applications, such as firefighting and SAR.
  2. Trail junctions serve as useful landmarks for people traveling in the outdoors. It’s often best for maps to show those junctions, even if only one of the trails is official. People are more likely to make a wrong turn if a junction isn’t shown on their map.
  3. Deleting a trail from the map only invites it to be re-added soon after by someone who perceives it to be missing.

Our hope is that we can empower OSM contributors to create richer data when mapping trails across the US. Developers of backcountry navigation apps will then be able to use this data to create more detailed and informative maps for their users, which will help people stay safe and protect our public lands.


This is a partial list of volunteers that are currently or have previously participated in the working group:

  • Maggie Cawley
  • Diane Fritz
  • Zeke Farwell
  • Jake Low
  • Greg Rose
  • Daniel Himmelstein