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
  • Daniel Himmelstein
  • Elizabeth McCartney
  • Jake Low
  • Greg Rose
  • Brian Sperlongano
  • Tony Cannistra
  • Joe O'Brien



May 12, 2022 - Nowhere Podcast

Blog Posts

May 17, 2022 - The Trails Working Group is conducting a pilot tagging project!

December 22, 2021 - Announcing the OSM US Trails Working Group

Recordings & Talks

November 2022 - OSM US Trails Initiative - Jake Low & Diane Fritz present at Mapping USA

September 22, 2021 - Trails in OpenStreetMap: Guest speaker Keri Nelson, Backcountry Coordinator at the National Park Service Southeast Utah Group, presenting a few case studies of OSM trail data leading hikers off trail into unsafe and sensitive habitat.

August 2022 - The Trails Stewardship Initiative Maggie Cawley presents the work on the Trails Stewardship Initiative at the global State of the Map conference in Florence, Italy.