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National Forest trails: the view from 1907

"There is need of more and better trails on most of the National Forests." - 1907 Regulations and Instructions for the Use of the National Forests

The following is from the 1907 edition of The Use Book: Regulations and Instructions for the Use of the National Forests, published under the supervision of Gifford Pinchot, Forester.


There is need of more and better trails on most of the National Forests. They are of capital importance, because they are not only the best insurance against fire, but one of the chief means by which the Forests can be seen and used.

A general system or scheme of trails for the whole Forest should first be carefully thought out and decided upon, and those of the greatest immediate importance for protection and patrol should be built first. Trails urgently needed may be made good enough for ordinary saddle-horse or pack-train travel at once, with a view to improvement and permanence later on.

The most important part of trail work, and that for which the supervisor will be held directly responsible, is the preliminary location of the line and grade. Construction work should not begin until he is satisfied that the best route has been selected.

The maximum grade of all Forest trails should be 20 per cent, unless the expense of keeping within this limit is absolutely prohibitive. When it is found necessary to build switch backs, the turns should be level and wide enough to give plenty of room for a loaded pack animal.

Logs, snags, brush, or limbs that require turn-outs on a traveled trail will be considered as marks of inefficiency on the part of the ranger in whose district they are found.

Trails through timber should be well blazed. The forest Service has adopted a distinctive blaze for trails on the Forests, consisting of a blaze at breast-height, with a notch above, which should be used in all future work. For the benefit of the traveling public, all Forest trails should be equipped with signboards stating the name of the trail, its destination, and the distance in each direction to its terminal points.

We thank Tom Thompson, Deputy Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region, for providing a copy of the trails section from this historic document.

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