National-Laws-31The 5 concepts of Trail Fundamentals discussed previously do a great job telling us about the trail type, class, managed and designed use, and design parameters of a trail.

What we’re missing though, is what the trail actually looks like in the field. To address this need, the USFS has a system to survey trails and record data called TRACS.

Officially, TRACS is the Forest Service’s required methodology for conducting trail inventory, condition assessment and prescriptions for National Forest System trails. TRACS provides standardized terminology, business rules and data fields which are integrated with the agency’s corporate database and used for planning, management, cost estimation, and reporting.

The online document is 327 pages long, and includes information from other areas, including the Trail Management Handbook and Trail Fundamentals. The main purpose of TRACS is to establish a field database of accurate and up to date trail information. Theoretically, this information can then be used to allocate trail maintenance resources.

What does TRACS Provide?

TRACS condition surveys and prescriptions provide accurate, quality data for:

  • Establishing and maintaining an accurate trail inventory.
  • Identifying needed work and the cost to meet National Quality Standards.
  • Quantifying and reporting annual maintenance, deferred maintenance, and capital improvement needs.
  • Developing and updating District Trail Management Plans.
  • Developing Capital Investment Program project narratives, budgets, schedules and priorities.
  • Developing annual trail maintenance plans and schedules.
  • Developing trail-specific, itemized work assignments and accomplishment logs.
  • Creating and updating trails spatial layers, maps and visitor information materials.


Having an up to date and accurate TRACS of all the trails here in Big Bear would aid greatly in understanding conditions and assigning maintenance crews.

Who does these surveys?

It is recommended that USFS personnel, identified as TRACS Apprentice, Journey-level Tracker, and TRACS Master Performer perform TRACS surveys.

What else does TRACS Inventory?

TRACS can be used to inventory signage along trails as well, ideally done at the same time as the initial TRACS survey. TRACS can also be used to identify bridges and other improvements. Anything on or around the trail that can be perceived as relevant should be recorded on TRACS.

TRACS Photos

Pictures should be a part of TRACS as well, documenting important parts of a trail.


TRACS is important to trail users because it lets us know that the USFS is out on the trails and knows of existing conditions. The two big questions that arise from this are 1) Are TRACS being completed in our Forest? and 2) What is being done with the information reported in TRACS?

PLEASE NOTE: Much of the above has been directly copied from referenced sources publicly available on the internet. Subjective opinion and interpretation can be found in color-hilited text boxes.