Environmental Management

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 93-106

First online:

Developing a Monitoring Protocol for Visitor-Created Informal Trails in Yosemite National Park, USA

  • Yu-Fai LeungAffiliated withParks, Recreation and Tourism Management, North Carolina State University Email author 
  • , Todd NewburgerAffiliated withResources Management and Science, Yosemite National Park
  • , Marci JonesAffiliated withResources Management and Science, Yosemite National Park
  • , Bill KuhnAffiliated withResources Management and Science, Yosemite National Park
  • , Brittany WoiderskiAffiliated withResources Management and Science, Yosemite National Park

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Informal trails created or perpetuated by visitors is a management challenge in many protected natural areas such as Yosemite National Park. This is a significant issue as informal trail networks penetrate and proliferate into protected landscapes and habitats, threatening ecological integrity, aesthetics, and visitor experiences. In order to develop effective strategies for addressing this problem under an adaptive management framework, indicators must be developed and monitoring protocol must be established to gather timely and relevant data about the condition, extent, and distribution of these undesired trail segments. This article illustrates a process of developing and evaluating informal trail indicators for meadows in Yosemite Valley. Indicator measures developed in past research were reviewed to identify their appropriateness for the current application. Information gaps in existing indicator measures were addressed by creating two new indices to quantify the degree of informal trailing based on its land fragmentation effects. The selected indicator measures were applied to monitoring data collected between 2006 and 2008. The selected measures and indices were evaluated for their ability to characterize informal trail impacts at site and landscape scales. Results demonstrate the utility of indicator measures in capturing different characteristics of the informal trail problem, though several metrics are strongly related to each other. The two fragmentation indices were able to depict fragmentation without being too sensitive to changes in one constituent parameter. This study points to the need for a multiparameter approach to informal trail monitoring and integration with other monitoring data. Implications for monitoring programs and research are discussed.


Visitor impacts Informal trails Indicators Monitoring Fragmentation Yosemite National Park