Illegally Constructed Trails

One of these trails is not a legally designated trail; it was illegally constructed by mountain bikers. As time passed, hikers unfamiliar with the area started using the trail too, until a day came when few people knew the difference between the designated trail and the illegally constructed trail. There are thousands of illegal trails on public property across the United States. Some digital maps depict illegal routes, identified as trails with names made-up by the anonymous people who provided their data to the map maker. Inexperienced hikers share their illegal routes using trail apps for others to follow, exacerbating the problem. This is what occurs when there is minimal quality control by experts over contributed data.

Illegal Hiking Trail

Illegally constructed trails destroy native plants, threaten wildlife habitats and increase the risk of soil erosion.

Trail apps and map apps that promulgate illegal trails exacerbate damage to wildlife. Hikers who follow inaccurate trails on trail apps and map apps when the ground is featureless and/or visibility is reduced can inadvertently put themselves and PESAR (Park Enforcement - Search and Rescue) in danger.

Constructing a trail on National Forest System land without authorization is a violation of 36 CFR 261.10

"Forest Service Closes Illegally Constructed Trail in the Columbia River Gorge"
—The Forest Service moved quickly to post "Trail Closed" signs on the 6.5 mile route, but not before it was included in Mazamas' guided hike schedule and described in their monthly newsletter.

"Rangers to dismantle illegal mountain biking course in Orange County park"
—"They keep clearing the same trails or making new ones... It's a constant battle.", says California Senior Park Ranger.

"Court Documents Allege Private Trails Cut Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park"
—Sometime in recent years two trails running more than a mile-and-a-half were cut into the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, allegedly for the use of a private resort that borders the park, according to court documents.

"Illegal mountain biking jeopardizes access to favorite spot for Bay Area riders"
—With fat tires tearing up the ground, some renegade riders wear new trails into the landscape. Illegal mountain biking has been a persistent problem not only in the demonstration forest but nationwide.

"Illegal bike trails and a Forest Service crackdown divide a town"
—A biking boom in Sedona, Arizona, forces locals to ask: Is there room for all these people?

"Durango city boards OK closure of illegal mountain-bike trails"
—"I don't see an end to illegal trail-building", says Howell, a Durnago County, Colorado board member.

"Chula Vista closes popular hiking trail because it was never a trail to begin with"
—It contains an "endangered butterfly habitat; California gnatcatcher habitat," said Chula Vista Planning Manager Ed Batchelder... "The site actually got erroneously labeled as a trailhead on Google Maps."

"National Forest Finds 1,000 Illegally Cut Trees"
—Damage from pirate backcountry ski trails is much larger than initially reported.

"Illegal trail construction creating forest problems, fire hazards"
—Three local individuals have been caught and cited for constructing illegal trails in the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Recently published, by Robert Bennett: