Trail Definitions



Definitions compiled by John Marsh, February 2005:

Trail – track, followed by hunter. (The Home and Office Dictionary, Literary Press, Glasgow, 1958).

Trail – a path or track made by continual passing or deliberately blazed. (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Toronto, 1960)

Trail – a beaten path; mark, scent, etc. left by a person, animal or thing that has passed. (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Toronto, 1968)

Trail – a path or track worn by the passage of persons travelling in a wild or uninhabited  region. (Chiefly U.S. or Canada ) (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford, 1967)

Trails – include the routes of the Native peoples, explorers and voyageurs; hiking, equestrian, cycling, snowmobiling, motorcycling, ATV, canoeing and scuba trails; interpretive and educational trails; trails for the disabled; and greenways. They may be long or short, on private or public land, and owned or managed by a variety of public and private agencies. (Trail Studies Unit, Trent University , Peterborough , 2004)

Trail – Linear route on land or water with protected status for recreation or transportation purposes such as walking, jogging, hiking, bicycling, horse-back riding, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, backpacking, and vehicular travel by motorcycle or all-terrain vehicles. (Flink , C.A. Trails for the Twenty-First Century, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Washington, 2001)

Trail – a linear route, outdoors, under five metres wide, officially designated primarily for one or more of the following means of travel: walking, hiking, backpacking, jogging, running, roller-blading, cycling, mountain biking, wheelchair riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, motor cycling, ATV riding, snowmobiling, canoeing, kayaking. (Marsh, 2004)



Other meanings associated with the word “trail”


From Wikipedia

A trail is a pedestrian path or road mainly used for walking, but often also for cycling, cross-country skiing or other activities. Some trails are off-limits to everyone other than hikers, and few trails allow motorized vehicles.

In the United States, the word footpath is also used to mean a trail; however in Australian English, New Zealand English, Indian English, and Irish English this word means "sidewalk" (American English) or "pavement" (British English).

(In England and Wales a footpath is a path on which the public have a legally protected right to travel on foot.) – see rights of way

In Australia, the word track can be used interchangeably with trail, and can refer to anything from a dirt road to a pedestrian walkway (generally also unpaved). The term "trail" gained popularity during World War II, when many servicemen from the United States were stationed in Australia, which probably influenced its being adopted by elements of the Australian media at the time. In New Zealand, the word track is used almost exclusively except in reference to cross-country skiing, where trail is used.

The following link to the Wikipedia article on Rights of Way in the United Kingdom is an excellent overview of the sophisticated definitions of trails in the U.K. Public Right of Way; footpath; permitted path; permissive path; bridleway; byway open to all traffic (BOAT); road used as public path (RUPP); and restricted byways, among the formal classifications. Directly below is a quote:

“In the United Kingdom, public rights of way are paths on which the public have a legally protected right to pass and re-pass. The law differs in each of the constituent countries of the kingdom: notably, in England and Wales rights of way only exist where they are so designated; in Scotland, meanwhile, any route that meets certain conditions is defined as a right of way, and in addition there is a general presumption of access to the countryside. Private rights of way or easements also exist.”

The United States National Recreation Trails program, jointly administered by the National Park Service and the USDA Forest Service, is similarly sophisticated in its definition of three overall designations of trails: National Historic Trail, National Scenic Trail, and National Recreation Trail. This system was inaugurated in 1968 with the passing of the National Trails System Act.

“While National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization. Through designation, these trails are recognized as part of America's national system of trails.”


Trail, in addition to its main meaning of a route for travel, may have following special meanings:


           Audit trail

           Paper trail

           Breadcrumb trail

           Vapour trail

           Vortex trail

           Trail, British Columbia

           Trail, Minnesota

           TRAIL, in molecular biology

           Flanged T rail, a railroad rail

           The trail of a bicycle or motorcycle.

           The Scottish clan of Traill (aka "Trail")

           The last part of closed orthographic syllables in Hangul, also known as “final”




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 Last updated by  Wesley Found on September 28, 2011.