Trail Explorer Website

Trail Explorer is a trails website with Universal Access Information, available at 

 Trail Explorer Homepage

Project Goal

The goal of this research project is to develop a website that provides universal access information for trails throughout the United States. Users will be able to obtain detailed information about trails at a particular site, including Trail Access Information on grade, cross slope, tread width, and surfaces.

Phase I Prototype Website

Phase I ended in March of 1998 with the completion of these objectives:

  • Development of a prototype website with information about parks and forests including trail access data for hiking trails and a searchable database that allowed users to search for trails based on criteria entered;
  • Collected and entered data from 70 trails
  • Demonstrated the effectiveness of the prototype through evaluator responses of land management agencies, trail user groups, and individuals with disabilities.

Phase II Trail Explorer Website

The objectives of Phase II include:

  • Collaborate with several federal and state land management agencies to establish a standardized set of information and data to disclose to trail users;
  • Build a stand-alone, robust Web server providing information about public lands including trail access data for individual trails and a search engine that enables browsers to search a large database for trails based upon input characteristics. The Website will also provide product information, service advertisements, and links to other related web sites;
  • Collect and enter trail data on a minimum of 500 trails;
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of the Website and obtain feedback from representatives of land management agencies, trail user groups, individuals with mobility impairments, and other organizations to refine the features.

This information will benefit all hikers, regardless of their abilities, and will be especially useful for individuals with disabilities, older adults, parents with young children, and novice hikers. Other anticipated benefits include increased recreational experiences by individuals with mobility impairments, and an increase in positive recreational experiences by all individuals. All users will be capable of obtaining information in advance to plan a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.


This work is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services through Small Business Innovation Research Contracts RW97076011 and ED-98-CO-0046.

Interactive Trail Guides

Need for Trail Information

Sites that offer outdoor recreational experiences rarely provide information about the accessibility of hiking trails. As a result, it can be very difficult for people with disabilities, families with small children, and others to select trails with an appropriate level of difficulty.

Project Goal

Beneficial Designs began the Interactive Computer Information Trail Guides for Universal Access project in 1994 to provide individuals with hiking trail accessibility information. A computerized interactive trail guide was developed to meet this goal.

Phase I Trail Information Guide

The Interactive Trail Guide is a computer program that can quickly search a database for trails that match the characteristics desired by the user. These access requirements include grade percentage, trail width, cross slope percentage, and surface type. The guide then displays access data, maps, text, and scenic images for each trail found. The access data for each trail includes total trail length, elevation, average and maximum grade and cross slope, minimum trail width, surface type, and the magnitude of obstacles. With this information, users will be better able to search for and select trails appropriate for their needs from available options.

Phase II Trail Information Kiosk for Yosemite National Park

Revisions of the Interactive Trail Information Guide program based on feedback received from an earlier prototype were completed in October 1995. A stand-alone information kiosk containing the program was designed and developed for Yosemite National Park in California. Park visitors evaluated the kiosk in October 1996; the program is being refined based on their feedback. A CD-ROM of the Interactive Trail Guide for Yosemite will be created and distributed to reviewers in the summer of 1997. The Interactive Trail Guide program will be incorporated into the Yosemite Area Transportation Information (YATI) network by Fall 1997. YATI provides recreation, road condition, accommodation, and other visitor information from a system of kiosks located within a 300-mile radius of the park.

Long Term Goal

The long term goal of the project is to produce a trail information guide capable of storing extensive trail data for any park or forest area and providing access information that is useful to all trail users. The concept of a computerized trails access information database that can be searched for trail characteristics will soon be applied to a Trails Web page. A search engine incorporated into the site will help users locate access and visitor information for trails across the United States. The objective Trail Access Information provided by the Interactive Trail Guide program will help more people access outdoor recreation environments.


This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Education through Small Business Innovation Research Phase I Grant #RA94129011 and Phase II Grant #RW95170006.

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