In August 2016, we asked our awesome members and supporters to let us know via our short-but-sweet 2016 Trail Use Survey about their best (and least) trail use habits and received an overwhelming response with approximately 54,000 completed surveys. The answers are invaluable for providing us a deeper understanding of trail use behavior in the U.S.—and that helps inform our work across the board, and in the years ahead.
Below, we’ve provided the survey results from the questions focused on trail use, in particular, as well as a quick summary! Enjoy.
2016 Trail Use Survey Results
Q: How many times have you visited a trail this year?
It was no surprise for us to hear that a vast majority of our respondents (78.21 percent) have used trails at least three or four times in the past year, and that more than 44 percent use trails monthly:
3-4 times: 33.92%
No response: 10.40%
I haven't visited a trail this year.: 5.11%
By the way—if it’s been a while since you’ve hit a trail, you might check out TrailLink.com for some great new ideas in your local area.
Q: Whom did you visit trails with most often?
More than 65 percent indicate that family members and close friends are the #1 choice with regard to “who with,” completely reaffirming what we’ve been saying for years: Trails are the perfect way to get outdoors and spend time with family and friends.
With family/close friends: 65.34%
With a community group: 4.40%
No response: 2.02%
Q: What was your primary reason?
Trails are excellent places to be physically active—and a majority of you agree. We were also thrilled to learn that so many of you use trails to connect (or reconnect) to nature, an important activity in the digital age.
Personal health, exercise: 77.77%
Enjoying nature: 47.31%
Enjoying time with family, friends: 33.50%
No response: 1.42%
FYI: This blog discusses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s just-released report on the importance of physically active lifestyles for people over 50, and how trails help support them!
Q: What recreational activities do you enjoy while on a trail?
In this “Check all that apply,” question, biking was the clear favorite at 81.93 percent. No surprise there. But walking/hiking and running are still very popular, and almost 600 people indicated horseback riding—reaffirming how “multi-use” trails really are.
Enjoying nature: 19.77%
No response: 1.25%
Q: How far will you travel to visit a high-quality public trail?
Pretty far—for many respondents. Almost 38 percent said 30 to 60 miles, and an awesome 19 percent of you said more than 100 miles. Trail tourism is thriving.
30-60 miles: 37.87%
15 miles or less: 29.25%
More than 100 miles: 19.07%
60-100 miles: 12.04%
No response: 1.77%
Q: What factors do you consider when looking for a trail to visit?
This one was, we admit, just a little surprising. While it’s no secret trail surface and distance are important to trail users, it was interesting to learn that trail length is the overriding factor for 80 percent of respondents.
Length of trail: 81.55%
Distance from my home: 79.77%
Trail surface(s) available: 42.23%
Activities available: 20.88%
Overnight accommodations: 11.92%
Proximity to urban area: 8.74%
Proximity to my place of work: 4.25%
Connections to public transit: 4.24%
User Provided No Response: 0.94%
Accessibility is also ranked high at 32 percent, and we couldn’t agree more. As we look to the future, it’s our hope that all Americans—regardless of age, income or ability—can access safe places to walk and bike.
Thanks to all of you who participated!