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A question related to this one: how does one mark historic trails, of various conditions, that once went through but are no longer signed or maintained. (Entry isn't prohibited, but the path itself now unofficial, though the locals may well know it.) Would the trail_visibility tag be useful here? Should any attempt be made to put its status in the name tag?

asked 30 Jul '11, 19:55

barte's gravatar image

accept rate: 16%

I take the visibility tag at face value. There are some abandoned tracks which nevertheless are perfectly visible, and on the other hand I've (not ;-) seen tracks which are technically marked red-white but run through featureless terrain (grass, no rocks) which are (particularly in summer) very hard to see.

Maybe the ruins=yes tag could be used for paths which have fallen into disrepair? In a way a path is a building as well.

(31 Jul '11, 14:33) kfj

please use comments not answers to comment. When you write: "Are any of these descriptive tags rendered?", which map are you referring to? OSM is a database, not a map.

(02 Aug '11, 17:21) dieterdreist

In OSM what counts is the reality on the ground ("Map what's on the ground"). But official status matters also, as an official trail may have patrols, signs, may match a given park or land manager's map, etc.

I use "informal=yes/no" to designate which trails are recognized by the land manger.

A related concept is "maintained=yes/no" but it's possible for official trails to be unmaintained, and for illegal or hiker-created trails to be in great repair and get regular maintenance. Thus I prefer the "informal" tag.

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answered 06 Mar '19, 21:13

Bryce%20C%20Nesbitt's gravatar image

Bryce C Nesbitt
accept rate: 0%

As explained in the other answers, the "official" status (if there is one) is not particularly relevant for OSM - what counts is the reality on the ground ( "Map what's on the ground" ).

That said, if a path/trail is so overgrown or otherwise blocked that it is no longer useful as a path, you can use the lifecycle prefixes to indicate this. To do this, prefix the highway tag with disused: or abandoned: (a stronger version of "disused"). For example, highway=path would change to disused:highway=path.

This causes most data consumers (maps, routers etc.) to no longer consider the path as a path, while still maintaining the information in the database.

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answered 23 Nov '15, 11:24

sleske's gravatar image

accept rate: 24%

Hi a bit late, why dont you use the train tags as, disused or abandoned. Although a tag discouraged + access is also possible if the owner created a new track and blocks the old one with fallen trees.

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answered 19 May '13, 23:47

Hendrikklaas's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

I use the additional attribute informal=yes for paths that aren't maintained and not even constructed or intentionally built but simply emerged because of regular use.

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answered 02 Aug '11, 16:04

dieterdreist's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

edited 02 Aug '11, 16:04

(changed from answer to comment)

I think we're describing almost the reverse: a trail that was constructed, but has since gone to seed. The difference? At least here in the San Francisco area, social trails are often easy to traverse--because they're regularly used. The quality I think most important is not how the trail came into being, but how easy it is to walk. I'd buy maintained=yes/no as a tag that roughly indicates that. Or--expand the definition of the trail_visibility= tag to include obstacles. (The latter has the advantage of not requiring yet another tag be accepted and rendered.)

(02 Aug '11, 19:41) barte

Which begs another question. Are any of these descriptive tags rendered?

dieterdreist> When you write: "Are any of these descriptive tags rendered?", which map are you referring to? OSM is a database, not a map.

I was primarily thinking of Mapnik. Are the trail_visibility and informal tags rendered on any maps?

(02 Aug '11, 19:41) barte

On the main osm mapnik implementation neither "surface" nor "trail_visibility" nor "informal" nor "sac_scale" nor "smoothness" is currently rendered, but there might be special interest maps that do take into account this information.

(03 Aug '11, 14:40) dieterdreist

Interesting and unfortunate. Mapnik is remarkably specific for urban areas. I wish more of that would be applied to the backcountry, as well.

(03 Aug '11, 15:48) barte

I'm going to try and answer my own question based on my reading of various entries in the wiki. Comments/critiques welcome.

From the standpoint of OSM, there's no hard and fast distinction between a current trail and a "historic" one, between an official and an unofficial trail, or between a maintained and an unmaintained trail (assuming the trail is passable). From a mapping point of view, all are ways--meaning they designate a route--with various tagged attributes. If the trail has a name, assign it a name= tag. If it has a local or historical name, assign it a loc_ name= or old_ name tag. If it is elusive in places, note that with the trail_visibility= tag.

How to tag an overgrown, unmaintained trail is less clear. The sac_scale= tag is a measure of difficulty for mountain paths, so is not necessarily appropriate. ("A way in a forest that is difficult to walk because of muddy ground and trees or bushes making walking difficult does not classify for T2.") Nor can any notes about trail conditions be entered into the name= tag. ("The names should be restricted to the name of the item in question only and should not include categories, types, addresses or notes.") Given these limitations, I'd be reluctant to add a path to OSM that required extensive bushwhacking.

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answered 31 Jul '11, 22:58

barte's gravatar image

accept rate: 16%

If the trail is not on the map it might not get whacked or hiked at all, then its lost and will disappear,so I would map it and tag it in some way to indicate its condition.

(01 Aug '11, 08:33) andy mackey

I see your rationale. But what tag would you suggest to indicate its condition? Seems to me that someone relying on a map ought to be able to assume that a path can be walked on, not crawled or waded through. If a trail is in such bad condition that that's no longer true, I'd want to see that information rendered somehow. So the note= tag, for me, at least, isn't sufficient.

(01 Aug '11, 15:08) barte

You are right that from an OSM point of view it does not matter if a path is maintained or not when you decide the highway-tag. Maintained paths / routes are specially signed by adding an operator-tag. Maybe you could go with "operator=no" to indicate that the path is not maintained (better write a "note" for the next mappers as well).

(02 Aug '11, 16:08) dieterdreist

Since you quote my question I'll post an 'answer' here as well, even though I'm in doubt myself. My viewpoint here has much to do with the area I'm mapping (Val Grande National Park, Piemonte, Italy). The park covers a once-populated area and is now designated a wilderness, so some old trails are deliberately not maintained or renovated. The terrain is very rugged, and I often encounter situations where

  • the (former) trail is the only way to get from A to B

  • you can't get from A to B anymore because the trail (or some of it's artificial structures) is gone

In a way it's a bit like as if there had never been a trail, and I was mapping wayless territory. Would I map a passage I found through wayless territory as a path? How about animal's trails? They are usually really cleverly chosen - those animals just want to get from A to B, they are very capable and fearless but not stupid and they usually have great local knowledge. At times I can't even tell whether a path has been made by people or animals (or maybe both), though traditional human paths usually have some form of marks (cairns, tree incisions, chopped-off branches), and the newer ones often bear (sometimes informal) colour marks.

Now if this was just a real wilderness (as it was pretty much when I started going there 30 years ago) I'd just go ahead and map what I can, because I feel that if anyone strands somewhere and has to find a way out and only has access to information I could have provided, I wouldn't want them to go unguided just because of some 'oh-no-it's-now-a-wilderness' policy

On the other hand now that the place is made out to be 'the biggest wilderness area in the southern Alps' (or so) and people write books about it (Thelesklaf), I wouldn't want some of my up to T5 and hardly visible trails to be mistaken by someone inexperienced to be somewhere where they can skip along to have a picknick.

I suppose you see my dilemma. I'd tend to map the historic trails if they're still usable and used, albeit rarely, because they are still passable, even though maybe with difficulties - to describe the difficulties, I'd use SAC numbers. I'd rather leave out the trails which aren't used and can't be used anymore because some crucial bit (bridge, stairs) is missing.

In a way the tracktype tag goes in the right direction:

but I think a new tag maintained=yes/no might be a good idea. This tag could also be used for shelters. And maybe there would be room for a type of passage that is wayless, yet the only or the best or a possible way to cross a bit of difficult terrain.

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answered 01 Aug '11, 20:48

kfj's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Really interesting post, kfj.Seems to me that some of the conditions you describe could be handled by the trail_visibility= tag, though I'm not sure how that's rendered. In an extreme case, you might have a path tagged trail_visibility=no. But that doesn't address obstructions like a missing bridge.

I agree that a maintained= tag might be a good idea--either yes/no or perhaps a five-point scale. That would be more useful than the tracktype= tag - which apparently applies to tracks, not paths. In any case, hikers care more about the condition of a trail than its composition.

(01 Aug '11, 22:13) barte

I make an effort to add a visibility tag, but of course it's a difficult judgement, as the visibility depends on a lot of factors - terrain, season, weather to name but a few. And a trail I can spot with a good deal of wilderness experience may be totally invisible to someone else. If there are signs on the trail, I usually take that into account and jusdge the visibility better, even if the trail itself maybe very hard to see.

(02 Aug '11, 08:11) kfj

As far as a 'maintained' tag goes, I feel that it'd be best to keep it simple, so it'd be a yes/no. You can't honestly expect of a contributor to make up their mind about how good the maintainance is. You'd end up with the tag not being used. Where I'd draw the line is whether the trail itself and it's artificial structures seem to be regularly checked and repaired if found deficient, or whether it's just left to itself, marked or unmarked.

(02 Aug '11, 08:16) kfj

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question asked: 30 Jul '11, 19:55

question was seen: 12,387 times

last updated: 06 Mar '19, 21:13

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum