How to Apply For NRT Designation

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How to Apply For NRT Designation

Both National Recreation Trails and National Water Trails must meet eligibility criteria, and follow and use the same application process.

Step one: Determine if your trail is eligible

Shelter upgrade on the Ouachita Trail at "John Archer Shelter" Section 7 near Story, Arkansas.

Shelter upgrade on the Ouachita Trail at "John Archer Shelter" Section 7 near Story, Arkansas.

Who can apply for National Recreation Trail designation?

Any public or private trail manager operating a trail that meets the definition and criteria below may apply for NRT designation.

What kinds of trails are eligible?

A trail is a travel way established either through construction or use and is passable by at least one or more of the following, including but not limited to: foot traffic, stock, equestrian, watercraft, bicycles, in-line skates, wheelchairs, cross-country skis, off-road recreation vehicles such as motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and four-wheel drive vehicles. Roads and highways suitable for passenger car travel are not eligible for NRT designation. For examples of the kinds of trails that are eligible, see our online database of all NRT designations.

What are the criteria for NRT designation?

The trail must be open to public use, have no gaps, and be designed, constructed, and maintained according to best management practices, in keeping with the use anticipated. Trails that demonstrate state-of-the-art design and management are especially encouraged to apply for NRT designation. The trail is in compliance with applicable land use plans and environmental laws. NRT designation must be supported in writing by the landowner(s), public or private, upon whose land the trail tread exists. For adjacent landowner(s), letters of support are encouraged but written approval is not required.

Step two: Can you use the online application system?

There are two procedures for applying for NRT designation, depending on whether the trail is on lands administered by the US Department of Agriculture, or on any other lands.

PLEASE NOTE -- If your trail is on federal land managed or administered by (or associated with) the US Department of Agriculture (National Forests, National Grasslands, and USFS National Recreation Areas) you may not use the online application.

See the details of the US Forest Service designation process for NRTs. Learn More

If your trail is on any lands other than US Department of Agriculture lands, proceed to step three below.

Step three: Apply online

The Secretary of the Interior has the authority to designate trails as NRTs on all Federal, State, Tribal, local, and private lands, other than those managed or administered by the US Department of Agriculture lands, with the written consent of the entity having jurisdiction over the lands involved.

The National Park Service has been delegated the responsibility to coordinate NRT reviews and nomination on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior.

See the checklist below for the information and documents required to apply. Supporting materials, such as maps, brochures, photos, letter(s) of consent, and letter(s) of support must be in electronic format and uploaded as part of the online submission process.

Getting Help

National contact for the Department of the Interior’s NRT Coordinator at the National Park Service: John Cannella: [email protected] or (202) 763-3450.

For technical assistance with the online application, NRT website, and NRT database, contact Mike Bullington: [email protected]

Review Checklist and Sample Application

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NRT Online Trainings

American Trails Webinar

National Recreation Trails: Designating Your Trail for NRT Status

American Trails Webinar

National Water Trails: Designating Your Trail for NWT Status