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US Land Owner Data on Trailforks

Feb 3, 2017
by Trevor May  
us land owner mapping data

western us land owners

Trailforks has some cool new features utilizing land owner data. We've been splicing & dicing various shapefiles from a variety of sources to build our land owner polygon database. We are adding land owner boundaries that are most relevant to mountain biking. We already show some of these faintly on our basemap, this new data is viewed optionally as a new map layer.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) does have some land ownership data, but it is not normalized across countries. This is our attempt to do so, in the scope of trails.

One of the most important pieces of the mountain biking puzzle is the land. Who owns the land or has direct stewardship of it is important when these common questions come up.

1) Can I go here?
2) Can I ride here?
3) Can I camp here?
4) Can I build a trail here?
5) Can I plan a race here?
6) WHO do I talk to about this area when I want to do any of the above?
7) WHO do I thank for making this land available?

The concept of land ownership differs greatly around the world, and you would have to use a rainbow of colored polygons to display the various ownership entities. But again, we really only care about mountain biking and all that goes along with it: building, epic trips, camping near trails, events and bicycle riding contests.

What can you do with this new data on Trailforks? Trail associations, land owners, builders & race organizers can use the new land owner map overlay to help plan their trail network with or around land owners. Race organizers can see what lands a potential race course intersects to adjust their course or know who they need to contact for proper permits. For regular users you can educate yourself on who's lands your riding in and know which areas to avoid.
land owner map layer

The map clearly highlights in dark green the wilderness areas that biking is currently not permitted in the US. The Sustainable Trails Coalition is working to reverse this ban. This new overlap shows where current trails in relation to these wilderness areas and how they skirt the boundaries.

Wilderness (typically no bikes in USA)
BLM (public)
USFS (parks, 2 different shade greens. Wildlife sanctuaries darker than usfs)
State land

Moab porcupine rim area land owners

Land Owners

Trailforks servers will routinely scan our entire trail database automatically identifying trails within or that intersect major land owners such as the US BLM, USFS, wilderness areas, native lands, BC Parks. Over time we will add more land owner data and grow outside the US.

Trails will automatically be tagged with the land manager info when viewing a trails details.

blm trail supporter

Along with the map overlay, we also have landmanager trail pages, that give a summary of all the trails within their lands. You can view a map & lists of trails, see the top trails & routes along with other statistics.

These pages also highlight some land owner statistics.

USFS trail stats
BLM trails


For the most part a rider out on a common trail with a designated trailhead does not take note of where they are riding, and for the most part, they don’t know or care. For this reason, the land ownership layer we do not enable by default. But when that rider decides to pull his travel trailer to a trail system that is not well known, or packs up his tent and intends to find camping as close to the trails as possible, a layer like this becomes invaluable. It is one thing to know which trails are on BLM land, but only a polygon layer will give you the important information, like where can I setup camp. I recently used this prototype layer on a trip out to Vernal Utah. And as you can see, knowing that you can camp on a remote dirt road is one thing, getting stuck in the sand with nobody in site is another. This is why on our basemap the road I got stuck on is shown in the lightest brown as it is not a graded road suitable for a camper.

camping on blm land

Moab as the MTB trails wrap around Arches National Park are built almost entirely on BLM land but pass through the occasional SITLA (State Owned) areas. You can also see why you have to pay to camp at the Gemini Bridges trailhead as it is one of the few private areas outside Moab City limits, but free camping is all over the place thanks to BLM and State Lands.

land owner map layer

Land Conservation

A current Hot Topic for outdoor enthusiasts and land conservation advocates is designated Wilderness in the US. Discussions in this area are wide and varied. Depending on what your outdoor interest is and where you live has a massive impact on your personal stance. What we hope to accomplish with this layer is to show where all the mountain bike trails currently reside in relation to these wilderness area. Some of these areas are very remote and have seemingly no bearing on mountain bike trails. An example of a location where Wilderness areas play a large part is Sedona Arizona.

wilderness area around Sedona
Sedona trails on Coconino Forest Land skirts the Wilderness areas on every front


Being able to view all the current trails in relation to land owner boundaries is a useful tool for planning where future trails might be built. Related to the land ownership is another new feature to add planned or proposed trails. Planners can draw in the trail using the land owner layer as a guide. These planned trails show on the map as faint thin lines and can be marked hidden or public. They can also be password protected when hidden, so a builder can send a link to a land manager with the trail plan.

planned trail setting

planned trails
Example 2 proposed trails in light blue.

A big thanks to these large land owners like the BLM & USFS for allowing and supporting mountain bike trails on their lands!

@blm @usfs @SustainableTrailsCoalition


  • 68 0
 This is the bees knees. Trailforks, always delivering!
  • 2 0
 SO AWESOME!!!! TF is the best!!!!

TF, please add US Land Owner Data to the legend Smile
  • 20 1
 Just spent two months riding in the southern US with Trail Forks as a guide. We found trails that we never would have without the app. We travel by camper van and getting to some trail heads can be a challenge and results in the occasional Wal-Mart camping experience. We are headed back to the desert in less than a week and will put Trail forks to the test again. We tried a different app to find a trail and it tried to have us cross through one of the largest US Marine bases in southern California. The Marines were great guys and very hospitable. We spent the night on BLM land...
  • 4 0
 When I go anywhere in Southern Utah or Nevada with my camper (shown in the picture) the most difficult thing is always finding a place that I can park it and be assured that some private landowner won't be knocking on my door in the middle of the night.

I used this layer recently to find camping right on the new trails around Quail Creek Reservoir in Hurricane. A nice smooth dirt road that appeared to be private, but led right to a nice turn-around all on BLM land. Travelling at night is the worst, where you really can't tell what's around you.
  • 3 0
 @todd: Agree a billion times with this. This is exactly what I've wanted to see from mapping software. This recent addition to TrailForks is very impressive, and exactly what I've been looking for. Any chance the basemap and layers will be available for download someday (even if just a .jpg background), for using TrailForks with a basemap out of cell phone range? Thank you also for making the trails themselves downloadable to the app!
  • 7 0
 @UtahBrent: the land owner overlay will be available in the Trailforks app in the next update. As far as raster/image version, I'm sure it's something we can add in time to our printmap tool.
  • 1 0
 @UtahBrent: Soon, soon. I send you a message.
  • 1 0
 Pendelton or Miramar?
  • 2 0
 @canadaka: is there anyway to have a layer that overlays the contours onto the satellite photos? It would be great for planning trails through cut lines and for orientation in new areas.
  • 2 0
 @employee7: we did create a contour overlay for a bit, but then removed it. Seemed too messy/noisy. This is the first request we've had for this.
  • 2 0
 @canadaka: ok thanks. Love the app.
  • 1 0
 @employee7: you can check out CalTopo for layering of different maps. What is is missing though is a layer with all the mountain bike trails. But it WILL overlay contours onto satellite imagery. Even a color gradient for slope over satellite imagery.
  • 1 0
 @UtahBrent: The layer we added was contour lines (with elevation labels) with a transparent background. We added it to all aerial imagery, but could easily resurect it as a layer that could be toggled on/off
  • 19 0
 YES! Everything in this article is mint...THANK YOU!
  • 11 1
 Trailforks first! It's the best trail app. It's great. It's absolutely fantastic. It's true. All the others are fake. This is a great, great trail app. Amazing! It's true. They even made the Mexicans pay for it. It's true.
  • 2 0
 Seriously though, this app is fantistic. It has got me unlost on several occasions. Keep up the great work Trailforks/ PB.
  • 6 0
 Trail forks continues to get better and bettter! Big props to Brent, Trevor and the rest of the Pinkbike / Trailforks dev team. This will also make it MUCH easier to correctly document new trails on trailforks. As you pointed out, the OSM layer functions ok, but it's not always accurate or quick to be able to check.

One request I think I've bugged you about at one point or another, but is there a way to incorporate Google's 3d API to give the trailforks website some of the same function as Google Earth? It's not hard to use Google earth for planning, but I I think this function would give a ton of added value to an already fantastic app, both for trail creation, but also for visualization on how steep an area is, what it looks like and so on.

Cheers! - Boxxerace
  • 2 0
 P.S. Please add that ownership key somewhere on the page (or a mouse hover with text to reiterate what each color means).
  • 2 0
 @boxxerace: Yes I will add a key.

Google discontinued their web Google Earth plugin. But yo can view 3D maps of riding areas, trails & routes on the TF website still. We use a different framework called Cesium.
  • 2 0
 @canadaka: My guess is ESRI won't open up the API now that they own the Google Earth engine?
  • 1 0
 @canadaka: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Hmm... Can you view this for all trails?
  • 1 1
 @boxxerace: yes on any region look under the "more" menu on the top tabs, there is a linked named 3D map. Also for any specific trail there is a 3d tour link/tab.
  • 7 0
 May I just take this opportunity to say the the folks from Trailforks are incredible. One of the best GIS-enabled apps around, MTB-based or otherwise.
  • 3 0
 Started using the app last year when I got back into biking after several years away. It has been extremely helpful when trying to find trails in unfamiliar areas (and even in familiar areas)
  • 2 0
 I am currently on a mtb roadtrip through the south-west of the US in my camper van, are you saying that I can set camp and sleep wherever I want on BLM lands? May that be at a trail head? Because until now I thought I was stuck to use campings and Wal-Marts as a night halt.
Thanks, your country is beautiful by the way, thanks for having me on your magnificent lands.
  • 2 0
 National forest roads where you can pull off are ok as well as most truck stops FYI
  • 2 0
 BLM land generally allows a 14 day stay limit. And most cities provide some type of public land access road. Some times trailheads will post "No Camping" signs, but this is rare. I have parked my camper at a lot of trailhead parking lots and camped, because most are right on public land. Nobody can complain.

Some tourism heavy towns want you to think that you have to use campsites (or funnel you to a casino lot), but using this map, I have been able to camp right next to the trails I want to ride, without fear of retribution.
  • 1 0
 Cool, it would be great if Trailforks streamlines and made the app faster and added and improved filters. Right now it's slow AF and hard to find trails because of TMI. I don't want to ride on hiking trails or cc trails for example
  • 1 0
 This is cool! Canada seems so simple in comparison.

I'm a newb and don't really know what I'm talking about but....

Do you guys see any point in incorporating what3words into this, particularly for bikepacking/middle of nowhere stuff?
  • 1 0
 does anyone actually use what3words? Never come across it being used.
  • 1 0
 @canadaka: Mongolia is using for their national postal system since so many people don't live at X number on Y street, same for the favelas in Brazil.
  • 1 0
 This is awesome, I particularly love to see that a trail can be flagged as a planned trail! We have been hiding our planned trails on Trailforks for a long time now, and it will be useful to differentiate between planned hidden trails and trails that are hidden because they are illegal.

Also, it will be awesome to be able to "unhide" planned trails, but still have them marked as planned trails!

Question though: Does anyone else have trouble downloading hidden trails on the iPhone app? I found it was working for a while and all of my hidden trails would show up as thin lines, but I recently moved to a new phone and had to re-download the app and now whenever I'm logged into my account on the app, it won't download the hidden trails.
  • 1 0
 You have to login to the app BEFORE you download your region. You can delete and re-download a region by swipping it to the left on the manage regions page and pressing the red delete button that is revealed.
  • 1 0
 @canadaka: Thanks for the reply Trevor, I have tried to do that. I'll note I have been meaning to report this in the Trailforks bugs forum, just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Every time I am logged in and try to download the British Columbia trails, it just spins on the "syncing" screen, and eventually says "Error syncing region Trying again in ___ seconds". The only way to get my phone to download the region is to log out, download it, and then I can log back in again, but then it doesn't download the hidden trails.

I have even tried deleting the entire app and downloading it again, but it doesn't make any difference. Do you have any other suggestions? May it be somehow related to my Admin privileges in the Okanagan glitching stuff out (I'm assuming not if yours works properly)?

If you want me to repost this on the Trailforks bugs forum, I can do that, and include some pictures for you, or any other information you want.
  • 1 0
 @ThatDan: Better in the forum yes. But that was some useful info, I have a trail builder on the SSC with the same issue, so now I can better track it down. It may have something todo with our recent switch to HTTPS for the trailforks website.
  • 1 0
 Wow! Awesome feature. My favorite part is the "Future" button where, when pushed, allows you to jump ahead a few years. I set mine for 2019. Not sure it is working, however, because now the entire state of Utah just says "Oil and Gas".
  • 3 0
 Make Trailforks Great Again !! More seriously it just keeps getting better and better, awesome job
  • 3 0
 I used to have a GIS job, now I don't. I miss it when I play on Trailforks.
  • 3 0
 Nice work Trevor, this will be handy come spring
  • 4 1
 Thanks for doing this, amazing tool!
  • 1 0
 I can't believe that a country the size of the USA has issues with riding in huge areas of wilderness! I thought it was the land of the free?
  • 2 0
 i want that job. that sounds like a cool project
  • 1 0
 Super helpful from a club prospective. In NY we have county and township/city managed land as well to add to the confusion.
  • 2 0
 Love your public lands! Thank you USFS and BLM!
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 sweet this will help alot
  • 1 3
 I really hope the stc fails at reversing the wilderness ban on bikes. Hikers tend to stick to wilderness trails knowing that bikes are banned and it's starting to create a harmonious environment. Finally.
  • 2 1
 Way to get round this, move to Scotland! Thank you, 'right to roam'!
  • 1 0
 Aye, but Scotland needs a bit better weather and less midges!
  • 1 0
 @Bartoshh: We're hardy scots men that brave the elements in our kilts in the land of the haggis though eh. Yeah that didn't happen last weekend hiding away in the car, but shh keep the stereotype strong.
  • 1 0
 Great addition, guys. Thank you!
  • 1 0
 Great work! Thank you!!

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