Hiking Paths, the new normal?

Being short of ideas of my own, I hiked a trail that was recently created, this is what I found:

It is announced as a hiking trail by the local tourist association. I guess, they are aware of climate change and cater to mitigate shortcomings in future winter seasons and therefore have to promote summer entertainment: The “path” leads up to a suspended bridge (PoI).

Obviously, osm tagging has nothing for this apart highway=track; surface=compacted; crowning=centre_line. Nevertheless, this shows, what the people in charge in a region highly influenced by incoming tourism consider hiking.

Apart from that, this also shows, what lots of consumers of OSM data consumers consider the least of a highway=path. A happy wedding?

I’d call that almost an “Autobahn-grade” hiking path! But seriously, around here (California, USA), I’ve mapped MUCH-lesser <0.5m-wide ruts of dirt (surrounded by, say, low grass) as highway=path (and maybe I add surface=dirt and width=0.5, maybe I don’t). And yes, they do get hiked upon. Such paths (around here) are even part of networks of hiking trails, minimal as that seems (compared to this "you could wheelbarrow a number of major household appliances — PARALLEL TO EACH OTHER! — along this beautiful path).


I would also tag it as highway=track; surface=compacted

possibly with vehicle=private if there is general ban, maybe also with bicycle=yes if cyclists are exempt


Well, if you want to make it scale, there is no other way. Maybe the people in charge actually ponder how to cope with masses when the destination becomes a hit, because it is not so hot there? It certainly can accommodate the capacity of the closest cable car (aerialway:capacity=2000 according to OSM herself), that nowadays mostly serves pistes in Winter.

The picture shows state of the art in track construction. Yet, thinking over this, main use is overwhelmingly pedestrian. Perhaps a kind of promenade? I feel a bit like changing this over to footway, rationale above :wink: Cycling explicitly not allowed.

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A bit of an aside:

When I happen over such tagging, I always think this is an undercover way of marking something up as useable with a Mountainbike. How can you tell the width of something with surface dirt?

I don’t have a handy photo but think of a dirt rut (slightly below grade) surrounded by low grass. I’ve mountain biked these, and it isn’t easy (it is nigh impossible in the rain) but yes, entered that way in OSM, it would be a stealthy “experienced mountain bikers could ride this” path. 0.5 m is maybe a “generous average” as it won’t be precisely that the whole path; single file only, pedestrian or bike.

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highway=pedestrian would be quite pushing it (though I used it in one case where it was paved and carrying massive amount of foot traffic in mountains)

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Any signs? Is the bridge a footway?
In Nederland, we don’t usually go by what tourist offices say. They’ll say anything for promotion, we map visible reality.


You both are focusing on the infrastructure and not the usage. I did hike on a trail in a national park recently where infrastructures facilitates access to families and less experienced hikers. A crowd of families and childs did hike in the first part of the trail up to a lake. In this first part, the trail large and compacted, elevation change is very progressive and emergency / utilitary park vehicules can circulate. Even if we The hikers dont like that, the usage is still for hiking with simply the progression facilitated for many plus access to emergency vehicules. Thus, this is a path and I would add vehicule=emergency.

For this way below, the best would be to split it at the lake and revise the tagging for the easy part of the trail. The last section is rough as usual with rocks and roots and looks more like moutain trails we are used to and is tagged more appropriately.

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There are guideposts with branding all along the route and two or three maps here and there. On the tourist office website several routes around there share the name, but on the ground there is only one, fortunately, the centre piece.

The section pictured above was created especially to get to the PoI (bridge and viewpoint. Before there was nothing there.) Likely to aid in constructing the bride. Perhaps was not re-naturalised to get on board the owners of the woods there.

Not sure about the footway, I’d say so and tagged as such. Press pictures - Neustift: Neue Hängebrücke am Sunnseit'n Weg ist ab sofort begehbar - Stubai-Wipptal

That is why I pondered a footway instead of a track. The tourist office paves/compacts everything they get a hand on, this one just gotten a bit bigger? Not always to the joy of our rambling associations.

Just sayin’: ‘round here (USA) we tag highway=path to include faint forest trails only slightly visible. A path is a lightweight traversal method. Sometimes very, very lightweight. Not something I (often) see (around here) tagged with emergency vehicle provisions. Though, OK, if you say so. It really is a bad ass lookin’ path, and you could drive an entire fire engine company here. Some days we get our minds expanded, thank you.

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  1. if maintenance or first vehicles use it then vehicle=emergency would be wrong

  2. if it is forest road used primarily for hiking it is highway=track not =path


We refer here to paths primarily assigned for hiking activities. Either the path I described, large enough to travel with a golf cart, or the larger one described at the beginning of the thread are for hiking activities.

In contrast, Key:highway - OpenStreetMap Wiki describes highway=track as : Roads for mostly agricultural or forestry uses

Using the tag highway=track would be ambiguous, based on the infrastructure and not the activity the the trail is designed for and some navigation tools could orient cars to such trails. Adding vehicule=emergency clearly specify an exception restricted on a very specific usage.

There’s some guidance for Massachusetts mappers on the wiki, that anything wide enough to be “physically passable by 4WD vehicles” is a track, and if it’s not then it’s a path. I don’t know if that’s still “correct”, or if it’s intended more for trying to help classify existing trails through the woods in Massachusetts rather than trying to help classify something new being built, or if other regions would think of things differently.

This here (Austria) just as much.

Perhaps, the distinction path/track depends on location? In urban areas, combined foot/cycleways easily are wide enough to drive a car on (rarely 4WD though) and widely mapped as paths, that’s what the tag was created for. Yet, not much use of tagging those track :wink:

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That is why correct access tags are needed (and many car routers will avoid highway=track)

In almost all cases such roads allow forestry, trail maintenance vehicles etc and in basically all cases vehicle=emergency would be wrong
(maybe in other parts of world it will be different)

Seeing the photo, knowing what I know and from this topic (humans, always in learning mode), it wouldn’t be my initial inclination to tag the beautiful way in the photo as highway=path, I would start with highway=track tracktype=grade2. Any hiker would be glad for such a couplet of tags.

But at the risk of repeating myself, only knowing this is a European (to me, from a USA perspective) highly-engineered (over-?) way in OSM is why I would not tag this highway=path.

Yes, I do nod it is a super-duper so-called Autobahn version of a path, tagged for emergency vehicle access, as it is: unusual, a “super-class path.” If it could receive thousands of hikers suddenly descending upon it, OK, they could walk “many abreast” (wide). I wouldn’t call that a path (initially), you might, looks like you do. It’s unusual, my mind is expanded realizing the tagging captures the unusualness of this (to me, a bit, at first). Still wrapping my head around it, because it’s like another footnote I must have tucked behind my ear of “sometimes, super-duper thousands of hikers in a bunch Autobahn-style paths are found in central Europe.” Noted.

It does get to be choreful with footnotes and exceptions to rules. Rules (especially when they work well), yeah, awesome. Exceptions, yeah, those sure can slow things down.

In Nederland, emergency vehicles can use almost any road or field they see fit, ignoring al designations and access restrictions. So emergency access seldom needs to be tagged explicitly.


Believe me, I am at a loss as much as you are, why such an Autobahn gets not only advertised but in fact constructed as a hiking path. On the other hand, I guess, the people doing that know their customers. Much better than I do.

Do they rely on physical descriptions width=* or on ontological highway=* when the emergency centre gives instructions to first responers?

Good questions. Hikers hike upon much more than paths, we are delighted to find a track, too. Somewhere here, it seems, there is a false assumption? Hikers “only select highway=path ways?” maybe? No, we select more than that. I don’t think tagging for something downstream in a specific way (just what a customer wants) which stretches a definition of reality to “fit” a tag is correct. I have difficulty not saying that is a highway=track or even highway=service with surface=* and width=* tags. That is a seriously engineered improved road. Path? I’ll wake you up as I pass Neptune and head out towards Pluto as I travel to wrap my head around “path.”