Most hikers are ecological perceptive and will be disturbed by features such as erosion and pollution. Pristine nature, being the main resource for wilderness trails, emphasises the necessity for any quality assessment scheme to take the quality of the environment and the path conditions into account. It is accepted that all activities on the ground will have at least some effect on the ecology and nobody can expect any trail to be perfectly maintained and in the same time give an atmosphere of perfect naturalness. The Green Flag system thus is based on the premises that any responsible trail manager will adhere to the principle of improving his trail or striving towards excellence.

In the first round of the Green Flag audit process a base line situational document is thus drawn up and in follow-up audits the owner has to be able to show that he has been improving on the trail conditions in order to retain Green Flag status. The (path evaluation work sheet) shows the salient questionnaire used to assess the quality of the path.

Assessing gully erosion in the sensitive Ukahlamba -Drakensberg Heritage site

Trail drifting due to lack of vegetation pruning and short waterbarriers

Excessive degradation along the Whale coast

As more time is pent in and around the overnight accommodation, Green Flag also assesses these environmental conditions by means of a related work sheet.

Many trails offer hikers a rich cultural experience. The conservation of cultural and historic resources are therefore of equal importance to ensure a enriching hiking experience. Care should also be taken not to impinge on the privacy of local inhabitants.

Green Flag distinguishes between different kinds of cultural features and their relevance in enhancing a hiking experience. The categories are:

1. International Heritage significance

2. National Heritage sites

3. Traditional Cultural-historic sites: rural and urban.

Historic Shipwreck at Kleinzee

Rock engravings in the Karoo

Cultural Village in the Free State