The Green Flag trails assessment approach is based on over 15 years of study and testing in the field in South Africa, where the system originated.
Various papers have been published on the system and are available here.
The approach is rigorous and has been developed to offer an objective assessment of a trail that includes numerous factors and not just the trail surface and general design, but also the more subjective elements that contribute to the overall experience of trail users. (see Assessment Criteria)
While all other similar systems focus on the opinion of another person deciding for you what is a “good trail” is, the Green Flag system is based on the principle that you as prospective hiker can best decide for yourself if this particular trail is what you want – provided you are given the accurate description of all trail elements, you can make an informed choice.
Assessment Steps by a certified accreditor run as follows:
2. Assesses the Trail facilities and services: Booking/ reservations, vehicle parking, guiding, map, water, etc.
3. Auditor walks the trail:
• Registers all places of environmental neglect according to a list of 44 elements. This addresses the Bio-physical impact of hikers.
• Risk assessment. This addresses the safety of hikers by looking at the management of danger element.
• Assesses the environmental character and classifies trail as Pristine, Natural, Rural or Semi-urban. This addresses the Experiential impact, such as noise, etc. on hikers.
• Difficulty rating is calculated.
4. The impact on overnight establishments and its surroundings are assessed. The difficulty rating methodology uses a unique calorie approach based on the energy expended by users on the trail.
5. A report is presented to the trail owner/manager in which the following is included
• Verbal description of the trail.
• Analysis of the field work sheets.
• Map indicating the location of environmental and structural problems along the path.
• Diagram that classifies the trail : it’s character, facilities, safety, difficulty, etc.
• Summary with the Results of the Green Flag inspection: Recommendations and/or reservations / requirements for improvement to attain GF status.
6. Feedback is sent from trail owner to GF committee addressing the requirements (if relevant).
7. If trail owner and the GF committee are satisfied with the feedback, the trail information is logged onto www. Greenflagtrails.org
8. A certificate of compliance is issued; valid for a specified period
Image by Dominik Schroder: CC