Oregon Non-Motorized Trail Participation and Priorities

Place: State-wide


Non-motorized trail users in Oregon account for 162.3 million user days per year, and the vast majority of these days are spent walking or hiking. While these recreation days are associated with substantial expenditures, the amount spent per person per day and the total economic impact vary greatly within the state.


This study is relevant for other statewide trail recreation analyses as it provides examples of how to efficiently identify non-motorized trail recreators across the state by using the existing State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan dataset. Additionally, the authors carefully compare their sample to existing data sources on demographics and spending patterns.

Readers must keep in mind that these findings represent the preferences of participants in non-motorized recreation in the state, not the preferences of the average Oregonian. For example, 96 percent of respondents had walked or hiked on trails in the previous 12 months, which means nearly all non-motorized trail users had walked or hiked, not that nearly all Oregonians had walked or hiked.

Finally, the 11-page survey may have been too long and complex for many respondents to complete. Although their sample size was large, it may be biased toward more avid respondents.


This study was state-wide in Oregon.

Trail Type

This study considered all non-motorized, trail-based recreation in Oregon, including trails that are used for commuting and transportation.


The purpose of this study is to provide data regarding use patterns, user preferences, and expenditure by non-motorized trail users for the 2015-2024 Oregon Trails Plan. This research complements similar work done for non-motorized boating, motorized trail use, and snowmobiling.

This research was funded by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which contracted with Oregon State University.


  • The authors estimate 162.3 million non-motorized trail recreation days occurred in Oregon in 2011.
  • Among non-motorized trail users, walking or hiking was the most common activity, with 96 percent of respondents reporting walking or hiking during the previous 12 months. That was followed by biking on a hard surface (33%), running or jogging (30%) or backpacking (23%).
  • Walkers or hikers used the trails most frequently, with the average respondent walking or hiking 38.5 days in the prior 12 months. Running was the next most common with an average of 10.1 days in the past 12 months, followed by biking on a hard surface (6.8 days) and biking on singletrack (3.5 days).
  • Eighty-one percent of respondents took at least one multi-day trip from home, within the state, that involved non-motorized trail recreation.
  • Different users had very different trail length preferences. Roughly 22 percent of walkers or hikers preferred trails two miles long or less. However, roughly 20 percent or more of backpackers, road cyclists, mountain bikers, and horseback riders preferred trails longer than 15 miles.
  • Respondents’ highest priority for trail investments were to repair major trail damage, with 75 percent of respondents rating it a moderate or high priority. This was followed by protection of natural features (68% rating it moderate or high priority) and routine upkeep of the trails themselves (65% rating it moderate or high priority).
  • Residents who visit different parts of the state spend an average of $48 per day trip or $379 per overnight trip. They only count expenditures within 50 miles of the trail.
  • Expenditures varied substantially within the state, with multiday visitors in Regions 7 and 10 (Northeast Oregon) spending $16 per day and visitors to Regions 9 and 11 (Southwest Oregon) spending $45 per day.


The authors collected survey data from two sources: a random sample and a convenience sample. The random sample included all respondents from a previous random statewide recreation survey who also participated in one or more trail-based non-motorized activities. The convenience sample was drawn from non-motorized trail recreation club members across the state that circulated the survey. They had 3,253 responses in the final dataset.

The authors kept the random and convenience sample datasets separate for analysis. They also compared demographic data from each sample to statewide demographic data to identify any potential biases.

Trail use and expenditure data were used as inputs into the regional economic model IMPLAN.


Lindberg, K. and T. Bertone-Riggs. 2015. Oregon Non-Motorized Trail Participation and Priorities. Prepared for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University.