Bonner County Trails Final Survey Results

Benefits studied:
Place: Bonner County


In rural Bonner County in northern Idaho, trails are used by three-quarters of residents an average of every day in the summer and every other day in the winter. Trail use is high for all residents, even accounting for differences in the length of residence in the county, income, and age. Business owners are more likely to identify trails as an important factor in their decision to move to the county.


This study is relevant for communities interested in examples of approaches to measure the role trails can play in an area’s quality of life.

The results are unique to this community’s culture and demographics. However, they demonstrate that trails can be an asset valued by many in the community, not just town residents, those with high incomes, or recent transplants.


This study is based in Bonner County, in the panhandle of Idaho, population 41,585 in 2014.

Trail Type

This study addresses trails throughout Bonner County, including backcountry trails, in-town trails, and river and lake access trails.


The purpose of this study is to better understand the role trails play in daily life in Bonner County. The authors intend the findings to help the community prioritize future improvements to the trails network.

Headwaters Economics and RRC Associates conducted the survey. This research was funded by the LOR Foundation.


  • Three of four residents used area trails in the previous year.
  • Residents use trails almost every day in the summer and every other day in the winter.
  • Trail use is consistently high regardless of income, age, or length of time living in the county. It is also high for residents in the towns and rural areas.
  • Residents identify the area’s lakes and rivers and public lands as the area’s most important attributes. They do not separately identify trails as often, although trails provide access to water bodies and public lands.
  • Trail use is highest among younger residents, newer residents, and business owners. This finding may be useful as communities consider ways to keep and attract younger residents and entrepreneurs.
  • Respondents most commonly expressed an interest in more trails near residential areas, saying they would use trails more if there were trails closer to where they lived. This was true among current trail users and those who do not use trails.
  • More than half of residents identified proximity to trails and safe places to walk as important factors affecting their decision on where to live in the county.
  • Many residents expressed interest in more easy-to-use trails and wheelchair accessible trails.
  • Currently trail users learn about trails largely through word-of-mouth and one in five people who do not use trails did not use them because they do not know where they are.


The study collected data via surveys mailed to a random sample of 3,600 Bonner County residents. The mail survey also contained a web version of the survey for those who preferred to complete it online. An open web link was also made available to those who were not part of the sample but wanted to take the survey. The final sample included 388 responses to the main survey. The 97 additional open-link responses were analyzed separately. Survey results are statistically significant, with a five percent margin of error.

The data were weighted by age to ensure respondents’ demographics represent Bonner County.


RRC Associates. 2016. Bonner County Trails Final Survey Results. Bozeman, MT: Headwaters Economics.