One of the growing pains associated with increased visitation at Denali is the creation of social trails.
As the result of NPS-sanctioned guided hikes, recommendations in various privately-written guides, and information from shuttle bus drivers and park employees at the Wilderness Access Center, Denali’s best hikes are no secret, and social trails have developed, not only near visitor centers and developed areas, but all along the park road.
When ANILCA (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act) declared the core 2 million acre park as Wilderness in 1980, NPS committed to retaining these lands in an untrammeled condition outside development zones. In the General Management Plan, this commitment was codified as a “no formal trails in wilderness backcountry” policy. Nevertheless, as the pressures of access increased, social trail formation followed. Impairment associated with social trails remains a distinct possibility without careful surveillance and management.
We urged, in our comments on the rehabilitation of certain trails near Eielson Visitor Center, that NPS develop a plan to monitor social trails and intervene to prevent resource damage from them. This does not necessarily mean closing social trails permanently, but it does mean being proactive in preventing damage through overuse. We urged NPS to retain its policy of “no formal trails” in Denali backcountry wilderness.
Read our comments to learn the details: DCC comments-Eielson trails scoping – 9-15-14
To see the NPS scoping documents go to: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=53214