The Field Of Education In The National Parks
The Educational Program And Its Place In National Parks Administration
Museums In The National Parks
Planning A Park Museum
Administration Of Park Museums
Exhibits In Place
Guiding In The National Parks
Lectures In National Parks
Scientific Aspects Of The Park Protection Program
The Research Program In The National Parks
Use Of Recorded Scientific Data
Libraries In The National Parks
Photography And Visual Education
General Administrative Problems
Proceedings Of The
First Park Naturalists' Training Conference Held At Educational
Headquarters, Berkeley, California:
November 1-30, 1929
PLANNING AND RECONNAISSANCE FOR A NATURE TRAIL
By C. A. Harwell
We should classify our so-called self-guiding trails into two kinds,
"Nature Trails" and "Labeled Trails". In this paper I will treat them
If possible a "Nature Trail" should be located near the center of
activities so that it can be more easily supervised. It perhaps should
be a trail through the woods where things of nature to be pointed out
are undisturbed, rather than along some well established trail. It
should be in the nature of a round trip, telling some fairly complete
story with some special point of climax and several rest points. It
should not be too long and should be easy to start upon.
Four complete stories in the sense I have in mind might well be told
by the four "Nature Trails" which Mr. Hall suggests would start from the
Museum at Yosemite. They are: (1) Geology of the Valley; (2) Indians of
Yosemite; (3) History of Yosemite; and (4) Ecology of the nearby region.
The exhibits along each of these four trails should be limited to
objects that logically pertain to the central theme of that trail.
"Labeled Trails" are those trails any place in the park along which a
few or many labels have been placed to help the visitor find out for
himself some of the most interesting facts concerning phenomena under
observation. It seems to me that every trail and our roadsides offer
possibilities in this field, but while we are experimenting with the
idea the work should be limited to perhaps some one trail.
Following the reading of the above two papers, Chief Naturalist Hall
lead a discussion designed to bring out the general principles of
planning for nature trails and of correlating them with the other
educational activities in the national parks. During the discussions the
following memoranda were set down:
A nature trail should be a unit in itself. It should be easily
accessible. It should, if possible, be located so as to return to the
point of beginning. The trail should not be too long nor too difficult
for foot travel. Somewhere on the trail there should be a climax of
The nature trail should be located in an interesting area and
the purpose and plan should be well in mind before it is
The nature trails should be so planned that visitors will be
stimulated to travel over it alone, making their own observations.
Occasionally it may be advisable for a ranger naturalist to start a
group along a nature trail and then, after having introduced them into
the methods of its use, to leave them so that each may enjoy himself in
his own way. Sometimes it may be advisable for a ranger naturalist to
lead his party over the full length of the trail. In this case, however,
he should exercise care to point out features not labeled and to lead
discussions which may go more deeply into subjects which are labeled
only in an elimentary way. It was agreed that, in general, it is
inadvisable to lead guided parties over nature trails.
The number of nature trails in each park should be very limited
and their locations should be decided upon only after careful
Nature trails assume great importance in parks where little or
no guide service is available.
Nature trails should have carefully prepared tread, but
evidences of trail construction should be carefully concealed where
Trails which are already constructed and in general use can
frequently have the most interesting natural features advantageously
labelled but these should be recognized by park naturalists as "labeled
trails" rather than "nature trails."
The number of labels along a nature trail should be limited, as
too many labels will detract from the appearance of the trail and may
introduce an element of complication and confusion.
The effectiveness of a nature trail may be increased by giving
it an attractive and catchy name.