Routes, Tracks and Trails in Hiking Terminology

In hiking terminology, the terms "route," "track," and "trail" are often used to describe different aspects of paths or pathways. While these terms can sometimes be used interchangeably, they generally carry distinct meanings:


In summary, a route is the planned path, a track is the recorded path, and a trail is a marked and maintained path on the ground. While these terms may overlap in some contexts, understanding their nuances can help hikers communicate more precisely about their outdoor experiences.


A route refers to the planned course or path that a hiker intends to follow. It's a broader term that encompasses the entire journey from the starting point to the destination.

Routes may not always be physically marked or well-defined on the ground. Instead, they can be a conceptual path that hikers navigate using maps, compasses, and other navigation tools.

Hikers may choose or plan their own routes based on the desired destinations, scenery, or challenges they wish to encounter.


A track typically refers to the recorded path of a specific journey, often captured using GPS devices or smartphone apps. It represents the actual footsteps or movements taken during a hike.

Tracks can be shared among hikers, allowing others to replicate the same path. They are especially useful for those who want to explore a specific route that someone else has successfully navigated and recorded.


A trail is a marked and maintained path on the ground, designed for hiking, walking, or other outdoor activities. Trails are often established in natural areas, parks, and recreational spaces.

Trails are usually well-marked with signs, blazes, or other indicators, and they may include amenities like bridges, steps, or shelters to enhance the hiking experience. The term "trail" often implies a designated and developed path, which can range from easy, family-friendly trails to more challenging backcountry routes.