Hiking is a popular recreational activity and to cater to public demand, it is apt to increase the number of hiking trails. Various methodologies have been proposed to evaluate the suitability of forest trails to be constructed as hiking trails, but they can be costly and require relevant knowledge in analyzing digital information through a high-throughput dataset. Therefore, there is a need to come up with a simple method to obtain first-hand information on the trail condition, particularly considering the aspects of safety and suitability to hikers, using both on-ground and aerial observations. In this study, we introduce a new assessment approach to analyze and select old forest trails to be reconstructed as new hiking trails. This is useful for park managers who prioritize safety, comfort, and aesthetic features of the recreation site for their visitors. Trail condition assessment was carried out along the trail whereby a 2×2 m sampling plot was constructed at every 100 m. Aerial drone survey was conducted to produce an ortho-mosaic that revealed the percentage of exposed trail from above. Potential phytotourism products and scenic spots were identified and recorded for their locations along the trail to promote the aesthetic value of the recreation site. A strength distribution plot was prepared based on the trail condition, canopy coverage, and aesthetic features along the trail that were categorized using three altitude ranges (n ≤ 150 m, 150 < n < 250 m, n ≥ 250 m a.s.l.). This is to assess the trade-offs in safety, comfort, and aesthetic features along the trail. The development of this methodology offers a direct and cost-effective, yet informative approach to evaluate the quality of a potential hiking trail, thus could effectively aid in the promotion of nature-based tourism.
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