Forest Service Roads

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Revision as of 06:17, 12 February 2014 by Vectorspace (talk | contribs) (Functional Classification)

This page is an incomplete draft and is in progress. Please contact Vectorspace if you have any questions during the construction.


Among many of the functions of the United States Forest Service (USFS) is the development and maintenance of Forest System roads that are relied upon by USFS and the public. The USFS uses these to maintain its forests, aid in fighting forest fires, allow public use, and other functions.

Some of these roads can be critical to local populations not just for recreation, but for regular travel. Such use is likely more common in rural and western states than it is for urban or eastern states. At times, some well-maintained dirt roads may even be considered to the local population as equivalent to streets or primary streets.

The USFS specifically issues Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) that identify specifically where USFS allows use of their roads by public motor vehicles. Some of these roads are paved and well maintained, others are dirt but used like streets, while others are dirt roads that are not well maintained and will only accommodate 4x4 wheel vehicles.

Waze and Forest Service Roads

Creating accurate and properly represented USFS roads in Waze will:

  • benefit large numbers of tourists and recreational users of USFS roads,
  • allow those lost in some areas to navigate to regular roadways,
  • allow local populations appropriate use of USFS roads,
  • allow Waze editors to functionally classify roads by marking them with the appropriate Waze road type (street, 4x4, etc.),
  • allow some roads to be marked as private to the USFS,
  • allow identification of useful Waze Landmarks on USFS land,
  • allow time-based restrictions on some roads that are closed in winter.

Functional Classification

The US Forest Service classifies maintenance of National Forest System roads by five levels: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Maintenance level 1 roads are closed to motor vehicle use. Maintenance level 2 roads are maintained for high-clearance (4x4, off-road) vehicles. Maintenance level 3, 4, and 5 roads are maintained for passage by standard passenger cars during the normal season of use.

Picking the best road types in Waze for the Forest Service roads is suggested in the following table. Levels 5, 4, and 3 are navigable by regular automobiles, but may not always be appropriate to be streets within the Waze map.

Description Suggested
Road Type
5 Highway High traffic and speeds, usually paved, double lane, arterial or collector, typically connected to state and county roads. There are few of these roads in the inventory. Minor Highway,
Primary Street,
or Street
4 Paved Moderate speeds, often dual lane, may be paved but usually aggregate surface, usually collectors, may connect to state and county roads Street
3 Passenger
Low speeds, single lane, local or collectors, may have potholes or washboarding Street
2 Unpaved
Unpaved local roads, may not be passable in inclement weather, high-clearance vehicles needed, not suitable for passenger cars. Dirt Road /
4x4 Trail
1 Closed Vehicular traffic is prohibited, might be used as a motorized trail for use by motorcycles, etc. Do Not

Note that Levels 5 and 3 may have ambiguity for Waze Editors. This is because there may be large variability in local interpretation of the road type that is important to Wazers. In rural or some western states, some the very same type of USFS road may be best marked as a Minor Highway or Primary Street whereas in urban areas, they may be interpreted best as streets. Here are some suggestions.

USFS Level 5

  • Pick the lowest level of road type that is reasonable for the surrounding area.
  • Pick "Primary Street" or "Minor Highway" when the local function of this road is equivalent to those Waze road types.

USFS Level 3

  • Preference is to always mark these roads as Waze type "Street."
  • In rare cases pick "Dirt Road / 4x4 Trail" if you verify the road is in poor condition.

Example A Example B
Level 5 =
Minor Highway
Primary Street
USFS-level5a.jpg USFS-level5b.jpg
Level 4 =
USFS-level4a.jpg USFS-level4b.jpg
Level 3 =
USFS-level3a.jpg USFS-level3b.jpg
Level 2 =
Dirt Road /
4x4 Trail
USFS-level2a.jpg USFS-level2b.jpg
Level 1 =
Do Not
USFS-level1a.jpg USFS-level1b.jpg

Road Naming Conventions



The USFS Travel Management & Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program website contains a number of resources that will be useful for Waze editors. Specific links follow.

Interactive Travel Map

The Interactive Travel Map is a GIS system for USFS land and roads. It shows the National Forest System roads, National Forest System trails, and areas on National Forest System lands that are designated for motor vehicle use. The map is searchable by vehicle class, time of year, route number, and travel mode. You can zoom into an area on a national forest or grassland, see the roads and trails in that area, and find out which ones are open to motor vehicles, and when. You can see rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, campgrounds, and topographic lines. Land ownership is shown by color. You can also print a map of the area you wish to visit.

USFS Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM)

Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) identify specifically where USFS allows use of their roads by public motor vehicles. They are available for a small fee in hard copy or can be found online in PDF format.

A listing of forests that maintain MVUM is available as a great resource for Waze editors. From this link you must select the appropriate forest listed by state. On those pages will be listed the MVUMs that are available.