Numerous reports from around North America have shown the substantial economic and health benefits of trails.
Economic impact studies document the many and substantial economic benefits generated by trails. In particular, local businesses in communities along trails benefit from the influx of visitors going to restaurants, snack shops and other retail establishments. On longer trails, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and outdoor outfitters benefit. In addition, trails increase tax revenues in the communities in which they are located.
These benefits represent a huge economic return on the money invested into trail projects. The costs of trail construction and maintenance are far outweighed by the economic benefits generated by trails.
A 2016 economic impact study of the Rum Runners Trail (RRT), a 119 km trail connecting Halifax and Lunenburg, found that the annual economic impacts of trail-related spending include $3.9 million in added value, of which $2.2 million is wages and salaries for about 68 full-time equivalent jobs in Nova Scotia. The total taxes generated to the federal government is about $361,000, $445,000 to the province, and $44,000 to municipal governments (excluding corporate taxes and property taxes).
A 2007/2008 economic impact study of the The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail, a 132-mile system of biking and hiking trails that connects Cumberland, Maryland to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, found that, on average, owners of businesses near or along the trail indicated that one-quarter of their gross revenue was directly attributed to trail users and two-thirds reported that they experienced at least some increase in gross revenue because of their proximity to the trail. Over one-quarter of all businesses that were surveyed mentioned that they have expanded, or plan to expand, their operations or staff because of the trail.
A report called The Economic Benefits of Trails, conducted by the American Hiking Society, found that trails allow communities to increase commerce, support and create jobs, increase property values, reduce commuter costs and provide low-cost health benefits. It took only one season after the opening of the 35-mile Missouri River State Trail for the trail to positively impact local communities. After one season, 61 businesses along the trail found the trail positively impacted their businesses. Eleven reported the trail strongly influenced their decision on where to locate and 17 increased their business size since the trail opened.