Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Christopher A. Monz (Committee Chair)


Christopher A. Monz


Mark Brunson


E. Helen Berry


Jennifer Peeples


Edwin Stafford


Visitors to parks and protected areas within the United States and worldwide often visit these areas with a particular destination in mind, such as seeing Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone National Park or standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park. These visitor use destinations, and the pathways leading to them, such as trails and roadways, see high levels of use, and as a result, impacts to soil, vegetation, air, water, soundscapes, and night skies that result from this use. The field of recreation ecology studies these impacts to park and protected area resources resulting from recreation use. Research conducted by recreation ecologists helps park and protected area managers prevent and minimize these impacts and preserve park resources for future generations.

However, not all recreation use and impacts occur along designated pathways and at visitor destinations. The impacts that result outside of these designated areas often cause more damage to park resources such as vegetation and soil. The studies presented in this dissertation examine what factors are influencing visitor behavior outside of these destinations and pathways, such as when visitors travel off of designated trails. The results provide managers with a set of factors that may influence visitor behavior outside of visitors’ intended destinations. These factors will enable managers to better understand existing visitor spatial behavior patterns and associated resource impacts, and also predict where resource impacts may be likely to occur due to visitor recreation use, enabling prevention of future impacts from occurring.