Document Type


Publication Title

Visitor use density and wilderness experience: proceedings; 2000 June 13; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-20


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station

Publication Date



Forest Management | Place and Environment


Wilderness is a special place that provides opportunity for unique and profound experiences. An essential task for the maintenance of these recreational opportunities is the definition and monitoring of experience quality. Four approaches to the measurement of the wilderness experience have developed in over 30 years of research: satisfaction approaches (which focus on evaluation of onsite conditions), benefits-based approaches (focusing on psychological outcomes), experience-based approaches (describing cognitive states experienced in wilderness), and meanings-based approaches (documenting socially constructed meanings ascribed to the experience). Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. Given that the wilderness experience is a multifaceted phenomenon, it is not surprising that no single method adequately serves the needs of managers trying to preserve the quality of the wilderness experience in the context of rising use density levels. However, a linear and direct relationship between use density conditions and experiential quality should not be assumed.


carrying capacity, recreation management, solitude, use limits, visitor density, wilderness experience, research methods