As part of the initial recreation planning, a survey or inventory of the landscape should be carried out. The area can be classified into areas of particular visual characteristics based on the landform and vegetation types, presence of water, land use, cultural heritage and so on. Special note should be made of sensitive places, those with fragile soils and vegetation, the presence of rare plants or wildlife that are easily disturbed, or where there are dangers of rock fall, avalanche or steep cliffs. Note should also be made of places with unique or prominent features which give them a strong identity or ‘spirit of place’, often termed genius loci. These might include hidden lakes, waterfalls, ravines, curious rock formations, areas of old-growth forest, places with dramatic or surprise views, or flat landscapes where the sky dominates.
On the basis of this inventory and the knowledge about the demand for various types of recreation, the places where different activities could take place can be identified. Sensitive areas can be avoided completely or, if this is difficult, special measures to prevent damage can be identified, such as a boardwalk across a boggy area. Potential conflicts between recreation activities can be identified using a matrix technique, and from this solutions by design or management can be identified, for example by activity zoning, according to carrying capacity and compatibility.