The successful country parks programme in Hong Kong has attracted a heavy patronage and caused widespread degradation in recreational sites. Visitor impacts were studied in six camp sites representing three levels of use. Most changes in vegetation and soil, evaluated in absolute and relative terms, were statistically significant. Trampling resulted in loss of vegetation cover, and reduction in plant height and root biomass. Species composition shifted in response to increasing usage towards domination by a few trampling-resistant grasses (monocots) at the expense of sensitive woody dicots. The loss of vegetation and litter cover contributed to soil compaction, increases in bulk density, penetration resistance and bare soil cover, and decreases in void ratio and organic matter content. Structural damage led to reduction in water storage and infiltration rate. These effects have management implications with respect to the design and rehabilitation of sites to enhance durability and to relieve the excessive recreational burden. Copyright © 1987 Published by Elsevier Ltd.