Managers of protected areas are increasingly concerned with recreation impacts to the resource and how they should be managed. Impact management programs must be based on information about the severity and extent of impacts and how they are changing over time. This information need has generated considerable interest in the development of visitor impact assessment and monitoring (VIAM) systems. Over the past three decades VIAM systems have been implemented in various protected areas. This paper provides a historical review of VIAM systems and discusses the current areas of refinement in their methodology. Potential areas of future research are also outlined.