Documenting the hours of labor it takes to cut (and perhaps plan and advocate) trails into existence is simple enough. However, attempting to capture the ‘magic’ and nature of trails in pixels and words is difficult. Some things, if not most things, are better experienced in the real, not digital, world– as is the case for trails. In spite of this short-coming, there are stories and information on this trailism website that are meant to inspire and educate trail users and enthusiasts.

In addition to the above, this site houses “trail science” items meant for the layman, professional, or enthusiast wondering what’s involved in the trail building process. By “professional,” I mean the trail purveyors involved in the details of seeing trails into existence, from planning, to building, to caring for trails. Some of these professionals reach a point in their lives where they may specialize in one (or many) aspects of trails…I’d call these people “Trailologists,” as they have elevated what they produce into a trail science mixed with art, or “Trailology.” They, as well as countless masses of trail users, and volunteers (from novice to professional) have made trails into a religion, or practice,  of sorts– “trailists” practicing Trailism. This site is my contribution to Trailism, or the construction, science, art, use, and maybe love, of trails.


Is “trailism” an actual word, or ism? Like any ism there are certainly doctrines, causes, or theories surrounding trails, and sometimes discriminatory ones. An ism is typically an act, practice, process or condition. Besides the obvious fact that I just used trailism in a few sentences, and most people can gather what it means standing alone. In addition to what is often involved in the birth, life, and sometimes death of trails, it’s not as if trails have not had a significant impact on human and non-human lives. If it is indeed an “ism,” there is a fair chance that it may have some fuzzy denotative borders. Lets just say that in broad terms I think of it as an ism without borders, or adjectives, and more an ism leaning towards a general sense of being “pro-trail,” to borrow a phrase from a friend, and I’ll add, even if it sometimes means being against trails.

If you “do” trails, or trailism, are you a trailist in addition to an enthusiast of some kind practicing trailism? There certainly are some “doctrines,” theories/philosophies, causes, practices or religions surrounding trails, not to mention “adherence to a system or a class of principles,” whether as a user, enthusiast, manager, or builder. So again, yes, I’d say “trailism” is real(ism). But as two dear friends quipped, in that case “I’m into Trailscendentalism,” and another said, “I’m a Trailosopher.” Hats off to that!

This trailism site explores not just the all-to-real negative sides surrounding the “ism,” but also the trail journeys themselves, the science and art of design and construction, and the work and perhaps advocacy that make trails possible– from the most rustic and primitive trail(ism) to the most refined marvels of human construction (and Trailosophy). There is a shop related to this site. Information on the products and how that came to be is explained here.

Welcome, and please leave some bread crumbs about your isms, ologys, osopys, and adventures on trails.

Happy trailism,

Erik Mickelson
Trailologist, *Trail Hugger


Note:  Some blog posts are narrative, some discursive, some strictly descriptive, just happens that way. Posts are sometimes written a week to several months, or even years, after the fact. Post dates (usually) correspond to the date the event occurred, not when it was written.


Disclaimer: Some information on this site is for information and educational urposes only, and is not intended to be advice (medical, physical, structural, design, or other…). Think for yourself, and make your own decisions on what you do with that information.

*Thanks Gardner, and the 00’s SDMBA clan who helped start this obsession…and to all those trailists since that I have interacted with. Happy trails!

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