The costs of improperly designed trails are erosion, labor to address erosion problems, poor user experience, trails that don’t get used, and unnecessary safety risks.

Professional trail contractors install trails form $3-7/foot, or close to $30,000/mile if heavy equipment is required. In most cases trails can be installed by volunteer labor, at the cost of a few meals, some water, and a thank you. This will also build community involvement and a sense of ownership.

Successful trails:

  1. have a sense of purpose- destinations, overlooks, rock outcrops, loops etc.
    1. keep within Bike Plan objective of:
      1. “Systemic: The bikeway system will endeavor to be a complete system emphasizing local and regional continuity and connectivity”
      2. “Destination-Oriented: The bikeway system will be destination-oriented”
  2. cater to multiple levels of users- beginner to advanced hiker/runner/biker/equestrian
  3. are sustainable via the use of modern “trail science”- out sloped, sustainable grades, frequent grade reversals, positive and negative control points…(Criteria for trail placement, control points, and layout)

Common mistakes of trail building are:

  1. Falling for the Fall Line–Put simply, fall line trails are erosion nightmares. They turbo-charge natural and user-created erosion, exposing rocks and roots and generally living short lives before becoming loose, wide, ecosystem-damaging disasters. To build trails that last, use the Half Rule: trail grade, or steepness, shouldn’t exceed half the grade, or steepness, of the hillside; and the 10 Percent Rule: overall trail grade should be 10 percent or less.
  2. Guessing the Grade–Nobody, no matter how masterful their eye, can guess trail grades right every time. Trust us, we know. Sure, it’s fun to try, but use a clinometer to confirm the grade whenever you’re laying out trail – it’s worth a regiment of self-powered, Fantasia-style Pulaskis, because no amount of trailwork can fix a trail built on an unsustainable grade. If you don’t have a clinometer, we highly recommend an investment in this indispensable tool.
  3. Going Against the Flow–Not even race courses – which are sometimes designed with erratic flow to throw off a racer’s rhythm – should make this trailbuilding faux pas. All trailbuilders should make “smooth transitions” their mantra. Bad flow, especially fast sections leading into sharp turns, is a primary cause of user conflict. When you are building, think flow – it’s the key to an enjoyable trail.
  4. Complete top 10 mistakes: here

Leave a Reply