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 world not pixels and words. In spite of this short-coming, there are stories and information on this website that are meant to inspire and educate trail builders, maintainers, and users. Beyond that, another purpose of this site is to help me remember and help me save some time. I no longer have to scour the web or books, or not as much, this is my library, stepping stone, or jumping-off point if I ever need it. Hopefully it will help others as well.

Trailism houses best practices and “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 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 science and art of planning, constructing, using, and caring for or loving trails.

I can’t be the first to think that “trailology” was really a thing, or new thing perhaps. I am late to game, but have certainly seen an explosion of change and progress since I started trail work around 2008. Many preceded me, and laid the foundation of what trail work means today. I feel fortunate enough to have worked with and been trained by some of the old dogs in the trail world, trailologists for sure. I also feel humbled sharing my experiences and training my fair share of volunteers, conservation corps members, and professionals alike.

Ironically enough, in 2023 someone told me about this site (registered in 2023). It looks like an attempt to ology trails…Made me smile and laugh. I registered trailologists.com and trailology.org in 2015. Someone else registered trailology.com in 2019 strictly to park it and sell it, go figure.

Trailism.com 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 also a shop related to this site (partly to help me when trail work is slow). 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 with trails. 

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: This site is for informational and educational purposes 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. “All I know is that I know nothing” (Socrates). All I know is that I “know” some things, and probably thread the needle between belief and knowledge more than I know.

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

> In the past decade the web has changed a lot, and so has this website. Other than several name changes, the site’s CMS has also changed. Some pages and posts are displayed with old formatting. Bear with me as I slowly troubleshoot and update the site to newer formatting.


An ism is typically defined as an act, practice, system, process or condition, that my include a doctrine, cause, and theory of the xyz-ism, and is signified or implied by the word to which ism is subjoined. Trail use, construction, and care vary from the devout to the weekend or holiday warrior, all with their own act or practice, doctrine, cause, and theory of their trail-ism.

Like many isms there can be controversy and discriminatory behaviors surrounding the practice of different trail isms or denominations. Many problems or conflicts come from an ism becoming fundamentalism, no surprise there, but of course in general we should approach and treat fundamentalism as nonsense.

Like isms themselves trails are born, often nurtured to varying degrees, sometimes loved, ultimately change over their lifespans, and sometimes die. Some trails have had a significant impact on human and non-human lives. As an “ism,” there can be some fuzzy denotative borders. Is “trailism” an actual word, or ism? Lets just say that in broad terms I think of trailism 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 sort practicing trailism? Or trailology? There are 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. “Trailists” exist. But as two dear friends quipped when I said we were trailologists practicing tailism, one said, “I’m more into Trailscendentalism,” and the other said, “I’m a Trailosopher!”

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