From “Pathways to Trail Building” by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

The objective of path building is to create a long-term relationship between humans and nature.

by American Trails Staff



The aim of trail constructing is to create a long-term relationship between people and nature. This is just attainable by way of a transparent understanding of the needs of each trail associated company laced with a healthy dose of day-to-day actuality. Planning and responsibility are the keys to success. Learning how to construct a trail is an ongoing, never ending process with each section of trail to be constructed a new challenge. The trail designer/constructor learns over time the nuances of the forest, rocks and streams and the way important it’s to build a sustainable path that is easy to maintain up and becomes a natural part of the landscape. Sustainable trails decrease environmental impacts, are simple to travel and reduce future path operation and maintenance costs.

Trail design
Trail design is doubtless considered one of the most important elements to insure that the route presents optimum scenic, geologic, historic, cultural and organic sites to offer quite a lot of diverse habitats for the trail person to expertise. Trail design is the crucial connection to make the trail sustainable, to minimize back impacts to the pure setting, and to reduce future path upkeep.

The National Park Service (Rocky Mountain Region, January 1991) definition of a sustainable trail is:

* Supports current and future use with minimal influence to the area’s pure techniques.
* Produces negligible soil loss or movement whereas permitting vegetation to inhabit the world.
* Recognizes that pruning or elimination of sure crops may be necessary for proper path building and maintenance.
* Does not adversely affect the area’s wildlife.
* Accommodates present use whereas permitting only appropriate future use.
* Requires little rerouting and minimal trail upkeep.

The trail planner should contemplate the next options for inclusion:
1. Ridge lines: Ridgelines supply prime alternatives to keep away from the high value of path development with steep grades on aspect slopes. Ridgelines can also present panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

2. Bluffs and Cliffs: These steep sided gorge edges offer path routes with few building problems aside from the place giant streams cut via the bluff edge. High cliffs, deep ravines and rock outcrops covered with lichens and mosses supply engaging vistas along the trail route. Main path routes should keep away from the sting of the cliffs with an occasional brief side path to an overlook location. Overlooks must be at one–half mile to one-mile intervals if an excellent view is available with out having to cut any bushes.

three. Stream Bottoms: Streams supply each alternatives and challenges. The additional moisture in riparian environments creates circumstances appropriate for many plants and wildlife species not found within the surrounding upland areas. These excessive moisture conditions could make the path tread muddy and can generally require the location of stepping-stones or elevating the trail tread with boardwalk structures. Trails in stream bottoms ought to avoid thick vegetation areas such as canebrakes, noticed briar and grapevine thickets.

Areas of moist or poorly drained soils additionally ought to be avoided. Advantage must be taken of any natural “benches” or terraces working alongside the bottoms of a gorge that may be adjacent to a stream.

four. Points of Interest: A well-designed path ought to embrace as many points of interest as sensible and feasible along the size of the trail. Some factors of interest might embody:

* Geologic features such a bluffs of sandstone or limestone
* Hydrological features such as ponds or lakes
* Cascades or waterfalls
* Historic and cultural features
* Large or attention-grabbing trees

If potential overuse of these sites is a matter, routing the primary path away from the feature and offering entry with a spur trail will scale back the amount of influence to these factors of curiosity.

Areas to avoid: some problem areas to keep away from include:

* Active farmland
* Old residence websites with wells or cisterns
* Construction downside areas that embody very rocky or steep slopes
* Wetlands or swampy areas
* Areas of unique invasive vegetation corresponding to privet or multiflora rose thickets
* Stay a minimal of 25’ from the edge of a stream to forestall impacting the useful resource
* Property boundaries – keep 100 toes away from adjacent landowners if potential

Trail format
This section offers with the gear needed and procedures for choosing, marking and figuring out the trail route in the area. Trail sustainability is the primary aim of path layout with ease of construction as a secondary objective. If constructed properly, trail tread stability can be maintained indefinitely, even over steep slopes and rocky areas.

1. Materials and devices:

a. Plastic surveyors tape – Different colors (orange, pink, blue and white) are useful for path marking purposes. Use the blue to mark the main path, purple to mark management points such as road/trail junctions or stream crossings and orange for points of curiosity such as overlooks, waterfalls or distinctive pure features. Carry a black permanent marker to write down notes on the tape if wanted. This type of tape could be present in some hardware shops and could be ordered from companies like Forestry Suppliers, Ben Meadows, and so on. Check the picture on the entrance cowl to notice the white flag between the 2nd and third path workers.

A beneficial technique of marking the path route with flagging tape is to wrap the tape across the tree twice and tie the knot on the aspect of the tree the trail will pass. Leave a tail (piece of flagging tape 12-18” long) to help determine the knot. Whatever method to mark the path is chosen, be constant, so there aren’t any questions the place the trail route is positioned and tread building is to take place.

b. A compass remains to be a helpful gizmo to guide the trail planner for topo map orientation and to search out management factors and determine which ridges or stream valleys to comply with.

c. A clinometer with a % scale is used to discover out the % grade ascending (positive) or descending (negative) as the path route is marked.

d. A 25-foot tape measure is used to find out trail hall width and to calculate tread width on graded trails.

2. Field Reconnaissance:

Maps and other gear are solely tools to assist within the on website visit to a potential path location. Exploring the realm by way of which the trail is to be routed is very important and must be accomplished a number of instances earlier than choosing the preliminary route. Important gadgets to focus on when exploring the world include the next:

a. Points of interest – Interesting features may be recognized on the map and located by on-site inspection. Draw in the further attention-grabbing features that aren’t on the map.

b. Stream Crossings – Stream and road crossing(s) need to be researched thoroughly because of the potential risks and importance of these points on the trail route. Streams are topic to water fluctuations generally as much as 5-10 toes or extra and a bridge may be essential to cross a creek. Extensive scouting to search out the best location for the bridge site is very important and the lowest part of the bridge should be 5-10 feet above the very best flood level. The managing company must approve any bridge design that might be constructed on the trail.

c. Road Crossings – Careful location of is essential. Visibility on highway crossings with heavy visitors should be a minimal of 500 toes in each instructions. Check with the managing companies or the state Department of Transportation when considering a highway crossing.

d. Level areas – Since long straight trails are not aesthetically pleasing, design slight right and left curves into the paths to avoid a freeway effect. Sight distance ought to be toes ahead of the path user.

e. Steep hillsides – Steep areas current situations where careful trail location and design is essential. When possible, keep away from locating trail routes on steep slopes. However, where soils are deep and facet slopes aren’t excessive (greater than 25%), few problems are likely to occur on well-designed and constructed trails.

three. Techniques of Trail Layout:

Conditions from degree to steep will have an result on the method in which a path route is decided. Side slopes of % don’t require side hill building. Side slopes over 5% want side hill development know as “trail grading” (see part three.b.). General strategies for path layout are as follows:

a. Level Terrain (non-graded trail sections):

* Avoid long straight sections of path. Long meandering right and left curves and changes in course will help alleviate path monotony.
* Avoid obstacles corresponding to timber larger than 3 inches in diameter, areas with quite a few lifeless bushes, moist or low mendacity areas and areas infested with unique species such as privet, bush honeysuckle, kudzu, multiflora rose, and so on.
* Route the trail close to interesting or unusually large trees, patches of wildflowers, rock formations and water sources corresponding to springs and small creeks.
* When approaching cliffs or bluffs, don’t immediately route the path along the edge of the bluff. Instead, route the trail ft again away from the edge, and extend a brief spur trail to a scenic overlook area. Overlook areas should be naturally open to minimize the necessity for cutting of trees or pruning branches to get a view.
* Signs at the path junction ought to warn the path user of the high bluffs and a warning sign should be positioned on the overlook.
* Do not route the trail alongside old roadbeds or jeep trails besides where they’re impassable to motor autos.
* Instead of following the ridge crest, the trail should meander from one aspect to the other to add variety to the person experience and take advantage of potential scenic overlooks.

b. Layout of path on ascending or descending grade:

* When locating sections of path on a aspect slope, first define the percent of rise or fall, example 5%. 10% grades are used for short sections (20-50 linear feet) to avoid large trees or rock outcrops. As much as potential, locate the trail route on the uphill aspect of bushes rising on slopes to stop injury to the foundation systems. You must have a 2-person crew to carry out this layout. First person (#1) is the instrument operator (using clinometer) and the second individual (#2) is the vary pole holder. Standing on stage ground, the vary pole is marked with flagging tape at the eye degree of the instrument operator. Once at the path location, #1 stands on the path route and #2 moves ahead along the path route roughly feet from #1. #2 moves up or down the slope in order to get hold of the required grade incline and marks that spot. #1 strikes forward to that location and the method is repeated. Grade reversals (water dips) should take place along the path route each 100 linear ft to route water off the trail. Every linear toes of ascent or descent, a stage section of linear feet is needed to supply a relaxation from the climb or descent.
* Side hill building of trail tread is required if the slope of the hill the trail transverses is more than 5%. The approach to measure the facet slope of a hill or ridge is to lay a tool on the bottom and then take the clinometer and place it on the handle of the device. The % slope will determine the depth of reduce to construct the path tread “all in cut”. All in cut refers again to the strategy of not using any fill materials for the width of the trail tread. See Figure four on web page 26.

c. General guidelines for graded trail layout on facet slopes.

* The optimum path gradient on slopes is 5 – 10% (5 to 10 feet change in elevation per 100 toes in horizontal distance). Grades steeper than 10 % have much higher erosion potential, ought to solely be used for brief distances and will require particular development methods such as steps made of stone.
* The size of house available to construct a trail section on grade is important. A gentler grade can be maintained on a broad mountainside in comparability with one in a narrow hollow.
* If the length of a graded section of trail is 1,000 toes or more, hold the slope gradient of the trail as low as potential and use reverse grade dips as a approach to transfer water off the path at regular intervals.
* All efforts must be made to keep away from switchbacks. However, the place house is proscribed or obstacles are present, construct switchbacks in areas of sufficient soil depth to maintain the path to bypass boulders or rock outcrops.
* Ideally, switchbacks are positioned in dense brush or through other obstacles to prevent path customers from shortcutting the switchback. Avoid brief switchback sections of lower than 500 ft. Grades may be increased up 20% for brief distances coming into and exiting the switchback to increase the elevation change and broaden the distance between the higher and lower trails.

Once the preliminary route has been marked, 1 or 2 further journeys ought to be made to finalize the route. Only when the route has ultimate approval from the managing agency should path construction start.

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