10 MOST COMMON TRAIL BUILDING MISTAKES

Not Getting Land Manager Approval

We know, we know: you just want to build trails. But believe us when we tell you that nothing – not a single darned thing – more important before starting trailwork than the approval of the land owner or manager. In our experience, a failure to secure permission is the single biggest cause of trail closures. When it comes to building trails, to ask for forgiveness is not better than to ask for permission.

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.

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.

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.

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