Nature Trails

  • Good planning and design is important
  • The layout of the land must be accounted for in the trail design
  • Maintenance issues should be considered in the business planning stages
  • Liability insurance is important
  • Set rules that promote trail safety

Nature Trails - Planning, Design, Construction, and Maintenance

Many landowners have the unique opportunity to provide visitors with quiet time away from the demands of everyday life through the use of nature trails. Guests will enjoy spending time in nature and getting exercise while exploring scenic nature trails.

To attract hikers to nature trails, landowners need to establish safe trails with plenty of shade and opportunities to view wildlife and beautiful scenery. Provide well-maintained trails of varying difficulty – very easy to somewhat difficult - to attract a wide range of guests. Guests should be given a map with the details of the property including any potential dangers.

As with any business, landowners must be sure to acquire proper liability insurance and permits for building hiking trails in their area. Certain amenities such as picnic areas and restrooms help make trails more popular. Overall, hikers are simply looking for a memorable and enjoyable experience in nature.

Other Publications

Recreational Forest Trails: Plan For Success (PDF)
North Carolina State University

When planning, designing, and construction a forest trail, take into consideration what type of trail you wish to build and the layout of the land. This publication covers the steps in designing, laying out, and constructing a trail including trail width, clearing heights, and grade specifications. It also provides the top ten trail construction tips.

 

Location and Design of Recreational Trails: Application of GIS Technology (PDF)
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This Master's thesis discusses using GIS to design trails for recreational use. Poorly located and designed recreational trails increase maintenance costs, resource degradation, and the inefficient utilization of public resources. The potential application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to this specific type of
problem is examined through the comparison of hypothetical trail routes generated by several different methods, existing trail field surveys, office design, GIS user-assisted design, and costpath analysis design. Each method is compared statistically and qualitatively by GIS methods and office based methods. Each hypothetical trail is ranked according to effectiveness of design, providing insight into trail design methods. The office designed hypothetical trails were consistently ranked highest by an expert forest road designer.

 

Trail Design to Minimize Environmental Damage and Enhance User Enjoyment (PDF)
Purdue University

Trails should be designed for both environmental protection and use. This publication provides information to minimize damage when designing trails.

 

Woodland Trails: Layout, Building, and Maintenance (PDF)
University of Kentucky, Kentucky Woodlands Magazine

The beginning of this article discusses the history of trails in Kentucky woodlands which are used for a wide range of activities including hunting, hiking, horseback riding, birding, and more. The article discusses the need for planning and designing a well-built trail, establishing a trail, trail types and general guidelines, and provides some additional resources.

 

Trail Development (PDF)
University of Georgia

A well-planned forest trail system should reflect five basic objectives:
- Satisfaction of user needs
- Protection of the resources
- Minimize user conflicts
- Minimize cost and effort
- Minimize maintenance.

This publication discusses planning trails to satisfy these objectives. This includes the location, alignment, grade, construction and materials for the trail.

 

Profile of Minnesota Trail Users (PDF)
University of Minnesota

Recreation trails provide a variety of personal, social and economic benefits. Documenting and understanding these benefits is important for trail planning, management and advocacy. This survey and report was created for the Minnesota Recreational Trail Users Association. It provides information on the demographics of trail users, trail user experience, motivations of trail users, trail use days, sources of and responses to recreation conflict, and details about each user group.