Determine Trail Uses
The first step in trail design is to determine how the trail will be used, how much it will be used, and what quality of user experience you want to offer.
Multi-use or single-use?
Multi-use trails work if:
• There are many primary users but only a few secondary users.
• The trail is used in different seasons by different users.
• The design accommodates all users or the trail is divided into parallel trails.
• The trail is highly maintained to satisfy needs of all users.
• Clear rules are posted about how to behave (pass, regulate speed, etc.) when encountering other types of trail users.
Consider a single use trail if:
• Different types of users have different levels of tolerance for noise, effort in using the trail, speed of travel, or influence on the tread.
• You want to offer a high quality trail experience for one type of user.
How much use?
How much will the trail be used at any one time, day, season or year? As trail use increases, consider:
• If two or more users are likely to travel side by side or pass while moving in opposite directions, increase tread and clearing width.
• The greater the use, the more durable the tread surface required.
What quality of experience?
Design your trail to fit the user experience that you want to offer. Consider:
• Physical ability of trail users. For example, reduce trail grade if you want to accommodate people with a range of physical abilities.
• Exposure to personal risk (e.g., injury, getting lost) the trail offers.
• Duration of the experience. Is it 30 minutes or 3 hours?
• Purpose for the trail. If the trail simply leads to a destination, choose the shortest and easiest route. If the trail itself is the destination, choose the most interesting route.