Sustainable Trail Bridge Design

Designing trail bridges based on trail-specific Trail Management Objectives (TMOs) is essential for providing the desired trail experience, for ensuring user safety, and for maximizing bridge longevity.

by USDA Forest Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, is one of the most prominent Federal agencies when it comes to trail and trail bridge management. The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trails and more than 6,700 trail bridges. Designing trail bridges based on trail-specific Trail Management objectives (TMOs) is essential for providing the desired trail experience, for ensuring user safety, and for maximizing bridge longevity. Managing a trail bridge for sustainability requires proper siting, good design details, routine inspections, and maintenance. Additionally, timely maintenance and repair are less costly than replacing bridges because of neglect or failure.

This report focuses on designing new, short, single-span, wooden trail bridges that the Forest Service classifies as minor and major trail bridges. This report also briefly addresses other bridge types and materials outside the minor and major trail bridge classifications. The Forest Service “Trail Bridge Catalog” website provides further pictures and information on trail bridge types, decks, rail systems, materials, and abutments.

Attached document published March 2020

About the Author


To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

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