Sustainable Trail Development

A Guide to Designing and Constructing Native-surface Trails

What is a sustainable trail? Building a sustainable trail system takes into account many factors. Most importantly, a sustainable trail should have as little impact to the environment as possible; this is accomplished through proper trail planning, design, construction and maintenance. A properly built trail will last for generations to come with little maintenance needed and will blend into the natural surroundings.

by International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)


Sustainable Trail Development Guidelines


Prepared By: Richard Havel, Trails Planner for Town of Castle Rock, Parks & Recreation

Native-surface trails, also known as soft-surface trails, use the existing site materials to construct the final trail; this defers from paved trails in which, in some circumstances, asphalt or concrete may be used as the trail material. Because of the nature of the material used to construct native-surface, the principles of sustainable trail development are vital to the longevity of the trail system as a whole.

Well-constructed trails will withstand erosion and are more enjoyable to use. Poorly designed trails will create an unpleasant experience for riders and walkers as well as a financial and volunteer resource drain.

This guideline will focus on native-surface development guidelines to help insure the success of the final trail.

Published May 31, 2009

About the Author


The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit educational association whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve great mountain biking experiences.

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