Trail Design Skills and Competencies

Specific skills used in trails and greenways work: layout of trails; design for different trail activities; types of trails.

by American Trails Staff


The goal of trail design is to create a good user experience within limitations of the resource, sustainability, and appropriate development

Skills for Natural Surface Trail Design

  • Basic trail design
  • Sustainable trail design
  • Layout of trails, design for different trail activites,
  • Assessing soils, geology, slope, and vegetation of trail corridor
  • Tying routes together into a trail system
  • Design for shared-use trails
  • Design for off-highway vehicle use
  • Design of off-highway vehicle parks and use areas

Skills for Trail-related Facility Design

  • Designing elements for drainage and water control

Skills for Accessible Trail Design

  • Using universal design guidelines to design and lay out (or retrofit) accessible trails and trail facilities
  • Identifying varieties of users including families and the elderly as well as the disabled

Skills for Urban Trail and Bike/Ped Facility Design

  • Basic urban trail design
  • Design of intermodal bicycle/pedestrian facilities

Skills for Trailhead Facility Design

  • Laying out parking and unloading areas
  • Designing signs and information structures
  • Designing related facility placement

Skills for Design of Structures

  • Trail bridge types, selection and design
  • Boardwalk materials and design
  • Restrooms for trail use