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

More Articles in this Category

In the Path of Fire

Rebuilding Trails After the Carr Fire in California.

Cameron Park Trails, Waco, Texas

This 20-mile system of trails s features handcrafted bridges, views of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers from 100-foot cliffs, and cedar groves.

Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail, Washington, DC

This 7.9-mile rail connects historic forts built to defend the nation's capital during the Civil War.

Constructing bicycle trails in conjunction with Interstate Highway construction projects

Examples of bike trails and bike paths that have been built by state departments of transportation

Canyon National Recreation Trail, New Mexico

Located in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) , this 2.2-mile interpretive trail provides access to wildlife viewing in the Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.

Withlacoochee State Trail, Florida

The Withlacoochee State Trail (WST), managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways & Trails, is the longest rail-trail in Florida, extending 46 miles from just south of Dunnellon in Citrus Springs to its southern terminus in the City of Trilby.