Sustainable Trail Specifications

Trail Specifications

Trails are designed to minimize erosion and maintenance.

Volunteers of JORBA would conduct the actual design and construction of the natural surface trail. Trail design would follow best-recommended practices of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and US Forest Service, to ensure sustainability of the natural trail surface. Trail design and construction would be carefully planned, to minimize impact to the natural surroundings and sensitive wetland areas would be avoided. The trail would be developed through the use of hand tools such as rakes, picks and shovels.

Responsible trail development takes into consideration the natural contours of the land to create new, or enhance existing, natural settings attractive to recreational users. Great care is given to ensuring trail sustainability over the long term through the use of sound trail-building practices (i.e. reducing the potential for water flow along the trail, which is a primary cause of erosion).

Meandering trails are preferred to straight and perpendicular routes for two reasons, one is that we have found ATVs do not like these types of trails and will avoid them, two is that they move water off the trail and reduce erosion. Trails are designed to use the natural features of the land and minimize any effects on the nearby environment, including trees. They will be designed to require minimal maintenance.

The project would include removal of existing debris adjacent to and within sight of the trail route. Trail markers would be placed along the trail route, at strategic points, to mark direction of travel for bicyclists. Note: our trail developers prefer to leave existing trees in place. Trees are never damaged or cut down and additional trees are sometimes planted, to enhance a site.

Sustainable Trails

  • Supports current and future use with minimal impact to the natural ecosystem.
  • Produces negligible soil loss or movement while allowing vegetation to inhabit the area.
  • Recognizes that pruning of certain plants may be necessary for proper maintenance.
  • Does not adversely affect the area’s animal life.
  • Accommodates existing use while allowing only appropriate future use.
  • Requires little rerouting and minimal long-term maintenance

The Five Essential Elements of Sustainable Trails – IMBA – 2004


  1. The Half Rule:

A trail’s grade should not exceed half the grade of the hillside or side-slope that the trail traverses.

  1. The Ten Percent Average Guideline:

Generally, an overall (average) trail grade of 10 percent or less is sustainable.

  1. Maximum Sustainable Grade:

Although maximum sustainable trail is usually around 15 to 20 percent, it is site-specific and dependent on a number of factors – including: the Half Rule, Soil Type, Tread Make-up, Annual Rain/Snowfall, Grade Reversals, Types of Users, Number of Users, and Difficulty Level.

  1. Grade Reversals:

A grade reversal is a spot at which a climbing trail levels out and drops subtly for 10 to 50 feet before rising again – water exits the trail tread at the low point of a grade reversal.

  1. Outslope:

As the trail contours across a hillside, the downhill or outer edge of the trails tread should be slightly lower than the inside edge – by about five percent. Outslope encourages water to sheet across the trail rather than traveling down the trail’s center.


The Tragedy of Muddy Trails

I understand you work hard all week long and you only have so much time to ride.

I can understand volunteering on the trails is not your thing.

I can understand you don’t want to donate to the organizations the build and maintain trails.

But I can’t understand why you go out of your way to fuck up trails.

The ruts you leave will screw up the trails for every other rider until a volunteer gets around to fixing it.

Don’t be a dick, hit the trainer, ride the road, just stay off the trails when they’re soft and muddy.