The elements of good trail design have to be matched to realities on the ground. The trail needs to abide by principles of hydrology, soil science, and geometry while achieving the equally important objectives of connecting people with the natural environment and fun while fitting into the landscape, and "flow.  During our site visits we often observe several areas where erosion has occurred on existing trails due to poor design or lack of maintenance.

Sustainable trails have constant flow and roll where long straight sections are minimized and grade reversals force water off the trail at regular intervals. 

The Ten Percent Average Guideline


Generally, a 10% average grade is the most sustainable. This does not mean that all trail grades should be kept under 10%. In many situations, the trail may undulate, creating areas that have short sections steeper than 10%. But overall, the trail’s average grade should be maintained at a sustainable grade of 10% or less.


Short sections can exceed 10% as long as the half rule is still used (15% trail grades can be used for short sections as long as the sideslope is greater than 30%).

The elements of good trail design have to be matched to realities on the ground.


The trail needs to abide by principles of hydrology, soil science, and geometry while achieving the equally important objectives of connecting people with the natural environment and fun while fitting into the landscape, and "flow.  During our site visits we often observe several areas where erosion has occurred on existing trails due to poor design or lack of maintenance.

Sustainable trails have constant flow and roll where long straight sections are minimized and grade reversals force water off the trail at regular intervals.

Essential Elements of Slope and Grade


There are 5 essential element of sustainable trails - below are two important ones.

TRAIL design

Grade Reversals


A grade reversal is a spot at which a climbing trail levels out for about 10 to 50 feet before rising again. This change in grade allows water to exit the trail tread at the low point of the grade reversal. Grade reversals are recommended every 20 to 50 feet. Grade reversals are also known as: grade dips, grade brakes, drainage dips and rolling dips.

Grade reversals also make a trail more enjoyable. On long downhill sections, grade reversals slow speeds and add variety and challenge. On up hills, brief descents help users regain their momentum.

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2783 Contau Lake Rd, Gooderham, ON K0M 1R0, Canada