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Trail Design

Windgate Pass Trail

Windgate Pass Trail (4 foot tread), McDowell Sonoran Preserve, City of Scottsdale, AZ

Benefits of
Appropriate Trail Design

Designing naturalistic, sustainable and enjoyable trails takes practice and skill. Where the trail goes and exactly how it shapes largely determine both the visitor's experience and how sustainable the trail can be. The majority of natural surface trail design is working closely with the site to locate trails where they can be both sustainable and enjoyable, as well as shape them to accommodate rainfall, runoff, and long-term use.

In fact, trail design can be even more important than construction. Appropriate design minimizes or eliminates expensive maintenance and repairs later while forming trails that people enjoy using. Inappropriate design, however, can form trails that seem okay at the beginning but degrade, quickly erode, get excessively muddy, encourage shortcutting or off-trail travel, drop sediment into waterways, and/or create safety hazards. And once a trail is designed inappropriately, it may take expensive, ongoing maintenance to try to make it sustainable or to close and obliterate it.

Hence for recreational value, resource protection, and minimal maintenance, it pays to design trails appropriately from the start.

From full trail design services to design assistance to design-build, we provide any amount of trail design you need. We can also build what we design for even greater savings.

Master Plans

If you need a trails master plan, or if you have a park or area master plan without detailed trail design, we can help. We can craft a detailed plan on maps, flag and design it in detail on the ground, or go all the way to construction with design-build. We can also estimate construction costs.

Site planning

For most sites, it doesn't require an architect or planner to develop a trail plan that provides recreational value and makes the most of your site while protecting its resources. In fact—because we thoroughly understand what works and what doesn't with trails—our site- and ground-level trail design can be better than trail plans prepared by many architects and planning firms.

Full trail design

We can design trails and trail segments from scratch, including trail structures and construction cost estimates.

Design assistance

If you have a partial trail design or would like our input, we can suggest how your design may be improved for sustainability, visitor enjoyment, and/or resource protection. This assistance can be as formal or casual as you prefer.

In addition, we're often able to save our clients significant expense by suggesting more cost-effective ways to design and/or construct trails.


Building what we design has several benefits: lower costs, reduced project time, and often higher-quality trails. See Design-Build.

Our Trail Design Philosophy

Unless you instruct us otherwise, we look for the most naturalistic and sustainable solutions that solve the actual problem. Often, these tend to be lower in construction and maintenance costs as well. We resort to trail structures and highly structured solutions only where necessary or where they are appropriate as trail amenities.

For more information