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  1. #1
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    Room to Build

    Our bike group is in the initial stages of mapping and flagging a new bike trail. We have been told by the DNR to make a loop type trail of at least 10 miles. The park is approximately 2900 acres and we have approximately 350 acres to ourselves, we can use more of the park but the trail would be crossing hiking and horse trails. Much of our area is rolling hills with old growth oak forest with little underbrush, therefor you can see a long ways in the woods.

    My question is should I try to squeeze the entire 10 miles in this area. I am worried about being able to see too much of the trail as it loops around, for example if I am riding west I will be able to see the trail as it comes back east. Does it matter if you can see other portions of the trail or should we keep it spread out as much as possible? Is there a general rule we should follow as to how far spacing should be? I don't want the trail to look like it has been squeezed together.

  2. #2
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    There are a lot of reasons for good trail separation.

    My local trail is along a river, mostly in a flood plain. Much of the trail is a narrow strip of land with as little as 50' between the river and the edge of the park. There are many places that the out bound and return trails are in sight. As a result, we have lots of cheater lines, mostly created by hikers and runners, who don't want to do the whole loop. Keeping the trails out of sight of each other, unless separated by a natural barrier, will save a lot of effort trying to keep cheater trails under control.

    Keeping trails out of sight of each other adds to the experience of being out in the woods. Our trails at BCSP are typically with in a mile of a road, but paying attention to visual separate from the road and other trails, makes it feel like a back country experience. In some cases, the trails may not really be that far apart, but if there is a ridge between the trails, the trails are hidden from each other, or the trails are separated by steep slide slope or deep ravines, trail users don't try to short cut the trails.

    Our state parks have a duel mission of providing recreation and protecting the natural resources. If this is the case with your State Parks, then you may need to avoid too high of a trail density. Keep in mind that the Park manager may be focused on recreation and other parts of your DNR may be focused more on preservation. If you pack in too many trails in to one area, you may set your self up for criticism for having too high a trail density. This would typically be a point made by a naturalist. I would ask the Park Manager and the Park Naturalist if there are any guidelines for trail density. Regardless, you will have a better chance of building more trails in the future if you are conservative on your trail density. At Brown County State Park, we have 25 miles of trails in about 1760 acres. We have plans to add another 5 to 10 miles of trail in that area, but that would be the limit of our trail density for that section of the park.

    I would advise against more than 5 or 6 miles in the 350 acres. Avoid crossing the horse trails. We have mtb trails that share trail heads with hiking trails and our trails are so much better that few try to ride on the hiking trails.

    Focus on building high quality trails with good lines of sight on the trail, and good trail separation. Keep you loops under 5 miles. Ten mile loops are too long for the majority of riders. Think stacked loops, 2 mile beginner loop, 3 to 4 mile intermediate loop, then expert loops off the intermediate loop (3 to 5 miles).

    Good Luck,

    Paul

  3. #3
    featherweight clydesdale
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    1 mile per 35 acres isn't too dense for rolling terrain, and you shouldn't have that feeling like your crowding or doubling back on yourself. Hikers short cutting becomes an issue when a trail is so dense that it bends back and forth giving someone a feeling that they aren't going any where. Scale and plan your route carefully on a topo map before heading to the woods for flagging.

    It's possible to build to a higher density of about 1 mile per 10 acres if you have rolling terrain and still provide that feeling like you're going somewhere. You may see other riders on other trail segments at that density but you won't see much of the trail tread they're on. We end up herding the deer at this density, so there isn't much point to it if you have the room you need.

    With your park, are there any really cool places or views outside of that 350 which provide a good reason for going into the multi-use area? If not, I'd stay inside the 350.

    +1 on Indy's suggestion on not making just one 10-mile loop. Provide the option for shorter loops and also a way to string it all together without doubling back on the same trail.
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  4. #4
    gran jefe
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    yes, definitely build in shortcuts, bail-outs, fastest way home, etc. a big loop with sub-loops of varying difficulties would be nice.

  5. #5
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    It's called a "Stacked Loop" system. One short/medium length loop (2-4 miles) with increasingly more difficult loops further out. Not hard to design at all. Here in NC we have the only State park with a MTB in it at Lake Norman State Park. When we designed and built the first few phases we used a ratio of 1 mile per 15 acres and still plenty of separation between trails. NCDENR has decided that a ratio of 1 mile per 25 acres is more to their liking. So be it. By the end of next year we will have over 30 miles of trail in this park. You have 350 acres and I can't see any reason, unless there are water quality, historical/archeological or geographical restrictions, that you couldn't get at least 12-14 miles of trail on 350 acres. You could get over 17 miles at 1 mile per 20 acres.

    Lucky you to have 350 acres to play with.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by indytrekracer View Post
    There are a lot of reasons for good trail separation.

    My local trail is along a river, mostly in a flood plain. Much of the trail is a narrow strip of land with as little as 50' between the river and the edge of the park. There are many places that the out bound and return trails are in sight. As a result, we have lots of cheater lines, mostly created by hikers and runners, who don't want to do the whole loop. Keeping the trails out of sight of each other, unless separated by a natural barrier, will save a lot of effort trying to keep cheater trails under control.

    Keeping trails out of sight of each other adds to the experience of being out in the woods. Our trails at BCSP are typically with in a mile of a road, but paying attention to visual separate from the road and other trails, makes it feel like a back country experience. In some cases, the trails may not really be that far apart, but if there is a ridge between the trails, the trails are hidden from each other, or the trails are separated by steep slide slope or deep ravines, trail users don't try to short cut the trails.

    Our state parks have a duel mission of providing recreation and protecting the natural resources. If this is the case with your State Parks, then you may need to avoid too high of a trail density. Keep in mind that the Park manager may be focused on recreation and other parts of your DNR may be focused more on preservation. If you pack in too many trails in to one area, you may set your self up for criticism for having too high a trail density. This would typically be a point made by a naturalist. I would ask the Park Manager and the Park Naturalist if there are any guidelines for trail density. Regardless, you will have a better chance of building more trails in the future if you are conservative on your trail density. At Brown County State Park, we have 25 miles of trails in about 1760 acres. We have plans to add another 5 to 10 miles of trail in that area, but that would be the limit of our trail density for that section of the park.

    I would advise against more than 5 or 6 miles in the 350 acres. Avoid crossing the horse trails. We have mtb trails that share trail heads with hiking trails and our trails are so much better that few try to ride on the hiking trails.

    Focus on building high quality trails with good lines of sight on the trail, and good trail separation. Keep you loops under 5 miles. Ten mile loops are too long for the majority of riders. Think stacked loops, 2 mile beginner loop, 3 to 4 mile intermediate loop, then expert loops off the intermediate loop (3 to 5 miles).

    Good Luck,

    Paul
    I would have to respectfully disagree with this advice. 1 mile per 25 acres will give more than enough trail separation if you lay it out correctly. I do agree not crossing horse trails and wouldn't cross hiking trails either. Loop length is subjective for intermediate to advanced riders. We recently opened the second half of a 9+ mile loop and it is the most ridden loop in the system right now. (Have the trail counter data to back it up). But beginners can typically only handle 2-4 miles comfortably before they get discouraged.

  7. #7
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    Why not do both. You don't state who is building the trail, and what the trail user type rules are. THis would be useful information in order to understand the big picture. If it was me, I'd build as much as is reasonable in the smaller parcel, and include a much longer loop through the big parcel. I prefer long trails through large parcels rather than small parcels jammed with trail.

  8. #8
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    We are going to do a modified stacked loop. Our first loop is going to leave from a campground and we are going to make it as easy as possible with a length of 2 miles and a tread of say 2'-3'. The layout of the 1st loop will be fairly narrow as we are squeezed between a road and the property boundary, it will average between 50 and 100 yards wide. To the east of this loop we will have an intermediate loop of 5 miles that is well spread out but will cross both a hiking trail and road twice(please offer advice on tread width for this loop keeping in mind that the trail runs along the side of a steep hill). To the west we will have the traditional stacked loop. Looping away from the 2 mile easy loop we are going to have another intermediate loop, length is unknown as of now, we will hopefully map it and flag it next weekend(1 to 3 miles?). Our outer most loop is about four miles and stops and starts at the same place, we did this to avoid having to build a bridge as we can use an old culvert that is already in place and is as wide as a road anyways.

    Please offer advice on the next paragraph.

    With so much room on our outer loop I see no reason to sharpen the turns of the trail just to make it more difficult, as described in IMBA Guide to Building Sweat Single Track. I think the increased difficulty should come from narrowing the tread width and possibly leaving a few more roots in the tread. We tried to lay the route out on parts of the rolling hills that naturally have about a 2-5% out-slope. Since we did this can we simply rake the leaves away and have a trail? Should we leave roots or take them out? Naturally some stream crossing and bench work will have to be done but not much. I was leaning toward raking the trail off and start riding, and deroot a little at a time on work days so we can start building interest in the trail by trail users and hopefully getting more helpers to build the rest of the trail.

  9. #9
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    We are going to do a modified stacked loop. Our first loop is going to leave from a campground and we are going to make it as easy as possible with a length of 2 miles and a tread of say 2'-3'.
    A link to IMBA's difficulty rating system is below. 2-3' seems too narrow for a typical beginner trail. Note the width but also the grade specs for the various ratings. Also, this should be wider if it's likely to have the most traffic. You'll reduce user conflict.

    Trail Difficulty Rating System | International Mountain Bicycling Association


    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    The layout of the 1st loop will be fairly narrow as we are squeezed between a road and the property boundary, it will average between 50 and 100 yards wide.
    I assume the strip of land you have to work with is 50-100 yards wide? Be careful here, it's easy to get "sandwiched" and end up pushing a bad, unsustainable situation or a multitude of short switchbacks which may not be worth the time for the segment in question. You want a beginner trail, keep your grade down to 5% or less. If this whole strip slopes evenly to or away from the road, it may work. If the strip itself is rolling and has ravines, it likely won't, and you should just beg for a wider shoulder on the road.


    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    To the east of this loop we will have an intermediate loop of 5 miles that is well spread out but will cross both a hiking trail and road twice(please offer advice on tread width for this loop keeping in mind that the trail runs along the side of a steep hill).
    How steep? 40%? 100%? If it's intermediate, it should be 2-3 feet wide, which is doable for any of that.





    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    Please offer advice on the next paragraph.

    With so much room on our outer loop I see no reason to sharpen the turns of the trail just to make it more difficult, as described in IMBA Guide to Building Sweat Single Track. I think the increased difficulty should come from narrowing the tread width and possibly leaving a few more roots in the tread. We tried to lay the route out on parts of the rolling hills that naturally have about a 2-5% out-slope. Since we did this can we simply rake the leaves away and have a trail?
    You desired "flow" will dictate the turns. The larger issue is building on a 2-5% slope. This works on the beginner trail where you can target half or less of the side slope for your trail grade which should be 1-2.5% given your slope info. So you can see that the terrain of any given piece of land might be a significant factor in the difficulty level of the trail built on it. An advanced trail pushing 10-15% grade needs a 30%+ side slope for sustainability. This requires some benching and some root whacking, but whole lot less work for a 1.5' wide trail vs. a 3' wide trail in the same spot. If the root is bigger than your arm, you can leave it alone.




    Quote Originally Posted by peteuga View Post
    I was leaning toward raking the trail off and start riding, and deroot a little at a time on work days so we can start building interest in the trail by trail users and hopefully getting more helpers to build the rest of the trail.
    You want most of your trail on side slope that requires benching. The beginner and intermediate would be benched. Experiment on your rake and ride on the advanced trail.

    Now a reality check...If you're not already working w/ SORBA, have one of their trail guys come look at your project. With all the rake and ride planned, I fear it's off to a less than stellar start. Rake and ride on 2-5% side slope means you'll just be on duff and organic soil which will compact and result in a tread that's below what should otherwise be the low side of your trail. Drainage will be poor and mudholes will be frequent. Ultimately you'll seek to close and reroute those parts, causing more work for yourself than if you'd done it right the first time.

    Try to put all your trail on 10% minimum side slope and get down to the mineral soil for your tread surface.
    Last edited by Fattirewilly; 01-01-2012 at 04:24 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Propossed Map

    12.9 miles of trails all loops


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