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  1. #1
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    Won the lottery, want to build a trail

    Okay, so I didn't really win the lottery, but I have purchased a home on about 40 acres of mostly wooded land. The average grade is 6% and the property straddles a small (100 feet high) mountain. The property is located in the southeast USA. The land is heavily wooded, but I have not seen much surface rock/boulders. There is about 8 acres of cleared, mostly flat, land that I will work with the DNR to restore to its natural state - basically they will plant native hardwoods on the acreage if I get accepted for their grant.

    Although I live in an area where I have hundreds of miles of good single track available to me within an hour's drive, I want to build a trail on the property for personal use. I can't ride the local trails as much as I would like because of my work schedule, and sometimes it is weeks between rides as I need to stay within a certain distance of my job. However, a personal trail would allow me to get out much more frequently.

    The most frequent riding I have done over the past 8 years was when I lived in...wait for it....Lubbock, TX. For those not in the know, Lubbock is not a mountain biking mecca, but the local riders had built a trail system close to my work. Using the 20 feet of gradient, they had constructed 10+ miles of single track that whipped and winded through very limited acreage. Because it was so close to my work, I could ride one of the loops all the time while on call. No, it was not an awesome experience, but at least I could turn the cranks on a daily basis (until the summer at least). After riding this trail, I realized how much trail can be put on a small piece of land using limited elevation. I would like to get about 3-4 miles of trail on my property. I do not mind if at times I am riding 10 feet away from another part of the trail.

    I have ZERO experience building trails, but did blaze trails for enduro motorcycle racing that we would then also use for mountain biking. These trails were not ecologically sound and sustainable, and I do not want to repeat that process.

    To gain experience, I will be assisting the local club in building an extensive trail system near my home. I have also purchased the IMBA trail building bible. I am striving for sustainable single track for biking, walking, and trail running.

    As I have been researching this for quite a while, I think I have the following options and wanted some opinions.

    1. Completely hand built - I will probably be doing 90% of the work solo. I would plan the trail using topos, GPS, etc., mark it, then get to work using hoes, shovels, picks, etc. I could clear the underbrush with a walk-behind brush mower (DR Brush Mower), and use a chain saw if I needed to cut the occasional sapling or felled tree, but otherwise it would be hand tools. I suspect I won't be able to do much once the leaves are on the trees, so this option would probably take me at least 2-3 years to complete.

    2. Hire a professional trail builder. There is one close to where I live (PTBA). Would this be more cost-effective in the long run? I know there are probably a lot of variables that go into the cost of building trail, but if anyone could give me a general idea of price/mile to have it professionally bulit, I would love that information.

    3. Purchase a mini excavator, learn how to use it, and do the work myself. Although I would use it mostly for the trail, there are other landscaping projects on the property where it could be used as well. I have considered renting, but with my work schedule, buying would be more cost effective in the long run. I am at a point in my career where purchasing a Kubota U17, for example, is an option - as opposed to when I was in my 20s and I had to LayAway my first real mountain bike because I could not afford the $800 price tag. I must admit, the idea of learning how to use the min ex intrigues me and the "hey I built that" feeling after completing something is priceless. However, the very real risk of getting injured makes me a bit worried.

    4. Purchase a mini skid steer and attach a 6-way blade. Learn how to use it , and do the work myself. Again, I would probably be using it for other projects on a limited basis.

    I know that is a lot for a first-time poster, but I have been stalking this forum for months, have read all I can about trail-building, and have watched every you-tube video about the subject, ad nauseum.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Do some trail work days with that local club. Start there. They wold be of great assistance to help with layout of the trails. Any trails that abut your property? Like making a bigger network? Mostly forested? Lumber value? Maybe a forester/ logger goes in to do select tree removal in exchange for some rough clearing? Any vernal pools or streams in the area to make sure the trail goes around them? Just start with lots of walks with some flagging ribbon for some rough idea of the paths. Here in the North East we get lots of spring runoff in some areas and need to avoid those for trail placement.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    Do some trail work days with that local club. Start there. They wold be of great assistance to help with layout of the trails. Any trails that abut your property? Like making a bigger network? Mostly forested? Lumber value? Maybe a forester/ logger goes in to do select tree removal in exchange for some rough clearing? Any vernal pools or streams in the area to make sure the trail goes around them? Just start with lots of walks with some flagging ribbon for some rough idea of the paths. Here in the North East we get lots of spring runoff in some areas and need to avoid those for trail placement.
    There is value in the lumber, but I want to keep any more roads off the property. It is also part of a CUVA agreement - basically a covenant to keep the land a certain way in order to reduce property taxes. There is a small creek on the property, and a pond, but otherwise I have not encountered any water sources. My home is on the property as well. Please ignore the names on the images - they are not the property owners.

    I have attempted to attach 2 images, one sat image, and the other a topo. The topo lines are 10 feet. So although the grade is 6% from one end of the property to the other, you can see there are areas of much higher gradient. Won the lottery, want to build a trail-img_3589.pngWon the lottery, want to build a trail-img_3590.png

  4. #4
    WillWorkForTrail
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    Just know that hiring a professional may cost more than you expect. That said the right professional can do wonders.

  5. #5
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    Iíve hand built 7 miles of single track on a slightly bigger parcel over the last 3 years. Itís been a very rewarding experience. Iíve had 3 or 4 trail days with my riding buddies which really exponentially increases the amount of trail you can build. Terrain here is hilly, soil is rocky in places, vegetation is mostly pine trees and sage brush. Iíve been able to do most of the build before and after work and on weekends. After clearing and flagging the tread I would ride out to the end of my work on my moto which I have since traded for a Turbo Levo for riding in the tread. Itís quiet, doesnít annoy the neighbors and I still get some work out in. Bought a U17 last fall but have yet to use it for trail building. Iím concerned that the hand work needed to get rid of the uglies after the machine work will be equal to or greater than the original hand build.
    Happy trail building and
    May the force be with you




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    I'd just do a rake and ride until I lived on the property through the 4 seasons. Get to know it through the various seasons, get to know how it responds to snow, water, lack of. The very last thing I would do is use any kind of heavy equipment until I was intimately familiar with the property. My two cents
    I ncredibly
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  7. #7
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    I build trails solo on heavily wooded east coast terrain. My favorite trail building tool is a backpack leaf blower. That handheld pruners and a good folding saw are my most used tools. The more trails you build the smaller the property is going to feel. US TOPO pro is the only app I've ever bought for my phone and it is worth it. You can try out the free version but you can only save a few "tracks" at a time without buying it.

  8. #8
    Hitching a ride
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    Looking at your topo map, you're going to end up doing about six dozen switchbacks.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by karthur View Post
    My favorite trail building tool is a backpack leaf blower. That handheld pruners and a good folding saw are my most used tools.
    Agreed on those tools, have helped build a few Midwest trails and those would be my go to if I had to pack something out.

    Are you considering allowing others on your land? That may change your layout depending how close you want strangers to your house.

    Based on your description of your land I would flag out some trail as others have said and just rough cut the brush enough to walk or maybe ride it. It should go quick, is easily repairable if you change your mind, and can be "upgraded" later with equipment if you like it.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by railntrail View Post
    Iíve hand built 7 miles of single track on a slightly bigger parcel over the last 3 years. Itís been a very rewarding experience. Iíve had 3 or 4 trail days with my riding buddies which really exponentially increases the amount of trail you can build. Terrain here is hilly, soil is rocky in places, vegetation is mostly pine trees and sage brush. Iíve been able to do most of the build before and after work and on weekends. After clearing and flagging the tread I would ride out to the end of my work on my moto which I have since traded for a Turbo Levo for riding in the tread. Itís quiet, doesnít annoy the neighbors and I still get some work out in. Bought a U17 last fall but have yet to use it for trail building. Iím concerned that the hand work needed to get rid of the uglies after the machine work will be equal to or greater than the original hand build.
    Happy trail building and
    May the force be with you




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Those trees look like Ponderosa Pines? I really like the look of your trail and your story of building seven miles over the course of 3 years sounds like a reasonable time span for me as well, but it may take longer as the vegetation is much more invasive here vs. in the West. Over time, while working with the local club, I hope I can make some trail buddies that may be willing to help out in exchange for access to the trail.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by life behind bars View Post
    I'd just do a rake and ride until I lived on the property through the 4 seasons. Get to know it through the various seasons, get to know how it responds to snow, water, lack of. The very last thing I would do is use any kind of heavy equipment until I was intimately familiar with the property. My two cents
    This is sound advice. Another serious concern I have is that I may get injured permanently while using heavy equipment. Rake and Ride will probably be a bit more involved as the underbrush in this area can be strangling, especially if I get into patches of thorned vines (briar???) that is common here. Regardless, becoming more familiar with the property and showing some patience and restraint before beginning the trail is good advice.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by karthur View Post
    I build trails solo on heavily wooded east coast terrain. My favorite trail building tool is a backpack leaf blower. That handheld pruners and a good folding saw are my most used tools. The more trails you build the smaller the property is going to feel. US TOPO pro is the only app I've ever bought for my phone and it is worth it. You can try out the free version but you can only save a few "tracks" at a time without buying it.
    I will need a backpack blower for the property regardless of trail building. Some of the areas I need to mow are 0.6 miles from any electricity, so I am afraid I will be using a fair number of (loud and annoying) 2-cycle engines for yardwork. Fortunately, my nearest neighbor(s) are far enough away that hopefully I won't be disturbing them too much.

    I have a Garmin Montana with topos loaded. I will probably stick to that rather than buying another app. I am already subscribed to Land Glide, which will help me stay within property boundaries. Once I establish and mark the boundaries, I will unsubscribe from the app as it is more expensive than my immediate needs.

    Another tool I have considered is a Stihl FS 131 with a blade for brushcutting, rather than a walk-behind brush cutter. This may have the benefit of allowing me to clear brush on slopes that would be difficult with even a self-propelled walk behind. Anyone have any experience with the two options and can give some practical experience?

    Also, anyone have any experience with the Stihl Kombisytem? It looks like too little power for real leaf blowing or brush cutting. I will be need the leaf blower for cleaning leaves in the fall and I think the backpack is the better option, but other's experience would be helpful.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by phalkon30 View Post
    Are you considering allowing others on your land? That may change your layout depending how close you want strangers to your house.
    I plan to allow local mtb club members to use the trail - especially if they will help create/maintain the trail.

  14. #14
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    When using the blower, I fill up a gallon windshield washer jug with mix fuel and clip that onto the chest strap that connects the backpack straps. I get about .6 of a mile per tank(then refill with jugg) in leafy areas and much less in pine straw areas.(I try to avoid when possible) Another benefit of blowing the trails is much less tick action when walking them in summer.

    I prefer to build in winter time when it is the wettest around here. The loop closest to the house I've made wide enough to run the zero turn down, but it is a lot more work to make them that wide.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Switchblade2 View Post
    Hick can you show some pictures of the actual property where you would route the trail. Since the terrain is fairly flat is the major obstacle heavy brush? Are there any natural features that would be cool to route the trail around or over. Take a picture of those for our review. Can you give us some close up Google Earth pictures?

    Attached is a picture of John's Trail in Park City, Utah. At some points the trail is about 20' from other trail sections.
    As far as "on the ground photos, no. I don't close on the property until the end of the month, but will supply photos after that. I attempted to upload some sat images but it is not working for me right now.

    The lack of any cool boulders or water features is both a blessing and a curse. We looked at a larger piece of property that had 2 creeks, some waterfalls, and an awesome boulder field. However, the water and rock features made it (financially) impossible to build a home, and trail building would have been much more complicated as the grades were much steeper and the area was notorious for rock below the surface. Also, the locals had been using part of the property as a personal dump site for decades and the cleanup would have required heavy equipment and tens of thousands of dollars.

  16. #16
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    Hiring a pro builder doesn't mean he have to do all the job. I'm actually hired pretty often to do design only, or training. You might consider consider getting started by getting someone do a good assessment, rough flag some trail, maybe do the heavy lift (machine work) while you take care of finishing, wood features, logging/brushing, etc. Also, I would not buy a mini-x for 40 acres of land. Maybe rent?

    That being said, we have many members in the PTBA that specialize in private property development and I'm sure would be able to offer you turn-key package for much lower than you expect.

    Jerome
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    I build trails for moose & beaver
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by HypNoTic View Post
    Hiring a pro builder doesn't mean he have to do all the job. I'm actually hired pretty often to do design only, or training. You might consider consider getting started by getting someone do a good assessment, rough flag some trail, maybe do the heavy lift (machine work) while you take care of finishing, wood features, logging/brushing, etc. Also, I would not buy a mini-x for 40 acres of land. Maybe rent?

    That being said, we have many members in the PTBA that specialize in private property development and I'm sure would be able to offer you turn-key package for much lower than you expect.

    Jerome
    Sentiers Borťals
    I spoke to a local PTBA builder yesterday. As Cotharys opined, the cost for a finished trail is more than I anticipated.

    The local MTB club is beginning a trail system build this fall. The builder I spoke to yesterday has bid for it. I won't begin my trail system until I have spent as much time as possible helping to build this new public trail system.

    We closed on the property yesterday!

    Sometime soon I will post some photos of the area.

  18. #18
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    I live in Georgia and my buddy and I have built and maintained about 5 miles of trail on private land. We started with rakes and shovels. My buddy has a good sense for flow and how large to make turns (larger than you think) to lay out trails.

    Look for existing foot trails, road beds or game trails and build from there. Most land around here has been logged several times in the last 100 years so there may be old logging roads or hunt camp roads on the property. We started with a 1 mile lollipop trail based mainly off of a deer trail next to a creek and have been adding loops off of the main trail for the last 7 years and have plans for more.

    Trail maintenance is a ongoing task. You will be amazed at the sheer number of trees that fall year round. We need to blow the trail about 4-5 times every fall and winter due to the lack of rider laps from just the 2 of us. It's a lot of work, but the satisfaction, convenience and fun is worth it.
    How can anyone who's been riding as long as I have, be so slow???

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock View Post
    You will be amazed at the sheer number of trees that fall year round.
    HaHa...I just finished cleaning up my driveway from the torrential storm this afternoon. Limbs, rocks, and about 1/2 ton of wet leaves that piled up like a beaver dam across the driveway. At his rate, all my trail building time will be devoted to keeping my driveway clear

  20. #20
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    Haha, yeah. The amount of crap that falls on a trail is silly. I have live oak leaves still laying on one section for four months. The real danger is those short sticks that get thrown into spokes. I walk it once a month with a rake and hand saw.

  21. #21
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    It has finally started. Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190207_182432-l.jpg

  22. #22
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    This has been my process:

    1. Walk the proposed route, flag where needed.
    2. Start with a backpack leaf blower and blow off all the leaves and duff (and ticks).
    3. Use the Brush Mower to clear all the vegetationhttps://www.drpower.com/power-equipm...ew-50st-sd.axd
    4. Break out the hoes, shovels and rakes, sweat a lot.
    5. Be mindful of water flow.
    6. Soil compaction. I put a tarp over the dirt I want to compact so the soil compactor does not get clogged up with mud.

    Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190207_182421-xl.jpg

    Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190208_171406-xl.jpg

    Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190208_171417-xl.jpg

    Soil compaction has been labor and time intensive. Anyone use one of those plate compactors? Is it worth it?

    I also opted to buy a tractor rather than a mini-ex. The tractor has a backhoe and is used extensively on the property for other projects. I built some berms with it this weekend and it works well.

  23. #23
    WillWorkForTrail
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    I've worked on projects where we used a plate compactor to pack individual jumps where a lot of dirt was moved to the jumps, on regular trail we don't use them that much because typically the mini ex leaves the surface compacted enough. In one instance we had a race on a trail less than a week after we were finishing it, so we plated the whole thing, something like .8 mile. Plates work best on trails when you can start them and run them for a ways up and down the trail rather than on short sections, and we like to use two people, an operator and someone pulling a strap attached to the front of the plate to keep it from vibrating down the outslope.

  24. #24
    K&K
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    ...we like to use two people, an operator and someone pulling a strap attached to the front of the plate to keep it from vibrating down the outslope.
    Great idea!

  25. #25
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    Now I am doing a mix of hand-built and tractor-assisted. If it is just cross-cutting a grade, the hand-cut works best.

    Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190214_131130-l.jpg

    Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190214_131122-l.jpg

    When is comes to the berms, I am using the backhoe:

    Won the lottery, want to build a trail-20190214_131107-l.jpg

    Still, the soil compaction seems to be the most labor intensive.

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