Types of Trails
Trails come in all shapes, distances, and purposes. Have you ever wondered why some trails are traveled in one direction or by one mode of transportation? That’s because trails are classified for specific uses or directions. Let’s dig in:
- Single Use Trails: the mode of transportation is exclusive, for example hikers only
- Shared or Multi-Use Trails: multiple modes of transportation are welcome to the trail
- Directional Trails: users can travel in one direction only, uphill or downhill, not both
- Bi or Multi-Directional Trails: users can travel in any direction, both uphill and downhill
Typically, we see a combination of classifications for trails. For example some mountain bike trails are single use, downhill directional – meaning that the trail is meant only for bikes traveling downhill, while some trails can be shared use, multi directional so that anyone can use the trail no matter mode of transportation or direction. It is imperative to note what classification the trail you are on is for the safety of others and yourself.
Why are directional trails important?
Directional trails are constructed with the purpose of traveling in one direction to minimize conflict or congestion. The most frequently seen example of directional trails can be found in mountain bike trails, which are frequently designed for downhill travel only to reduce the number of collisions between other bikers or hikers. Whether you’re biking, hiking or horseback riding, directional trails make traveling fun, by allowing you to travel with fewer interruptions of other users, and most importantly, keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Examples of directional trails in Colorado
Colorado is home to a wide variety of outdoor adventuring throughout the state. Below are a few Colorado Springs trails to consider visiting:
Directional Mountain Bike Trails
- Almond Butter: This trail opened in 2019 in Ute Valley Park, Colorado Springs. Spanning only 0.4 miles, Almond Butter is a downhill only, black diamond, single-track trail. It’s a fast trail that you’ll likely want to try over and over.
- Red Rover: A quick uphill only trail in Ute Valley Park, spanning a mere 0.2 miles. With an average grade of 6%, Red Rover is a great mountain bike only trail for intermediate riders.
Shared Use – Bike Optimized Trails
- Sunnyside: Another Ute Valley Park trail that is shared use but optimized specifically for bikes, with optional lines through rocks. Sunnyside is great for intermediate riders with its average grade of 5%.
Directional Hiking Trails
- The Manitou Incline: A popular fitness trail in Manitou Springs, located outside of Colorado Springs. The Incline is a steep uphill, hiking only trail with an average grade of 36% and a maximum grade of 54%. Considered to be a black diamond in difficulty but a must visit for its phenomenal views.
These Colorado Springs trails are great examples of the variety of outdoor adventures available. If you have biked or hiked on them, you have probably experienced some of the great benefits that come with directional or single use trails.
Even though all trails can be wonderful, in certain situations some trails yield more benefits than others. Here are some positive impacts of directional trails:
- Reduced trail widening – while it’s important to yield to traffic coming in the opposite direction, the simple action of stepping to the side can negatively impact the structure of the trail, resulting in trail widening. Directional trails reduce the number of times yielding is needed – considering there would be no traffic coming from the opposite direction. Keep singletracks, single!
- Enhanced safety, less conflict – with everyone traveling in one direction there tend to be fewer head-on collisions that result in serious injuries. Still, be mindful of slower traffic around the bends – sometimes it’s hard to hear the traffic from behind.
- Fewer interruptions – with traveling in the same direction, there are fewer situations in which to yield. With a reduced number of head-on interactions, momentum through the trail can be continuous. Ideally, while using a directional trail, you won’t see as many other trail users providing a more personal experience. The speed differential is lower, resulting in a reduced number of interruptions.
Should All Trails Be Directional?
“Absolutely not.” says Tony Boone, Timberline TrailCraft’s Chief Operations Officer, “While it is easier to integrate newer trails into an existing system, it’s hard to generalize all trails.” We do not want to tell you what to do or how to do it – we care about having fun and being safe on trails. Some instances have a need for directional trails, others are best traveled in any direction to get a real view of what mother nature has to offer.
From experience, it’s understandable that mountain bikers prefer directional trails as they feel a lot safer with everyone biking in the same direction. Hikers, on the other hand, have a multitude of reasons for hiking, such as exercising, socializing, birdwatching or connecting with nature so direction may not be as important.
You’re The Expert
The next time you’re planning a hike or mountain bike trip, find out if your trail is directional or bi-directional, and single or multi use. It will help you experience the trail in full and ultimately have a great appreciation for the trail itself.