20 November . 2019
The Art of Trail Building
In Estrella, we have fully embraced the trail life and are proud of the more than 50 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails that wind through our master-planned community in Goodyear, AZ. Many people don’t realize the majority of these trails were planned and built by members of the Estrella Trails Committee and the West Valley Trail Alliance. Many of our very own residents make up a large portion of those who donate hundreds of hours — and maybe some blood, sweat, and tears — to create and maintain the Estrella trail system.
What started out as a small group of Estrella residents on the hunt for quality trails for mountain biking and hiking has grown into an award-winning trail advocacy organization. The West Valley Trail Alliance partners with public and private land managers (like Newland) to create a better trail experience not only in Estrella, but throughout the West Valley.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to build and maintain such an expansive trail system? Estrella Trails Committee Chair Kim Doud shared a few insights into the design and development of new trails, like those recently opened in Lucero.
1) Though we live in a desert, most trail damage is caused by water runoff. Several of the building and design - practices we follow help sustain the integrity of the trails:
• Build trails with a slight slope down the hill’s fall-line (never completely flat) so that water can run across the trail. If it’s completely flat, water will run down the trail, wash out the path, and pool in low spots, creating rutted areas.
• The slope of the trail should never be more than half the slope of the hill on which it’s built. A trail built at a greater slope will cause rainwater to run down the trail instead of down the hill.
• Always build berms on the upper section of a switchback to avoid water pooling and catching “baby-head” rocks (rocks big enough to cause a biker or hiker to slip) at the bottom of the turn.
2) Usability is a key component we consider when planning a trail. Once that’s figured out, we can offer bikers and hikers of all levels a fun, and sometimes challenging, outing.
• We keep uphill trails at a six percent grade or less and use inclinometers to keep accurate measurements as we build the trails. Occasional short “ups” of 10-12 percent are okay if used infrequently.
• Switchbacks should be built with WIDE Turns. We aim to build them at a minimum of a 10 to 20-foot radius.
• The trail should cross a creek bed at an angle, rather than straight down a creek bank and straight up the other side. This allows riders/hikers to evaluate the crossing, maintain their momentum, and avoid ruts.
3) At our core, we are people who love the outdoors and our work is done with the utmost respect for natural surroundings.
• We follow the Frank Lloyd Wright “Face Rule.” Imagine that all hills have a face on them, and never develop trails above the eyebrows of the hill. Ridgeline trails leave visible scars in the landscape and they can erode badly over time.
• While the team works to map out a trail, it’s never solidified until we are out there building. The natural landscape determines the final outcome.
Trails are an integral part of Estrella, providing healthy living and recreational opportunities for everyone. We want to thank the Estrella Trails Committee and the fine people at the West Valley Trail Alliance for the great work they do in our community. See the fruits of their labors for yourself — grab a handy trail guide and hit the dirt.
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