Copyright © 2014 Trailwerx

Trailwerx Design Philosophy

 Extraordinary trails are largely the product of a trail builder's imagination and attention to detail. With an eye for function, flow and aesthetics, I  design and construct elegant, enduring trails that blend gracefully with landforms while accenting views and scenery. My signature undulating, sinuous designs shrug off water and provide a fun, flowing feel. I use proven sustainable design principles -- contour alignment, controlled grades, integrated drainage, full-bench construction and durable tread surfacing -- so my trails continue to do their job of delighting visitors while subtly interpreting, enhancing and protecting their sites' natural resources. Trailwerx trails have a kinship with terrain and an abiding respect for nature.

Imaginatively borrowing natural objects such as interesting rocks, shrubs, and trees, I create contemplative elements, welcoming thresholds, intriguing gateways and dramatic "anchors" that bond the trail harmoniously to the landscape. I avoid the use of straight lines, designing my trails with gentle curves and playfully undulating grades. My inspiration stems in part from a study of ancient Asian landscaping principles known as Shan-shui (literally: mountains and water). The Chinese and later, the Japanese, developed these principles based on man's interaction with nature and have incorporated them beautifully into their gardens and landscaping. When applied to trails, the end result often borders on magical: a beautifully sited project that will compel trail users to return again and again.


Once aesthetics are addressed, functionality becomes the primary design driver.

Effective trail design demands careful consideration to a host of factors:

  • Physical (what do the trail users need in terms of their expected recreational and fitness experience? How can we take best advantage of the site's landforms?)
  • Sustainability requirements (how can we satisfy the trail users' expectations while adhering to proven sustainability standards?) Environmental (how can we construct a trail so that it enhances and does not detract from the resource values of the site?)
  • Psychological (how can we subtly discourage undesired or prohibited uses, ameliorate user conflicts, and prevent short-cutting or other destructive activities? How can we provide challenge without making the trail unsafe to use?)

By taking into account all of these factors, I have had great success creating trails that are not only sustainable, but aesthetically pleasing, safe, and fun to use while avoiding many of the user conflicts common on other trails.

                                                               Design Services

I believe that a successful trail project has to begin with good planning and smart design. In a nutshell, the planning process identifies the need for the trail, identifies trail management objectives (design specifications and management intent for the trail), analyzes the terrain, climate, and resources of the site, locates property boundaries, determines feasibility, and estimates costs.

From this data, the land owner or manager will arrive at a preliminary plan that can be used to seek funding, acquire property, and obtain necessary agency permitting. While obtaining funding and acquiring needed permits are the responsibility of the client, I can certainly advise, having gone through the entire process numerous times myself. Once your project is funded and approved, my design services can save your organization big money by avoiding costly trail layout and construction mistakes and minimizing future trail maintenance costs.

My method includes research, extensive terrain analysis through preliminary mapping and site visits, analysis of site weather and microclimate patterns, a hydrologic assessment to determine the site's surface and subsurface drainage patterns, a soils analysis to determine sustainable design grades for the trail, and identification and location of all the site's "positive and negative control points" (areas suitable or unsuitable for trails based on terrain, hydrology, soils, wildlife values, vegetation, and archeology/historic resources, and physical constraints).

During this process, I also take note of areas with excellent scenery, locate optimal areas for turns and other structures, and start formulating a strategy to ensure that the trail will satisfy the users such that they stay on the trail and are not tempted to shortcut or create unplanned social trails. After my initial research and assessment, I identify a route corridor and provide a written trail prescription (construction specifications, design and maximum grades, turn radii, optimal grade reversal spacing, etc.) a map document, and a cost estimate to the client for approval. The next step is trail layout in which I install the construction markings (stakes and flagging) for the corridor clearing and final tread location. Where you go from here is up to you. I would be more than happy to provide a bid for the corridor clearing and trail construction, or possibly you are planning to build in-house using your own resources. 

I hope you will agree that employing my planning and design services will be a sound investment to ensure long-term trail functionality.

Please, feel free to contact me with any questions.

Phone: (907)-745-2453.

Elements of Shan-shui

  • A curving path guides you through your journey.
  • A threshold greets and welcomes you to:
  • The heart, which is the essence of the trail.