I have noticed a trend recently around many trail centers that I frequently ride. There seem to be more and more one way trails that keep popping up. It is not too uncommon to find a downhill trail that is loaded with drops and jumps that does not allow climbing, however, I have been noticing more uphill only trails as well as trails that one might not really see as “downhill” trails that only allow a rider to descend. This dictation of trail orientation seems to be coming more and more common. Even on trails that I rode just last summer there seems to now be a dedicated up and down that was not there previously. This new style of trail building and trail branding certainly got me to wondering if this was going to be the new way to design trail networks.
At first thought the idea of regulated bike traffic sounds glorious. Almost like a carefully orchestrated autobahn of dirt perfection. I quickly realized a drawback in fading sunlight, and on unfamiliar trails, that if I did not make it to the next trail intersection quickly, I was surely going to encounter some frustrated locals if I had to backtrack. This seemed like a bit of a problem if one was riding a trail that may be unfamiliar, and it got me thinking that there are several pro and cons to this new dedicated style of trail building.
Trail safety is one of the first things that comes to mind as a huge positive to directional trail use. Blind corners can often spell disaster for two encroaching cyclists. The one way traffic trail design helps to mitigate some of these head on encounters by at least taking some of the higher speed traffic and pointing it all the same direction. Hikers, dog walkers, and horse back riders will also appreciate the extra awareness that there are downhill riders in the area and that the rider does have the right of way on some trails.
Creating new trails with a designated direction can allow for better trail design. A dedicated up trail allows for some serious vertical to be covered with minimum effort. Rather than long slogs straight up the side of a mountain; a trail cut into the hillside could allow for long traverses which in turn helps a rider to catch his or her breath. One such trail above Park City Mountain Resort is called Armstrong. This trail gives a nice relaxing route up to Park City’s Mid Mountain Trail at 8,000 vertical feet. The well designed trail covers ground quickly and effortless allowing riders to access a slew of gravity fed wonder trails.
The downhill trails are the other side of the coin. Not all downwards directional trails have to be rock infested flow trails that only the biggest baddest pros can ride. So many of the one way downhill trails that I have seen popping up in various trail centers are not so much challenging as much as pure fun.
The wear and tear that a directional trail can take is pretty significant. Much like a bit of running water can slowly form a canyon is the grandest of ways, tires can easily cause serious erosion to trails especially when all traffic is going the same way. Th
is directional pattern can create some damage to trails that is not easily reversed unless the trails are maintained by a very dedicated trail crew. Out side of the usual brake bumps and blown out corners I recently noticed a great deal of riders cutting the trail. Rather than follow the predetermined route some riders have determined that the faster way down is to cut corners , without proper trail respect these great trails will not allow mountain bikers for long.
In short, if you like it, or are opposed to it, it seems that directional trails are popping up in trail centers everywhere we ride. When done correctly they can add a lot to the riding experience. In general I think I am a fan, and I like the way progressive trail building for everyone is being done.