When it comes to building trails around the Lower Columbia Valley, we're intentional about our route choice. Many factors come into play when we determine where a trail is built into the earth. Yes, we factor in fun and playfulness, but we also look at the impact the trail has on the ecology. Our top priority for any trail build: leave the least impact as possible.
Look closely at the photos above and notice how there's no defined trail route. That means it's free reign to pick you route....right??
Actually, no. Take a peek at the photos below. Green lines = good. ✅ Red lines = bad. ❌ The red arrows indicate alternate lines that were never constructed by KCTS. These alt lines are a result of trail braiding. Also known as dollar-signing or short-cutting. And it's time to chat about why these are bad.
Trail braiding happens for a few reasons, but typically it's caused by someone who's wanting to bypass a feature, section or mud puddle to avoid a technical spot, wet shoes or losing their Strava ranking.
Unfortunately, one person's "new" tracks encourage another's, and within a very short amount of time, significant harm has already been done. Trail erosion, trail widening, destruction of water drainages or even irreversible damage to living species... It's some of the worst stuff that can be done to a trail, and it's a trail builder's nightmare.
Sadly, trail braiding doesn't just affect the earth. It also means KCTS needs to invest more resources into repairing these trails. That means less new trail builds, permanently closed trails, revoked land agreements, or ultimately a crappy experience for trail users. And in no way do we want any of that to happen.
But this isn't all doom and gloom. The problem is avoidable if we all pitch in and commit to a few simple guidelines.
Encountering a puddle?
Walk or ride right through it! Don't want to get your shoes muddy? Head back to the trailhead and try an alternate trail. (Or better yet, give us a hand and help us drain the puddle, as explained in our last post.)
Having a hard time navigating a trail feature?
Dismount from your bike and walk down the feature (not around it). Or invite a friend to session the feature until you nail it with confidence. (There are some awesome local bike groups to level-up your skills.)
Attempting the fastest timed ascent/descent?
Heroes don't win by taking shortcuts. We hear that our multi-use trails make for great cross-training to help you increase your speed and fitness.
What other tips do you have to prevent trail braiding? Leave your ideas in the comments below!