How Much Does It Cost To Build A Hiking Trail? (Explained)

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Hiking Trail

You can tell that hiking offers many benefits because of the increasing number of people engaging in it.

This form of exercise increases physical fitness and improves mental health. Hiking is much better and more enjoyable when the hiker uses a good trail.

However, standard hiking trails don’t just exist. They require labor, time, and, most significantly, a building fund. So, how much does it cost to build these routes?

There is no fixed cost for building hiking trails because many variables are involved. A simple and cheap trail may cost you nothing other than the price of the equipment you need. However, standard trails will cost $30,000 per mile or more to install.

In this article, you’ll learn the basics of installing a hiking trail, including the estimated price of building these routes.

How Are Hiking Trails Made?

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Hiking Trail

Making a hiking trail requires a lot of planning and work. The actual work involved in making a trail may differ according to location. However, the fundamental procedures remain the same.

The following are the basic steps involved in making hiking trails:

#1. Site Survey/Assessment

After deciding to build a hiking trail, the following line of action is an assessment of its site. First, the builders survey the land to find a natural route for the trail.

In this step, the trail builders also look for places along the route through which the trail must not pass through. These areas include fragile wildlife habitats.

Site survey also includes a proper study of the area’s topography to chart the trail in areas of little resistance. The trail’s path can also run through features capable of exciting hikes.

Trail builders carry out site assessments by hiking the area through which the trail will pass. Aerial photographs and GIS maps assist them in assessing areas they cannot reach on foot.

#2. Collection of Equipment

After surveying or assessing the site, the builders collect the equipment for the procedure. The tools required for this work depend on the type of trail and its site.

Simple tools like loppers, shovels, saws, and pulaski are helpful for all trail and terrain types.

However, some trails will require powerful equipment like chainsaws and bulldozers. Check here for common tools for making a trail and their uses.

#3. Building the Trail

This step is the actual work of making the trail. The workers use the equipment to clear trees and other vegetation off the trail’s path.

Where there is uneven ground on the trail, the builders correct it by side-cutting. Also, trails require some sloping to allow water to drain off them and avoid erosion.

The final work in making a trail is covering it with surface material. Depending on the area, the trail can be bare or have a surface of crushed stone, pavement, concrete, or asphalt.

How Much Does It Cost per Mile To Make a Hiking Trail?

Making a hiking trail can cost $30,000 or more per mile. However, the price of a hiking trail is not definite, as many variables influence it.

The cost of building a hiking trail largely depends on the intended trail type. A simple bare trail will cost less than sophisticated ones.

Even the costs of standard trails vary depending on factors like surface material. For example, trails with boardwalks will cost more than those with crushed stone surfaces.

The location and width of trails affect their costs. All other factors being equal, more expansive trails will cost more than narrow ones.

Some hiking trails pass over topographical features like streams. These trails will require extra features like bridges which will add to the cost of building them.

Furthermore, equipment cost contributes to the overall cost of making hiking trails. Due to this factor, trails that require heavy machinery are more expensive to build than simple trails.

Finally, hiking trail costs also depend on labor. A trail that requires more hands to build will cost more than one with less need for a workforce.

All these factors collectively determine the cost of making a hiking trail over a mile distance. Preliminary planning and survey will aid trail builders in estimating this price.

What Is the Best Surface for a Hiking Trail?

When selecting top covers for hiking trails, no one surface is best for every trail. Instead, the ideal surface for a hiking trail is the one that satisfies the requirement of such a trail.

There are factors that trail builders weigh before selecting the surface they deem fit for a particular trail. 

These factors include the following:

#1. User Satisfaction 

Hiking trails are for hikers. Therefore, the surfaces of these paths should be acceptable to these users. The condition of the hikers is paramount when choosing trail surfaces.  

For instance, trails in areas with a substantial number of disabled hikers can use asphalt or concrete surfaces.

#2. Cost and Availability of Materials

Some trail surface materials are pretty expensive. Others are considerably cheap. The costs of these materials determine the surfaces of trails in some places.

Even when the materials are cheap, they may not be available in the area. Then, they’ll require transportation which will add to the cost of making the trail.

#3. Durability 

The conditions of trails differ from place to place. Hence, it is necessary to use a trail surface that will last in the obtainable situation in a given place.

For example, wood chips would be unsuitable for muddy trails as they decompose quickly. A hard surface like concrete or asphalt will be better in such conditions.

In light of the factors above, the table below contains some common hard and soft hiking trail surfaces:

Hard SurfacesSoft Surfaces
AsphaltNatural earth
Gravel/crushed stoneGrass

Gravel or crushed stone surfaces are the most common trail surface types. These top covers are popular because of their easy and affordable installation.

Crushed stones can come from different types of rocks and have a variety of sizes. However, small stone sizes are more appropriate to accommodate different users.

There are more advantages to using crushed stones for hiking trail surfaces. The table below contains these merits as well as some cons of using it:

Almost all trail users can access themThey are prone to dipping and spreading
They are cost effectiveThey require a lot of maintenance
They drain better than most surfaces because of their permeabilityLarge stones can be problematic for wheelchairs

In some situations, another surface type will be preferable to crushed stones. Check here to see the various hiking trail surfaces and their applications.

How Wide Should a Hiking Trail Be?

The minimum recommended width for hiking trails is eight feet. Some trails are as wide as 10ft (3m) or more.

Again, the width of hiking trails depends on the users’ preferences. Some hikers like walking side by side and prefer a wide trail. Others want it narrow to walk in a single file.

However, trail widths far from the standard dimension can pose some problems. More expansive trails are advantageous because they can accommodate many users at once.

However, these trails take time and resources to make and stand more expensive. On the other hand, narrow trails take fewer hikers but cost less to build.

Also, it is easier to situate narrow trails than wide ones because they take up less area. They are also easier to maintain. 

Is It Worth Building a Hiking trail?

Although building a hiking trail may be expensive, it is worth it. Trails offer a lot of benefits to the hiker.

Hiking strengthens our bodies and minds. However, this activity will be strenuous without a clear-cut path. Trails solve this problem and make hiking more enjoyable.

Also, hiking trails help people connect to nature. Some of these paths run through natural habitats, and hikers can enjoy nature by using them.

Furthermore, trails provide alternative transportation routes. Pedestrians are safer on trails than they are on the highways.

There are minimal chances of getting lost on trails during hiking expeditions. It is also easier to locate hikers who need help when they are on a trail.

Beautiful trails also support businesses and communities through eco-tourism. These trails attract people, thereby boosting the growth of the area.

You can also connect your community to others using trails. By doing so, you build relationships and promote unity.

You stand to gain a lot from hiking trails. Therefore, if you feel like building one, don’t hold back.

Josh Matthews

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