Trail Types Description

Example of what is called a class 1 trail.
There are a variety of trail surface types for a variety of uses. These are some examples for the local area.

There are a variety of trail surface types for a variety of uses. These are some examples for the local area.

For the benefit of those who are not yet aware, I thought having a brief description of the various trail types in our local area would be very helpful. I’m a firm believer that having a common understanding never hurts, and often helps, decision-making. You’ll find that a fair bit of what I write about at is aimed at spreading knowledge and building that “common understanding”. So let’s get on with it. Click the picture to see a larger version of it.

Class 1 – paved

The picture shows a spot on The El Dorado Trail. The main thing to note is the wide paved and graded smooth surface. This particular section is interesting because it has a gravel shoulder on one side and a dirt singletrack on the other. A wide variety of users will find this enjoyable. That’s good. On the down-side, this is the most expensive trail to build and maintain. Maybe a better name is “1st class paths”.

Class 2 – paved

You’ll recognize this as the “bike lane”. There is some variation in their design, but basically they are the shoulder of the road. Some are wide and feel reasonably safe to be in. Others are narrow enough to be insulting when labeled as “bike lane”; these are nothing more than the gutter edge of the road.

Fire road – gravel

Gravel covered fire roads are usually well graded and engineered. People find them more pleasing in some ways as compared to the paved siblings because the experience is closer to nature. Hikers, walkers, and runners will enjoy these but bikers dislike or even hate this surface type. Gravel is not friendly to horses either. A fair bit of the Serrano trails are in this category.

Fire road – natural surface

The natural dirt surfaced fire road is very similar in many ways to its graveled twin. It appeals to the same users and offers a better user experience under most circumstances. During the winter, though, this surface might not have as many useable days as a graveled fire road. Some might find that trade-off acceptable.

Singletrack –

At 18″ to 24″ wide, the singletrack is what nature walkers, equestrian, trail runners, and mountain bikers crave. This is the closest to nature experience you can have on a trail unless you’re breaking new trail. The surface material is natural dirt, rock, and leaf litter.  Irregularities, undulations, rocks, and other “features” are welcomed qualities rather than something that must be smoothed out. The engineering has been minimal but hopefully thoughtful. The best ones are sustainable, requiring no or little upkeep. This type is what a volunteer workforce is best suited for building. The difficulty rating on these can range from beginner to expert (think “black diamond”, to use a skier reference). When I wrote earlier about trail building costs, these were the type of simple dirt trails that can be at the extreme low end of the trail cost spectrum.

Doubletrack –

The doubletrack or “wide track” is very similar to the singletrack except that it is wider. Width ranges from 3-6 feet. These tend to always be easy to walk, run, or ride. Being easy has its benefits but note that something is also given up.

Pump track –

Also called a jump park or skills park (my favorite term), this is analogous to the skate park in CSD but is specifically designed with bikes in mind. No two are alike. The good ones have a variety of difficulty levels for beginners to advanced. There are 3 in the region that I know about in Auburn, Folsom, and Rancho Murieta.

So there you have it. We have all of these in our local area. In fact, those photos are from around here. (thanks JB)

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