Quietly pedaling along a narrow trail, a mountain biker is treated to an amazing perspective on the natural world. On smooth sections of trail, her eyes might wander to the horizon, or the forest canopy flashing overhead. Her focus tightens when the trail turns rocky and challenging, then expands outwards again. Mountain biking engages the senses and creates a connection with the landscape - an intimate experience that IMBA and its affiliated clubs are committed to protecting by encouraging environmentally sound trailbuilding practices.
All trail users — hikers, bikers and equestrians — effect the trail surface and the surrounding environment. Current research suggests that the impacts of mountain biking are quite similar to those of hiking. If a trail is properly located and constructed, it can handle a variety of users with minimal impact to the natural world. For that reason, IMBA has developed extensive materials that promote sustainable trail construction and design.
Basic Principles of Habitat-Friendly Trails:
- Consult with fish and wildlife specialists early in the trail planning phase.
- Route trails to avoid riparian or wetland areas, particularly in environments where they are uncommon.
- For existing trails, consider discouraging or restricting access during sensitive times (e.g., mating or birthing seasons) to protect wildlife from undue stress.
- Encourage Leave No Trace practices and teach appropriate behaviors in areas where wildlife are found.
IMBA's books offer our most comprehensive treatments for this and many other important topics. Consider picking up copies of Trail Solutions: IMBA's Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack and Managing Mountain Biking: IMBA's Guide to Providing Sweet Riding at IMBA's online store.