Interactive, on-trail exhibit opens at Bear Mountain park

Ever wonder how trails are built? Yes, built.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never stopped to consider that most trails aren’t simply created by people and animals walking across the same paths over and over. Modern recreational trails are actually designed, built and maintained as joint projects between park managers, trail professionals, and trail volunteers. Adding to their inconspicuousness, trail builders design many trails to blend into the landscape, creating the feeling that the paths have always been there.

The “hidden” craft of trail building received the spotlight when a new outdoor learning and activity area was unveiled on the Appalachian Trail at Bear Mountain State Park. “Trails for People,” a project of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and partners, is the first known interactive, on-trail exhibit in the United States dedicated to the art and science of trail building.

Thirty-two educational signs and hands-on displays inform novice and expert trail users alike about the Appalachian Trail’s origins at Bear Mountain, how trails are built and how volunteers are the lifeblood of our trail systems. Trail Conference volunteers alongside professional trail builders have rerouted the first 850 feet of the Appalachian Trail’s ascent of Bear Mountain, now known as the Trails for People Demonstration Trail.

This trail segment replaces a steep asphalt driveway and provides a first-hand look at how sustainable hiking trails are constructed. Interpretive signs and activity stations invite visitors to experience trail features, such as bog bridges, turnpike, coping stones, crib walls and step construction.

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