Planning, Organizing, and Managing a Successful Trail Day Event

In 2004, the owners of Muir Valley, along with a handful of dedicated volunteers, conceived of and conducted the first Trail Day event at a climbing venue in the Red River Gorge. This was followed by the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition's first trail day in 2005. Since then, many successful trail days have been conducted annually by both organizations. 

The primary purpose of these events has always been to build new trails, and maintain existing ones from parking areas to the various climbing walls, which are usually located anywhere from a couple minutes to close to an hour away. Other purposes include: controlling invasive species of plants, such as amur honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and Japanese stilt grass; building and maintaining infrastructure, such as restrooms, stairs, bridges, retaining walls and climbing hardware; and erosion control.


 

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One of the biggest challenges to organizations that conduct trail days is to build on their successes and learn from their failures. This can only be done if these events are well planned and documented and, immediately afterward, evaluated critically in debrief meetings. Done properly, the take-aways from these debriefings can be used to improve on future trail day events.

Unfortunately, the nature of climbing organizations is that the key players, for the most part, change out over the years, and the tried-and-true plans for running a trail day fall through the cracks. New players, eager to prove their worth and unaware of what transpired in previous events—with the best of intentions—re-invent the wheel with their "new" ideas, too often repeating mistakes made in the past.


By conducting ten years of trail days at Muir Valley, we learned a lot—much of it by doing it wrong! But, through trial and error and interactions with other trail builders around the country, we believe we have compiled a pretty decent trail day manual. Of course, it has been compiled for the terrain and infrastructure specific to Muir Valley,  and much of it is not applicable to other venues.

So, we are offering (at no charge, of course) this 38-page manual here as a downloadable pdf file. If you can use any of it, great! And, any and all suggestions or critique you may have, please feel free to let me know by sending a message through the "Contact" page on this website.   —  Rick Weber