When we think about the sustainability of trails, we often talk about how they have a low impact on the environment, or how they are environmentally friendly. Sometimes we overlook the fact that a sustainable trail also considers how people use the trail in order to manage risk and ensure they have a good time.

Such was the case for our visit in Wakefield, QC. With a particularly challenging sideslope – often reaching 50% – gaining elevation was quite hard on both users and the environment.

The solution we found was to reroute a section of hiking trail that travelled quite steeply up the hill on a slippery clay surface and align it along the contour of the hillside. Much narrower than the original tread, the new section was not only lower impact, but also much easier and safer for users of all types and abilities to enjoy. This is particularly important considering the trail was so close to the trail head.

Luckily, we had the resources of local stone stair builder and our host Ken Bouchard to help us build a short staircase switchback turn on the trail. A tight turn was crucial for our project and would have been quite unsustainable (for both users and the environment) without using stone.

Big thanks to everyone who turned out for a successful visit – with a number of individuals from different communities and backgrounds we had more than enough hands to carve some trail into the hillside and reclaim the old section!