Sustainable Trails Training

3rd Annual Sustainable Trails Training in Panthertown Valley

Friends of Panthertown is hosting a Sustainable Trail Design and Layout, Construction, and Maintenance training course instructed by Tim Johnson in Panthertown Valley near Cashiers, North Carolina from November 14-16, 2023.

The value of this course is $500 per person. Each student will pay $50 toward the cost of the training. The remainder of the course costs will be covered by Friends of Panthertown. Scholarships to cover 100% of the course (including the $50 registration fee) are available for those with a financial hardship. Contact us for details at

Applications are now being accepted. Everyone is welcome to apply. Underrepresented individuals 18-35 will be given priority consideration. Spaces are extremely limited.

We encourage anyone (18 or older) who is interested in this course to apply early for this rare training opportunity. No previous trail work experience is required. New folks, college students, well seasoned trail users, and professionals alike will all benefit from this course. You will gain and refine important stewardship skills, experience Panthertown Valley trails up close with a motivated group of volunteers and hard working individuals, and be part of the important conservation mission of Friends of Panthertown. Everyone is welcome.

Friends of Panthertown has a strong and abiding commitment to diversity and inclusion that is important to our mission. By welcoming individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds among our visitors, employed and volunteer workforce, board, and donors, we seek to further the U.S. Forest Service’s goal of creating a culture of inclusion which awakens and strengthens everyone’s connection with Panthertown and its unique natural resources.


Sustainable Trail Design and Layout, Construction, and Maintenance

Course Description – 
This three-day training course prepares individuals to plan, design, and layout, construct, and maintain sustainable natural surface trails for multiple uses. Coursework includes conceptual trail planning, field design and layout, and trail construction and maintenance. Upon completion, the student will be able to plan, layout, construct, and maintain natural surface trails with a variety of hand tools.

Course Length –
Lecture: # hours (Cashiers classroom)
Lab/Fieldwork: # hours (Panthertown Valley)

Certificates –
Upon successful completion of the course a certificate will be awarded by Friends of Panthertown for the number of hours of sustainable trails training.

Pre-Requisites –

Textbooks Recommended –
Trail Solutions: IMBA’s Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack

Course Learning Objectives –
At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to complete conceptual trail planning and design.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use of a clinometer to design, layout, and flag sustainable natural surface trails in the outdoor setting.
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify, use, and maintain hand tools used in trail construction and maintenance.
  • Demonstrate basic, intermediate, and advanced earthen trail construction and maintenance techniques using hand tools.
  • Recognize a variety of surface water control measures used on natural surface trails.
  • Recognize the difference between climbing turns, switchbacks, and insloped turns.
  • Identify common trail maintenance problems and their solutions.

Supplies and Other Requirements –
Participants should bring their own lunch, snacks, and plenty of drinking water. Students must dress appropriately for trail construction – gloves, safety glasses, long pants and closed-toe shoes (boots preferred). Trail-building tools will be provided by Friends of Panthertown.

Evaluation Methodology –
Students will be evaluated through class participation and practical applications.

Attendance –
Students are required to attend 100% of scheduled class in order to earn credit for the program. Enrolled students are expected to participate in class discussions, practical field exercises, and other learning opportunities.

Class Schedule –
November 14-16, 2023 (Times TBA)

Outline – 

HoursSectionTopic Definitions of sustainable trails
1.2 Trail experience
1.3 Rolling contour trail Conceptual trail planning
2.2 Maps
2.3 Control points Practical conceptual trail planning exercise (classroom) Trail impacts
4.2 Five essential elements of sustainable trails
4.3 Grade
4.4 Using a clinometer Practical clinometer exercise (field) Process of trail design and layout
6.2 Design considerations for specific trail users
6.3 Trail elements Basic trail construction techniques
7.2 Process of trail construction
7.3 General trailwork specifications and standards
7.4 Hand tools for trail construction and maintenance
7.5 Mechanized trail construction
7.6 Advanced trail construction techniques Trail assessment
8.2 Basic trail maintenance issues and solutions
8.3 Advanced trail maintenance issues and solutions Practical layout exercise (Panthertown Valley)
1.510.010.1 Practical assessment exercise Practical trail construction exercise (Panthertown Valley) Practical trail maintenance exercise 
2.513.013.1 Practical trail maintenance exercise (Panthertown Valley)
0.514.014.1 Universal trail design Course review
15.2 Course assessment
15.3 Course evaluation
Panthertown Volunteers