Navigating Switchbacks to Prevent Trail Damage


How to properly hike a trail with a switchback

correct way to navigate a switchback
Staying on the trail is good trail manners & prevents erosion!
wrong way to navigate a switchback
"Short-cutting" a switchback is bad trail etiquette!!!!

Just what exactly is a switchback?

A switchback is a trail up a steep hill or mountain that is like a zig-zag pattern instead of a straight trail. The zig-zag pattern protects the hill and the trail from excessive erosion. Trails that go straight up and down steep hills don't stay nice trails for long. Erosion turns those trails into gullies because water moves faster down steep straight-aways and it hollows out the trail and washes all the soil and vegetation down hill.

Switchbacks help prevent erosion because they help keep the trail at a consistent gradient. Trail planners build other erosion control devices like rolling grade dips into switchbacks also. Switchbacks are also good because they make it easier to climb steep hills.

"Short-cutting" a switchback is bad trail etiquette because it kills vegetation and loosens soil creating a new trail straight up and down the hill, which will in time get large and hollowed out from erosion. Do your part to keep our trails beautiful and control erosion. Walk softly, Leave No Trace, and stay on the designated trail!!!

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