Hiking trails are popular amenities that immerse visitors in natural surroundings and are among one of the great ways to experience nature. To allow users to fully experience nature, trails are located in remote areas like forests or mountainsides. These hiking trails inevitably cross over natural obstacles, like creeks and gorges. This is where a trail bridge comes in handy.
Trail bridges are hardy bridges that reflect the rough environment in which they can be found. Because they are out in less populated areas at higher elevations and rough terrain, trail bridges need to withstand more intense weather conditions such as powerful rain, extreme snow, and long-lasting, icy conditions.
Hikers seeking exercise also seek unique experiences, so if there are Instagram worthy moments along the hike, all the better! Often the highlight of a hike, a trail bridge can be architecturally significant, offering jaw-dropping views, or highlighting the historical significance of an area. A well-designed wood or steel trail bridge displayed against an impressive natural backdrop can help put your trail system on the map. The trail bridge may also become a destination in and of itself, attracting people to your area just to snap a selfie with your beautiful trail bridge.
Whether crossing a small creek or a large river or gorge, trail bridges are integral to trail systems. A well-placed trial bridge can create essential connections between trail segments, and link various natural areas together. Sometimes trail bridges can link together cities or even states. Trail bridges can be the most challenging elements of multi-use trail design and development because they require an understanding of physics, architecture, and engineering. If it is designed well, a trail bridge can be one of the most memorable features of a trail system—especially if it offers compelling views, or if the structure itself is architecturally interesting.
Trail bridges come in many sizes. Smaller trail bridges make smaller creeks or rough terrain easier to cross for hikers, equestrians, or mountain bikers. Larger trail bridges span rivers or ravines. These larger trail bridges can become focal points when well designed. In either case, your location’s branding and general aesthetic are key metrics in the design of your trail bridge.
Beyond just aesthetics, trail bridges connect what are usually remote and difficult-to-access individual trails, while also functioning as a means of transport for maintenance and rescue equipment. Therefore, trail bridges must be able to withstand higher weight loads—including dead loads like snow and ice—as well as live loads for maintenance and rescue vehicles like trucks and ATVs. It is important that a prospective trail bridge owners discuss their needs with Bridge Brothers so that we can accommodate the weight loads your trail bridge will incur.
Trail bridges have to serve multiple functions. A trail bridge has to facilitate search and rescue access and maintenance access. Trail bridges also have to serve multiple users including equestrians, hikers, bikers, and, depending on the location, skiers and snowmobilers. Ideally the trail bridge should also be well-designed so that it functions as a focal point and a destination of a trail system.
The width of the trail bridge should, at a minimum, match the width of the trail. In cases where the trail is meant for cross-country skiing or snowmobile use, a wider trail bridge is recommended. To allow use by emergency vehicles, the bridge should be at least 10 feet wide.
The approach to the trail bridge should meet two basic requirements. The first requirement is that the approach railings leading to the trail bridge should facilitate safe passage onto the bridge and should be of an adequate width. The approach to the trail bridge should be wider than the trail to accommodate potential congestion on and near the bridge. The sight lines onto the trail bridge should be free of obstructions as well.
Second, the typical railing height for a trail bridge is 42 inches. If you anticipate that the trail bridge will receive a lot of equestrian traffic, the railing should be higher and should include a rub rail. Technically, if the trail bridge is small and only crosses a shallow body of water, horse riders should dismount their horses and lead the animals across the trail bridge or next to bridge. Since not all users will adhere to this rule, the trail bridge railing should be sturdy and at least 54 inches in height to accommodate horse traffic. In cases where the trail bridge crosses a roadway or railroad, a tall protective screening or fence (72 to 96 inches) should be considered.
Corten steel and wood trail bridges are the most popular material choices for trail bridges because they blend with the natural backdrop, are sturdy, and hold up to the elements.
A trail bridge should be beautiful as well as functional. Bridge Brothers has designed, manufactured, and installed a variety of trail bridges, both large and small, that encapsulate both form and function. At Bridge Brothers, we have one person that shepherds your trail bridge through the design, engineering, manufacturing and installation phases. Bridge Brothers supplies turn-key, prefabricated bridges of enduring beauty, strength and durability.
Constructed from steel or aluminum, our prefabricated trail bridges have several advantages, including low cost, high quality fabrication, and quick, low-impact installation. We can also manufacture your trail bridge in advance of other construction.
Because trail bridge site locations are often remote and difficult to reach, installation can be tricky. Bridge Brothers has experience in trail bridge installation. We will prepare the site conditions for the bridge, design the trail bridge structure so that it is light-weight and easy to assemble on site, and then install in remote or difficult locations.
There are a large number of variables involved in designing trail bridges for new or existing trail systems. Bridge Brothers has experience with designing, engineering and installing trail bridges in a variety of locations. We can help you make the decision on what type of trail bridge will work best for your trail system based on cost, style and environmental compatibility.