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How trail designers build good hikes

The design secrets that make hiking trails feel “organic.”

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

Designing a hiking trail seems simple enough: It has to take a person from point A to point B, pass through scenic nature, and last through years of wear and tear. And for most of human history, trails did that without much intentional design at all.

But as trails shifted from essential transportation to a recreational destination, the way we make them did, too. Now, hidden in every trail is a carefully made design language of angles, alignment, and materials that keep them enjoyable for generations.

Watch our video to hear trail ecologist Jeffrey Marion explain how these principles work — and why they’re more important than ever.

You can find this video and others like it on Vox’s YouTube channel.

This video is part of By Design, our series about the intersection of design and technology. For more videos like this, from playgrounds to font decisions, check out the playlist on YouTube.